3-D Printing Shop Lets Customers Design Own Gifts, From Swimsuits to Chairs

By Mathew Katz on December 17, 2012 8:17am 

MIDTOWN — Printing in two dimensions is so last year.

A one-stop 3-D printing shop in Midtown is now open for aspiring designers to create nearly anything they can imagine — using machines that print out plastic, not paper.

3DEA, a holiday pop-up shop in the Eventi Hotel at 835 Sixth Ave., has a handful of the pricey printers available for people of all ages to design and print their own toys and works of art.

"We had this idea to make a Kinko's of 3-D printers," said Jonathan Daou, founder of OpenHouse, which brings pop-up stores like 3DEA to spaces around the city. "It's a place where people can create, shop and learn about 3-D printing."

The printers, which spew out shaped plastic in layers, can create nearly anything the heart desires — from a swimsuit to a chair — though the Ultimaker printers at 3DEA can only build something about a foot tall.

"It uses melted plastic, kind of like a glue gun, with the print head moving around section by section," said Arthur Young-Spivey, the shop's digital fabrication specialist.

The new printers are much faster than their predecessors. Small items can be printed in a few minutes, while larger ones will take a few hours.

Young-Spivey added that while using the printers, customers can create complex moving toys in several pieces, along with modern gifts like plastic phone cases. 

Experienced designers can bring in their plans, have a consultant take a look, then have them printed on the Ultimakers. There are also toys, bracelets and more built by the printers available for purchase for a few dollars. And Shapeways, a 3-D printing website, has a selection of its most popular jewelery available for purchase.

The shop is hosting a range of 3-D printing classes for beginners and experienced designers interested in the relatively new technology, along with the basics of 3-D modeling and design.

Customers can also use the shop's 3-D cameras to take a full headshot for $20, or body scan for $100, that can become a 3-D picture, a plastic bust or even a miniature statue.

The artistically inclined can use the shop's "Doodle Bar," made up of several kid-friendly iPads, where children and adults can design and print their own custom Christmas ornament in minutes.

3DEA has partnered with several schools to bring in classes of youngsters to learn about 3-D printers and design their own ornaments, which they can hang on a tree in the shop. The student who designs the best one will win a 3-D printer, worth about $1,475.

"We thought these would be a hit with kids, and they are," Daou said, "but the adults are using them more than kids."

The 3DEA pop-up shop runs until Dec. 27 at 835 Sixth Ave., at the corner of West 29th Street and Sixth Avenue.

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