You can print your body - level 3

You can print your body - level 3

01-11-2013 14:00

It’s not what you’d usually pick up during your weekly shop – a mini version of yourself. But some say building products from scratch is the future of retail.

Supermarket chain Asda’s offering customers the chance to be scanned and turned into a 3D printed figurine, after beginning trials of the service at their York store in northern England. Having your whole body scanned takes between 2-3 minutes, with a small handheld machine recording images at a speed of roughly 15 frames per second.

Asda’s Head of Personalisation, Phil Stout, said the machine reads colour as well as geometry.

“The scan is that sophisticated that it picks up details such as belt buckles, shoe detail, wedding rings, and all of the detail of the colour.”

After the scan, the images is processed by a computer and then sent to be printed with coloured ceramic fluid, with each figure taking around 8 hours to produce. Scanning slots were fully booked on the first trial days – with some customers travelling miles to get one. But even with the short trial, Stout said its uses were already becoming clear.

“So a gentleman came in, an older gentleman earlier, and his wife is in a care home, so he doesn’t get to see his wife that often so he wanted to do a scan to give to his wife as a present, so I thought that was very touching.”

3D printing is increasingly used in the industrial arena. But Britain’s second-biggest retailer believes it’s the first supermarket to offer this service on a large scale and relatively cheaply too, at 40 pounds per figure. Asda’s Retail Director Mark Ibbotson said seeing the technology pioneered in the US by Walmart opened his eyes to the possibilities the technology could bring.

“So in February, I visited the Walmart head office in Bentonville, Arkansas and saw 3D printing and saw some of the products, some of the jewellery, phone cases, several different things and was really thrilled by it. I mean, the applications were so numerous.”

Asda’s parent company Walmart will also be watching to see how the trial works out in the UK. But shoppers hoping for an unusual Christmas gift might be disappointed, as Asda will not be introducing the service to the whole country until the New Year, and only then, if the trial is a success.

Difficult words:

from scratch (from zero)

retail (selling things in shops)

trial (test)

roughly (approximately)

touching (emotional)

arena (area)

pioneer (use for the first time)

numerous (many).

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