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3D printing is taking the retail industry to new heights. According to Singularity Hub, “Forget costly prototypes, traditional textile manufacturing, product recalls, and the like. 3D printing is about to turn the entire retail industry on its head”.

The technology allows for faster and more efficient creation of parts and materials, reduced costs, and decreased need for expensive trial and error.

In addition to these benefits, one of the main reasons the retail sector has championed 3D printing is due to the wide range of disciplines that come under the umbrella of ‘retail’. Since 3D printing can be applied to packaging, shop fittings, lighting, display areas and the products themselves (e.g. clothing, footwear, office equipment, mannequins), there is potential for wide-ranging innovation and development.

The Rise of 3D Printed Products

The increased take-up of 3D printing within the retail niche is reflective of the general growth of the additive manufacturing industry at large. The latest estimates forecast that the industry will be worth $36 billion by next year and $63.46 billion by 2025.

Manufacturing specialist Cathy Morrow Robertson states:

As supply chains digitize, additive manufacturing will simplify historically cumbersome processes, provide more attractive economics, and perhaps most importantly, it will drive innovation with new products and business models.

By the end of this year, one source predicts that potentially up to 80% of finished products will involve some kind of 3D printing. Such a take-up will undoubtedly affect the retail world.

3D Printing in Retail Businesses

As stated, 3D printed products are on the rise — particularly in retail businesses. So who are some retailers currently using 3D printing techniques? Glad you asked:

Ministry of Supply

This company uses space suit technology from NASA to design ‘smart’ clothes for both sexes. The clothes use ‘phase change materials’ that are able to control body heat, reduce perspiration and limit odor. The clothes can also adapt to the individual wearer’s shape, stay tucked in (shirts) and wrinkle-free all day. Impressive, huh?

The company recently introduced a new line of intelligent jackets that respond to voice control and learn to automatically warm up to your desired temperature. At their Boston-based outlet store you can order a tailored item of 3D printed clothing that will be ready in 90 minutes. Even better, the process involves zero waste.


Reebok introduced 3D printing technology into its production processes at its Rhode Island based Liquid Factory; they did so to upgrade the speed and quality of its manufacturing facilities.

Created by the Reebok Future team, the factory uses state-of-the-art software and robotics to 3D print shoes in three-dimensional layers. The method allows for the creation of tailored, unique footwear with no need for traditional molds.

Reebok President Matt O’Toole said:

The Reebok Future team was created to innovate not only the products we make, but also the process by which we make them. We’re looking at how we can bring speed, customization and enhanced product performance to the process of creating footwear – and Liquid Factory is a very exciting development in this area.


Staples is no stranger to 3D printing. This company has been offering a 3D printing service for years. Customers can go online, from the comfort of their own homes, and upload designs for office products. Staples employees then print your custom designs in-store, and the final product is delivered to your door.

In its latest development, the company has launched the Staples’ ‘Easy 3D’, which will offer consumers, product designers, architects, healthcare professionals, educators, students and others low-cost, photo-realistic 3D printed products from Staples stores. Customers simply upload electronic files, after which models can be delivered or picked up in store.

Hans Boodt

Hans Boodt is a bespoke mannequin design company that’s using 3D printing to create ultra-lifelike figures. With an in-house 3D design studio, the Dutch company are able to take mannequin personas to the next level, creating characters with their own distinctive charisma. Customers of Hans Boodt include Calvin Klein, Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger.

Product Development Manager at Hans Boodt Mannequins, Coen Viguurs, said:

3D printing has revolutionized the way we work at Hans Boodt. 3D printing sculptures of mannequins can be done at request, with an unprecedented level of quality and in a matter of days.

3D Printing in Fashion

Just this past New York Fashion Week, Stratasys took center stage with a breakthrough for the fashion industry by 3D printing directly onto fabric. Stratasys teamed up with innovative designers threeASFOUR and fitchwork to create the ‘Chro-Morpho’ collection, which is inspired by the microscopic colors and light filtering of butterfly and insect wings.

3D Printing in Fashion

Photo courtesy: instagram.com/stratasys


The Future of 3D Printed Clothing

Not only will 3D printing technology disrupt the way we produce goods for the retail sector, it will also call into question every step of the global supply chain, traditional company structure, the way people consume and the level of customization available to those consumers.

Tektonika’s Carrie Dagenhard said:

By reshaping the supply chain, increasing convenience for consumers, and unlocking practically unlimited potential for modern product designers, it’s likely 3D printing will transform the retail industry forever.

Peter Diamandis from Singularity Hub takes his prediction a step further than ‘reshaping’ and believes 3D printing will completely change the world of retail.

Within the next decade, we’ll see Alexa placing our orders, 3D printers manufacturing those orders, and drones delivering the results to our doorsteps… . Prepare for a future in which the retail supply chain is simplified and localized, with on-the-spot 3D printing that can meet any demand.

Only time will tell how much of an impact 3D printing will have on the retail industry. But one thing we do know, for sure, is that it is going to become a vital cog in the wheel as more companies take up the technology.

What do you think of these potential changes? How could your business benefit from 3D printing? Let us know in the comments below! Also, view more images of Stratasys technology being used for 3D printing fashion on the Stratasys Instagram page.

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