Fujifilm has long been a technology leader in photo printing and processing. Recently, the company demoed a 3-D printer designed to bring dimensional printing to retail.
This may seem a little confusing to some industry watchers, in part because Fujifilm has demonstrated 3-D photographic printing to support its REAL 3D line of cameras.
These are not 3-D photos—which are stereoscopic prints on lenticular media—but rather three-dimensional objects made on-demand from thermo-plastic.
"Fujifilm is also looking to make 3-D Printers available for consumer purchase from retailers in the near future, enabling the family and do-it-yourself enthusiasts to produce low-cost, high-quality finished parts for their projects at home," said Michael Mostyn, commercial division key account manager for Fujifilm Australia, where the kiosks were demonstrated earlier this year. "Consumer printers, however, would not have the capacity to produce all of the customized 3-D products that would be available in-store through kiosks or online."
“The principle of 3-D printing is similar to ink-jet printing which uses inks applied as droplets onto paper in thin layers in two dimensions,” Mostyn explained. “The 3-D printer deposits plastic layer-by-layer to form the object. Various plastics are used in place of different color inks to produce the desired object.”
In a retail environment, a customer could use a kiosk to create their customized 3-D product from a range of designs or even a photograph. They then place their order with the retailer and return to the store at a later time to pick up the product, Mostyn said.
As the volume of retail photo printing continues to decline and the growth potential of photo cards and photo books remains uncertain, this is a way for one company to leverage its imaging expertise to add new capabilities. While consumers have been lukewarm to adopting 3-D photography, the ability to print objects on demand may appeal to a wide range of customers.