£700 3D printer to hit British high street

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Maplin has shaken up the 3D printer market with their new Velleman K8200 model. Downsides? It costs £700 and comes in kit form so you have to build it yourself - up to 10 hours of Ikea-like fumbling. But it's the first 3D printer to be released onto the UK retail market.

An expensive toy for anoraks? Or something rather more substantial and exciting?

Do you need one?

First off, what can this Velleman machine do? It's claimed it can print out your own smartphone covers and even run up replacement parts for broken appliances. This sort of machine could find a niche for hobbyists, able to prototype tools more quickly.

Professionally, think architects, the medical industry, dentists, engineering and even arts and crafts, such as jewellers.

3D printing works by digital modelling - you have to have a detailed drawing first - melting plastic filaments which are built up into very fine plastic layers (as opposed to a traditional machining approach or cutting material into a particular shape).

Firearms concern

Bear in mind the 3D printer market remains in its infancy. Which means prices will come down and quality will improve. The 3D printer market though has novelty on its side, which will add to its interest and Maplin sales.

There's been some well-documented controversy around 3D-printed guns. The idea that functioning firearms could be simply printed out is alarming. There's also significant concern that such 3D-printed guns could explode, killing the user, because the plastics would not be able to withstand the ballistic stresses.

Jonathan Rowley of London-based 3D printing specialist Digits2Widgets warned on the issue specifically after the Mail On Sunday and Daily Telegraph asked Rowley to print a gun.

Quality issues

Rowley also warns that the quality of 3D printers emerging still leaves something to be desired. "Home printers," he told the International Business Times, "are being flogged on this idea that if you need a replacement part for your washing machine, you can print that out. But the things you can produce on a home printer don't have any mechanical properties; not even a button would last that long."

But a pair of sunglasses? Or printing out your own hip replacement?

Celebrities with unusual business interests

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