Pittsburgh Technical Council

Factory in a Store: Piecemaker brings 3-D printing to retail floors

Factory in a Store: Piecemaker brings 3-D printing to retail floors

Article Published: July 21, 2014

By Jonathan Kersting, Associate Publisher

Fresh out of AlphaLab Gear, PieceMaker Technologies is a 3-D technology startup that offers retail stores a non-technical, affordable way to let customers personalize an expansive digital catalog of toys, jewelry and gifts to be created right in the store.

“Consumers benefit from a fun, interactive experience designing unique pieces to fit their taste, while stores enjoy happier customers, increased foot traffic and a high-margin, complementary source of new revenue,” said CEO Arden Rosenblatt. He calls this concept a “Factory in a Store.”

“PieceMaker grew out of a mutual respect for the potential that digital content and low-cost 3-D printing technology holds, and a clear understanding of the features, integration and support needed to disseminate the technology to a wider audience,” said CTO Alejandro Sklar.

PieceMaker is in the throes of setting up seven kiosks in Pittsburgh-area retailers. As of early May, S.W. Randall Toyes & Giftes’ Squirrel Hill and Downtown Pittsburgh locations were the first to open these factories in a store. A second pilot has just opened at Playthings Etc. in Butler. This pilot includes more than 150 customizeable products.

Sklar says PieceMaker has deals to put 20 kiosks in seven states and Canada. With this flurry of activity, the duo have postponed completing their advanced engineering degrees at Carnegie Mellon University.

“It’s going to be a very busy summer,” said Sklar.

At a PieceMaker kiosk, consumers can customize a number of items from pendants, Lego base plates, magnets, key rings, chess pieces and more. After a few simple color selections and customizations, it’s off to the 3-D printing station. Consumers can then watch their creation be printed layer by layer in about 20 minutes.

There are currently more than 100 possible designs in the catalog with the ability to add countless others, according to Sklar.

Sklar explains that 3-D printing has always been about printing prototypes for manufacturers, but this is the first time a consumer store has taken a consumer design and printed it. 3-D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.

Eventually, PieceMaker wants to license toy designs from consumer giants and work with the companies to test-market toy designs faster and more cheaply.

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