For developers selling newly-built homes, custom, built-to-order properties are the name of the game. In addition to a fabulous floorplan and well-appointed living space, current home buyers want designer touches and fixtures that inevitably drive up the materials costs. Now, imagine that you could meet buyers’ expectations of designer fixtures in a custom home for the same price you’d pay for less fabulous features? Lowe’s Innovation Labs has made all of this—and more—possible with their Orchard Supply Hardware Store 3-D printing lab.
Lowe’s Orchard Supply Hardware Store in Mountain, View, California, has made it possible to install those eye-popping vintage bathroom fixtures for a fraction of the cost you’d expect. They can even create limitless color, texture, and shape variations on classic fixtures for no extra cost. Even better, they can replace a perfectly matched but hard-to-find antique cabinet fitting in your current renovation job for the same price you’d pay for a contemporary one.
Although 3-D printing is increasingly common, most casual users don’t have the knowledge to program the printer to create an item. Lowe’s new system will allow builders and homeowners to design and print their ideas without the need for programming skills or other special knowledge. The service is aimed at customers with no knowledge or experience of 3-D printing, and seeks to help them create something from scratch or from an item scan.
Kyle Nel, Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, says that the new system “makes it very easy for the average person to be able to take something that’s in their head and solve a need that they have. If you can take red eye out of a photo you can create pretty much anything.”
Users can choose from a wide variety of templates for common fixtures and features. They can print it out in the store, or they can take it home and tinker with the design until they are satisfied with the outcome. Afterwards, they bring the design back to be printed. Some of the designs have to be sent out to third-party printers, but most of them can be printed in-house. Stainless steel and plastic are the most common materials, but for those who don’t mind paying a premium, Lowe’s offers gold alloy for 3-D printing as well.
3-D printing is a boon to both customers and retailers. Customers want more choices, but a store can only stock so many models, which limits buyers’ options. Better yet, customers who want a one-of-a-kind item will have no trouble getting exactly what they want.