back to article Dixons preps home 3D printer for plastic-piping punters

When a technology hits the High Street, you know it's making its way into the mainstream. 3D printing isn’t there quite yet, but it’s perhaps only a step away as Dixons’ stores PC World and Currys will tomorrow start selling a consumer-oriented additive manufacturing rig online. The printer in question is 3D Systems' Cube, a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll buy one

    But will they give me a refund if my mini-liberator explodes in my hand?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: I'll buy one

      My first thought;

      Expect a large number of cash sales to drug dealers who have downloaded their 3D nasties software already.

      1. HollyHopDrive

        Re: I'll buy one

        I think you'll find in the same way that they take the piss with the cost of printer ink this will go the same way and it will never be as cheap to run these kind of printers as it should be.

        We need an open source hardware one that uses/grinds up old milk/coke/water bottles to reuse the plastic [*]- make the Eco's happy too.

        * - yes I know its not that simple

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: I'll buy one - @hollyHopDrive

          Yes, you can now get devices that will convert plastic pellets into filament for you. In theory you can recycle plastic with them. In practice the quality of the filament falls so not something you want to do too frequently. On the other hand the raw materials in the form of pellets and colorant cost less than £10 per killo.

        2. Neil 8

          Re: I'll buy one

          A bit like this one?

          But if you read up on the Cube it's strongly implied that their refil carts feature DRM 'so that the printer knows how much filament is left' (AKA so that you can't just feed it cheap PLA from someone else)

      2. Steve Todd

        Re: I'll buy one

        Not that old chestnut. You can make a gun quicker, easier and more reliable in a moderately equipped metalwork shop. Are we going to start banning lathes now? Only the very stupid or very desperate would consider printing a gun, and they still have the problem of obtaining ammunition afterwards.

        1. VCVC

          Re: I'll buy one

          stupid and desperate? aren't they pre-conditions for using a gun anyway?

    2. Benchops

      > refund if my mini-liberator explodes

      But that would be accurate. The Liberator did explode at the end of series 3.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: > refund if my mini-liberator explodes

        I'm so glad I wasn't the only one who's first thought upon mention of "Liberator" was Blakes 7.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oblig warning

    You will only be able to buy supplied from Curry's/PC-World and will more than likely cost more than a new printer.

    How long will they even stock the supplies? given that they only stock inks for the latest printers I'd be very wary of buying one of these.

  3. James 51

    If it had a build in 3D scanner as well it might be worth it. It would also need software that was easier than CAD to produce 3D objects. Would love to make a replacement case for my ereader or a cover for the new sony which has a light that actually works but we're some way off that too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "If it had a build in 3D scanner as well it might be worth it."

      ... and maybe it would be much more expensive? Some people may want to duplicate items but suspect many do not so it's an extra cost - HP sell printers with scanners built in but most are just printers?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. James 51

        I have an all in one printer and I use the scanner far more than the printer.

        Replacing broken parts is an obvious application and even if it would be more expensive, it would be much more useful.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    HOW much?

    3D printing may well have an interesting future, but £1195 buys an awful lot of tacky plastic toys in your local toyshop.

    1. Great Bu

      Re: HOW much?

      I don't know - if I were Games Workshop I would be crapping my pants considering this:

      costs £7,000.....

      1. Ian 55

        Re: HOW much?

        GW - just say urgh.

        It's not like you actually need their overpriced figures to play with their crappy rulesets.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: HOW much?

        Given the price of "ink" for this thing, the price will probably work out the same either way, so Games Workshop won't be worrying just yet.

    2. smudge Silver badge

      Re: HOW much?

      "And since it's an expensive item, sir, you would be well advised to take out one of our extended warranties..."

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: HOW much?

        "And since it's an expensive item, sir, you would be well advised to take out one of our extended warranties..."


        That rather brings to mind this Dilbert cartoon.

  5. M Gale

    52 quid for a block of plastic?

    After nearly 1200 quid on the printer?

    Yeah. No.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 52 quid for a block of plastic?

      £1,200:£52 Looks like a much better ratio than you get for the supplies on ink jets.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: 52 quid for a block of plastic?

        £1,200:£52 Looks like a much better ratio than you get for the supplies on ink jets.

