Home Depot has signed an agreement with 3D printer company MakerBot to sell its line of Replicator machines.
The consumer-grade, desktop MakerBot Replicator 3D printers will initially be part of a pilot program in 12 stores located in California, Illinois and New York.
MakerBot said both its printers and 3D scanning technology will be showcased in specific demo areas in the Home Depot stores and that trained MakerBot retail staff will be on hand to provide information about the products.
MakerBot's scanners allow solid objects to be transposed into a 3D computer-aided design image that can then be used to print out an object.
Customers will also be offered free 3D-printed items to take home with them, including adjustable wrenches, electrical outlet covers and drink cups.
The Home Depot is not the first retailer to add 3D printers to its list of products.
Retailers such as Staples and service providers like UPS are testing in-store services to give their customers a chance to use the technology without having to buy the hardware and related materials.
Driven by consumer machines such as MakerBot's, the sale of 3D printers and related materials is expected to balloon from $75 million this year to $1.2 billion by 2018, according to a report published in June.
Along with MakerBot, the surge in 3D printers is expected to be spurred by the entry of mainstream 2D printer companies such as HP and Epson into the 3D fray.
The entry of conventional printer companies into the market, along with the development of a strong ecosystem of software, apps and materials, is expected to convince consumers to start buying 3D printers.
"In order for 3D printing to successfully find a mainstream market amongst consumers, it needs to widen the applications available that integrate consumer lifestyle and drive a number of applications beyond professional printing," Nitin Bhas, an analyst with Juniper Research, said.
Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.