Not Even Martha Stewart Can Take 3D Printing Mainstream

Not Even Martha Stewart Can Take 3D Printing Mainstream

Martha Stewart’s affinity for drones has been well-documented, and now she’s trained her domestic eye on another buzzy emerging technology. Stewart has launched a line of custom designs with 3D printing darling MakerBot. But will the celebrity backing really create an insatiable rush for at-home fabrication? Will a 3D printer suddenly become as indispensable to the occasional crafter as a hot glue gun? It seems unlikely.

Stewart has been talking up her love for 3D printing lately. At her American Made conference last week, she paid lip service to several US companies using the next-gen manufacturing. “With a 3D printer, you can design a product and immediately do a small production run without having to create an expensive mould — and without forfeiting your individual design touches and personal aesthetic,” she wrote at CNN. “No wonder 3D printers have become so popular among artists and designers.”

But Stewart’s talking about someone like a jewelry designer — people who already own or have access to one of these things as part of their work. What about the Martha-loving masses? The barrier for entry is quite high when it comes to 3D printing, and it’s tough to make a case for buying one of these machines for at-home use when they start at over $US1000 (although there are more experimental printers that go for far less).

MakerBot certainly can boast a high quality and some of the best community support out there. But there’s still some serious technological know-how required. 3D printers aren’t for the casual DIY enthusiast in the same vein as, say, decoupaging a pair of shoes.

So far, the Martha-MakerBot line consists of a set of table accessories which look like they were shrewdly thrifted by some Martha Stewart Living stylist. MakerBot is also offering three Stewart-branded vintage-inspired PLA filament colours: Lemon Drop, Robin’s Egg and Jadeite, so creations can be conceived within the Martha palette. Yep, branded colours of filament.

Here’s where the disconnect seems the most apparent. Is the maker community craving Stewart-approved colours? On the flip side, how many Martha Stewart enthusiasts have been looking for a way to 3D print their own napkin rings — and not even their own creations, but predetermined designs.

3D printers will eventually go mainstream — we may very well all have one in our homes soon, printing out new shoes and kitchen utensils and customised Apple Watch bands. It will happen when the price of the tools converges with the obvious utility of what we can make — when a 3D printer is the best and most affordable way to make the things we need every day.

Still, one must admire the brilliant play by MakerBot to try to sell a bunch of their machines to Stewart’s eager but unexperienced followers, just in time for the holiday season. And maybe it’s a hint that MakerBot is aiming for an even broader commercial audience. Perhaps a more compact, user-friendly “MarthaBot” is coming soon — in bright Lemon Drop, of course. [MakerBot]