Electronic retailer Maplin has become the first high street store in the UK to start selling 3D printers that can be used in the home for printing objects like mobile phone cases and chess pieces.

The chain said yesterday that the £699.99 Velleman K8200 3D printer will be available in selected stores and through the Maplin website from today.

The self-assembled 8.7kg printer has a 60cm x 45cm x 60cm aluminium frame that shouldn’t take up much more room than a standard home printer.

It allows users to print objects up to a maximum of 20cm3 in around 30 minutes and boasts printing speeds of 120mm per second. However, Maplin said more complicated objects will take longer.

Users must first of all design their object using what Maplin says is free easy-to-use Repetier product design software. The digital file is then sent to the printer, which melts a plastic filament one layer on top of another in order to create a 3D object. The process is also referred to as additive manufacturing.

The printer uses a plastic known as polylactic acid (PLA) to build the objects.

Maplin is selling black, white, blue, red, orange, green, yellow and pink cartridges at £29.99 per kilogram. However, only one colour can be printed at a time.

Maplin commercial director Oliver Meakin said, "Until now, the cost of 3D printers limited their use to the professional market. However, the Velleman K8200 kit has enabled us to introduce 3D printing to the mass market.

"We selected this model primarily because it offers high performance printing at an affordable price, making it accessible to our customers. In addition, it requires assembly before use, which fits with the 'build it yourself' ethos so central to Maplin's heritage."

Teachers with deep pockets may be some of the first to purchase one of the new printers, after Michael Gove introduced 3D printing lessons to the national curriculum yesterday, alongside robotics and other “cutting edge” technologies.


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