“3D printing is all about bespoke,” iMakr founder and director Sylvain Preumont tells me as we peruse gadgets in his recently opened Lower East Side store.
iMakr’s second physical location (the first opened in London in April 2013) is disarmingly non-futuristic, the whirring 3D printers nestling comfortably amid exposed brick and distressed wooden furniture. According to Preumont, the “Factory At Home” look makes visitors realize that “this is not the future. This is the present. Get comfortable with it.”
The majority of the store’s customers are creative types, or “inventors,” as Preumont calls them. The technology, as Preumont points out, is a useful tool for several other up-and-coming fields, such as wearable tech and the Internet of Things.
“It’s really obvious that it’s the next big thing, so it’s worth taking part,” says Preumont—whose bio lists 20 years experience in new technology start-ups. He compares the potential impact of 3D printing technology to that of the personal computer, the internet, the cell-phone, and the tablet.
Other interested parties include designers, engineers, architects, and jewelers—although while we were there, a curious passerby wandered in on a whim, just to check out the machines. And Preumont stresses that 3D printing also enables anybody to become a designer.
In one area of the store, a little tray full of Lego-like connect-it toys sits next to an iPad. The tablet displays an app that allows the user to construct a robot, and then print the component parts.
My Mini Factory—a website that Preumont founded—allows the user to download any design and then print the item on a personal 3D printer. Preumont points out that this is economical, given that the plastic material costs only $36 per kilo (approximately 2.2 lb), and most objects will weigh a fraction of that. Of course, this estimation doesn’t take into account the initial cost of the printer—which at iMakr can run from $1,299 (for the UP! Plus 2) to $8,990 (for the Asiga Freeform Pico Plus).
In addition to straight PLA filaments (the thermoplastic usually used in 3D printing), iMakr stocks filaments that mix PLA with a number of other materials: bronze, carbon fiber, wood, ceramic. These hybrid materials give the printed object a different look and feel. One item on display is a carbon-fiber electric violin, which Preumont plucks gently. Another is a pliable rubber sneaker in a violent shade of green.
Preumont describes 3D printing as a technology that fulfills innumerable highly specific, idiosyncratic requirements, rather than as having one magic application. “Everyone has a niche interest,” he says. “And in each niche there’s a need for 3D printing, but there is no need for mass production.”
This sounds like a fairly solid business plan. And after a start in London, Preumont is glad to be up and printing on Allen Street. “New York is the 3D printing city to me,” he says. “So I needed to be here.”
iMakr is located at 152 Allen Street. Check out the slideshow below to see the new space.