Go 3D, revitalize photo with new technologies

Supermarkets can become high-tech service centers, offering 3D manufacturing, plus digital photofinishing, books, music, and more.

January 23, 2013

Everything old is new again. And possibly lighter weight, stronger and more convenient if made by digitally guided 3D printers.  

Comic-ventriloquist Jeff Dunham makes his Achmed The Dead Terrorist character using one. Jay Leno uses a high-end printer to make replacement parts for his classic cars. U2 singer Bono used one to create a steering-wheel-shaped microphone he could swing from during a concert tour, says Stratasys.

With many printers down to the $1,000 to $2,000 price range, they’re not ready for homes yet. Once they are cheap enough, The Lempert Report thinks many people will still prefer to use specialist centers that master a bank of machines and can access production materials or have them on hand. Think what Kinko’s did for printing could happen again with 3D printers. Readers intrigued by the emerging 3D industry may want to look into its first trade conference/expo on the east coast—Inside 3D Printing, at New York City’s Javits Center on April 22-23. 

Too futuristic? We don’t think so. But another potential business model has surfaced from a classic name in photography that could be right for today’s cell phone-loving consumers. This February, the first 2,000-square-foot Polaroid Fotobar store will open in Delray Beach, Florida; nine more will follow in different cities in 2013. What’s new about it can be previewed on the website, which has been up since October.

Their proprietary technology makes it easy for consumers to “quickly and easily liberate their favorite images from the confines of their digital devices and turn them into museum-quality art,” says Polaroid. Customers can also easily upload from social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Picasa. Then they can enhance images on bar-top workstations, and pick the materials, substrates and framing options for their pieces, with the help of on-staff Phototenders. Purchases will be shipped within 72 hours. “The ability to see, touch and feel examples of artworks produced using all of these unique materials is a critical aspect of the customer experience,” notes Polaroid.

We don’t know if Polaroid will want to lease space in larger high-traffic retail stores or possibly license their technology, but this concept could help unleash the printing potential of the 1.5 billion pictures taken daily—a figure which Fotobar founder and CEO Warren Struhl says continues to grow with cellphone growth and quality gains. 

How else could digital bring new life to old categories? What if supermarkets:

  • Print e-books for people who buy them on Amazon and want a hard copy.
  • Make a personalized digital music mix from customers’ old albums, cassettes and CDs.

Better yet, do it while they shop and have it ready by the time they’re done.

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