        And like inkjets, the price for the printer will fall, the price for consumables won't. Although the moment that a new printer with a set of cartridges will be cheaper than a replacement cartridge for last year's model may be some time off still.

      2. M Gale

        Re: 52 quid for a block of plastic?

        Most of the reason why inkjet manufacturers get away with the shit prices on ink, is they are giving the printers away at below-cost.

        So, what's Cube's excuse?

        And as people above have mentioned, I'm waiting for a version that will take any old ground-up thermoplastic. 52 quid for something that should be costing about 50p? Fuck off.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: 52 quid for a block of plastic?

          The problem is that you can't just use any ground-up thermoplastic. There are so many different kinds of plastic that quality can't be assured with recycling. For example, you can't just grind up polyurethane and expect to be able to use it again (it's a thermoset plastic; once set it STAYS set). Plus, what happens when different kinds of plastic mix?

          For that matter, just what kind of plastic is being used in this machine? PVC? PE? PP?

  6. Gus

    Well I would like one ...

    ... so I could print out my own parts to make the Rubik's cube type puzzles I design using SketchUp. Currently I use Shapeways and they charge $1.40 per cubic centimeter, so the costs quickly escalate - my latest design is going to cost me nearly £280. As to the printer material, as it uses ABS or PLA, and these are readily available from several suppliers, I don't see any problems obtaining this for many years.

    1. Adam T

      Re: Well I would like one ...

      Shapeways are really expensive for anything other than odd one- or two-off jobs.

      Surprisingly (or not) nobody puts a $/cm3 on their product pages - supermarket style. However, Makerbot did a test not long ago with a 1kg spool, and they got 382 chess pieces from it. At £52 that's actually pretty good.

      As for PLA & ABS supplies... this is where it all falls down. There's PLA and then there's crap PLA. I wonder which Dixons would stock.

      I think home 3D printing market is too small at the moment...not just number of users, but the technology is still in the discovery phase. It's not about the price, rather the quality of the results. Shapeways may be expensive, but they have serious gear beyond what we can do with a £1-2k printer atm.

  7. CADmonkey

    For my entire life all the plastic tat came from China

    Now they supply a method for producing our very own plastic tat.


    PS anyone need any CAD models?

    1. P. Lee

      Re: For my entire life all the plastic tat came from China

      There are other uses. How about using it to build a mold for fancy plaster of paris thing - coving etc?

      The fun starts when you get a 3D scanner.

      You can use the plastic to make a mold, turn out a clay mold from that, either for clay objects or go on to metal. Yes, A factory in china is cheaper for mass production, but its probably easier to sell unique items at a local market than set up a global supply chain, or replicate something you bought where there was only one.

  8. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    I can see many uses when the price drops

    A friend of mine designs hand made furniture, kitchens and the like. Most normal people simply can't read drawings, and so can't visualise what he's trying to do - so he doesn't usually use CAD, but instead does them watercolours of what the new room will look like. I got him to do me some stuff recently and was rather impressed that he can do 3D sketches upside down while explaining his ideas to you. When this becomes just a little bit cheaper, I can see him doing his designs in CAD (you need a decent drawing to make the stuff anyway), then giving people a 3D model of their new kitchen.

    It would also be lovely to have some sort of scanner, so when a little fitting breaks, you can fabricate another. Things like the little plastic feet on laptops - or the bigger ones on tables and chairs. They don't tent to break, but rather to disappear. Although I don't know at what point that creates IP issues, if you're directly copying someone else's design. Surely not on a laptop foot, but almost certainly on someone's designer kitchen plastic gewgaw.

    A few years ago, we had a prototype valve design 3D printed. It died after a couple of days testing - but it was bloody impressive that it worked at all. And it certainly proved the design a lot more cheaply than custom manufacturing one.

    Perhaps when they make Terminator 3*, the new baddie will just be an ordinary terminator, with a printer for all the guns, sunglasses, stabbing weapons and whatnot that he needs. Surely the maintenance requirements for the T1000 models must be appalling...

