CES 2012: 3D Printing Goes Mainstream with Sculpteo

The idea of 3D printing has been slowly but surely gaining traction as machinery becomes more affordable and practical applications emerge over time. For the most part, 3D printing has been positioned in the marketplace as a quick and affordable way to produce physical drafts of designs to see how they might look or feel in the real world. And there it has remained because there haven’t been many applications to bring it into the mainstream.

Sculpteo 3D Created Cups at CES 2012

Ever wanted the profile of someone you love to be part of your coffee mug?

Scuplteo is a company founded two years ago and showed off its offering at today’s CES Unveiling. Sculpteo’s offer is to take a customer’s chosen image and integrate it into a household item that can be used or displayed, but not far removed from everyday use. The two examples we saw were a cup and a vase, both made of ceramic. The way Sculpteo have gone about their business plan is very interesting. Looking at the opportunities for household penetration of 3D printing, Sculpteo are betting that the average user doesn’t actually want to own a 3D printer, but wouldn’t mind owning the results of one if it was practical or customised. To that end, Sculpteo have released an app for iPhone and iPad, in which you choose the side profile picture of a face, and select what type of item you’d like it to be “printed” on: a vase, or a cup. On the cup, which is around $39 for a small size, the side profile is a physical part of the surface, not just a stick-on. On the vase, the profile can only been seen when the object is held at a particular angle, but the vase itself is completely unique, as its grooves are actually the side profile lines of your chosen image.

Sculpteo 3D Created Profile Vase at CES 2012

When you look at the vase from a particular angle you can see the profile of the person the vase was made from

The app takes advantage of the cloud, where the image is uploaded and the manufacturing is completed in Pyrenees, between France and Spain. Actual manufacturing takes around 30 days and can be shipped anywhere in the world. Sculpteo hope to tap into the market where customers are looking for gifts and memorable items that can be customised, making them sentimental and conversation pieces for a long time to come.

From a business perspective, Sculpteo are offering integration into other businesses to offer their own customer base, and share a split of the profit with them. Sculpteo see this as another way to expand the potential of the service and promote it through many affiliates around the world.

We spoke to Clement Moreau, the CEO and co-founder of Scuplteo, who took us through the app functions and talked about the manufacturing process, the possible business partnerships and showed us how the app worked. This is another step forward for 3D printing.

Although still very much a niche offering, it nevertheless exposes it to people who otherwise would not be considering such a gift or memento. 3D printing has always been about the ability to recreate something quickly and relatively inexpensively. Now households around the world are able to have a product 3D printed that they can display or drink out of.

As 3D printing becomes more flexible in the shapes and objects it can produce, this will open up 3D printing to even more potential. We’re still at the first stages of this technology, and it will be interesting to see where it will end up. Here’s the video of our brief interview with Clement:

Have you ever worked with a 3D printer before, and would you consider a customised mug or vase as a gift?