So a little while ago I read about an event to celebrate the opening of a 3D printing store only a couple subway stops from my apartment and somehow I didn’t go. I’ve had a lot going on lately (regular readers may have noticed my long absence from this blog) and just couldn’t make it, but ever since I’ve been meaning to stop by and check it out.
The creation of New York native and US Army veteran Jerry Castanos, 3D Heights is located in the vibrant Washington Heights neighborhood on the upper, upper, upper West Side of Manhattan (172nd and Broadway). His vision is to incorporate all things 3D printing under one roof, and I do mean “all things”.
Currently 3D Heights offers retail sales of consumer and professional grade 3D printers and accessories from Solidoodle, Afinia, 3D Systems, Felix and Mcor (I might’ve missed a few) but I imagine he’ll be increasing the number of brands over time. Mcor is the odd-man-out here as they make industrial/professional grade machines that 3D print in paper using a fascinating process that blurs the lines between additive and subtractive digital manufacturing.
But on top of selling 3D printers, 3D Heights also offers classes on a range of 3D printing related topics; 3D scanning, 3D design and 3D printing or prototyping as a service and also memberships to a makerspace type arrangement to use the resources that 3D Heights has available to make 3D creations even if you don’t own a 3D printer yourself. And they also sell books and magazines relevant to 3D printing and promotional stuff for for the store like t-shirts (I bought one) and buttons.
I can’t even guess how successful this business model might be and I think the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach could be interpreted as a lack of clear vision. The 3D printing world is evolving so quickly that it might be hard to know what will or won’t work in a brick and mortar retail store however, so one can understand the desire to hedge ones bets. Their prices will have to be at least decent to not get clobbered by the big players like Staples and RadioShack (to say nothing of Amazon and/or direct sales online by many 3D printing companies) and the face-to-face services they provide will also have to be at least somewhat competitive and, judging by the prices for the classes and the lab memberships, I’m not sure they will be.
That said, it’s a cool space owned and operated by a man with a clear passion for the endless possibilities allowed by 3D printing technology. I sincerely hope that 3D Heights can find/establish a successful commercial model and become a staple of the community in this most forward-thinking fashion. Washington Heights deserves a nice slice of the future.