    *Yes, I'm aware that someone made Terminator 3 and 4 already. In fact I even paid wasted good money to see them. For which I apologise to other cinema-goers, as all that did was to encourage them. But I don't see why, with all the remakes Hollywood now does, we can't introduce a system where unloved sequels/prequels can be struck from the record and remade competently. It's probably going too far for them to allow us to just airbrush them from history (they like their money too much). But then we could wave goodbye to the Phantom Morass, Terminator Judgement Day and I suppose the extra Matrices. Not that I was a massive fan of the Matrix, but it was fun, and it's sequels mostly weren't. Oh, we can also really annoy Hollywood by printing our own action figures. You can just see the new messages on DVDs now. Piracy 3D Printing is theft and funds terrorism.

    1. Adam T

      Re: I can see many uses when the price drops

      "It would also be lovely to have some sort of scanner, so when a little fitting breaks, you can fabricate another."

      They're getting cheaper, and better. Makerbot's is just out, and there are other smaller ones (all the way down to $99 if you follow the kickstarters and don't mind naff quality -- measure to your needs).

  9. nematoad Silver badge

    I see

    "... the aforementioned retailers expect you to cough £1,195."

    "... software running on a Mac "

    Ah! I can see that the market that Dixons are aiming at from the two quotes.

    I suppose that as the printer is pre-assembled and ready to go it would not appeal to the Linux crowd.

    They would probably go for a RepRap.

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: I see

      1) you missed the words "or a Windows PC" off of the original quote.

      2) I've got a Mac and have built a Reprap from parts. Don't confuse not wanting to mess around with the innards of an OS with not being technically able.

      1. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: I see

        You missed my point.

        What I was trying to say was that Mac users are generally people who want to use the PC as a tool. Linux users on the other hand are more willing to get their hands dirty and make, assemble or devise their own O/S.

        I said nothing about Mac users not being IT literate.

        1. The First Dave

          Re: I see

          No, _you_ missed your point off the first post.

  10. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    The printer connects to the host over a wireless network

    I know it's been hacked when I'll hear the neighbours' wife scream at her husband: "YOU FILTHY *#&%#!!!"

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. auburnman

    Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but I can't see any branch of Dixon's keeping their 3D printer up and running often enough to be relied on. The minimum wage till monkeys won't care when it breaks if they ever get properly trained to use it at all. Staples can't keep their 2D printers running half the time.

    1. Geoff Campbell

      Do you remember the '80s?

      Going into Dixons, and programming all the computers to loop around, printing swearwords or adverts for other stores on the screen?

      Imagine the jolly japes we can have with a 3D printer on the shelves that prints designs from a USB stick...


  13. Peter Mount

    A bit late & expensive

    I'ts a bit expensive compared to Maplin who's had one available for a while now at 699 quid - but even then that's still a bit extreme:

    At least they have the supplies though, 39 quid for 1kg

    1. Stuart Halliday

      Re: A bit late & expensive

      Maplin's already on their 2nd 3D Printer...

  14. Joefish

    Saw one of these for sale in Staples already.

    Though it is very interesting, the price seems very high for the components that make it up.

    Hopefully there'll be plenty more of these to come, bringing the price down considerably.

    I was told that items made with it can be returned to the company for recycling, in return for some credit against your next cartridge.

  15. The elephant in the room

    An entire legion of my best troops...

    What could really get the ball rolling is if Disney release the inevitable full cast of figures in Episodes 7, 8 & 9 as 3D models to print & paint. Possibly a "droid foundry" styled printer to make them with too. Because if they dont, it is a certainty that someone will scan the figures and upload to child-unsafe filesharing sites - better to experiment with nurturing a potentially huge new area of the toy market than inevitably fail to supress illegal downloads that cannot be ignored but would never fulfil their true potential.

  16. Nifty

    Does it come with a positive pressure ventilation system?

    1. Ben Norris

      Re: Does it come with a positive pressure ventilation system?

      "levels on par with burning scented candles." yeah big worry!

      Also this PLA works out at more like £150/kg rather than the £20-30/kg the stuff normally costs on reels

  17. banjomike
    Thumb Up

    That could get expensive to use

    14cm3 is only 1 cubic inch. 13 of them for £52.80. It would need to be a very GOOD cubic inch to justify that. Looks like a great idea though.

  18. myviewsaremyviews

    Read Makers by Cory Doctorow

    This makes for interesting reading if you're interested in some directions this tech could go. I felt that, unusually for Doctorow, he missed several big issues with the possibilities but it still covers a lot of ground:

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