Notwithstanding the Easy button that Staples peddles, 3D printing is not that easy, and not everyone needs one in their kitchen or office. For years, we have talked about how 3D printing really should be handled like copying is, through Main Street service bureaus like Staples has in its stores. Then the machines can be bigger, better maintained, with more options for stock and supply.
Staples is installing Mcor Iris colour 3D printers. These work by cutting out 2D slices from letter-sized paper and gluing them together to build the model, making it perfect for a place like Staples, goodness knows they have stacks of paper. The silhouette artist in the old Punch cartoon could probably do it, but software and a machine is faster. Gluing paper together is a lot cheaper than buying reels of ABS plastic too; supposedly material cost is about 5% of that of other machines. Colours are applied much like they are in an inkjet printer, so you can have a million of them at high resolution.
With the IRIS, what you see on your screen is what you get in your hand, and that's limited only by your imagination," said Mcor co-founder and CEO Dr. Conor MacCormack. [in a press release] "Ink was intended for paper, which is the ideal canvas for bright, high-resolution colour." Other factors in IRIS colour quality include: Mcor's patented 3D colour ink, which permeates the entire part, not just the surface.
If Staples doesn't mark it up too much, 3D printing in paper could be affordable for anyone. They are launching in Europe, and there is no word on when they are coming to the States and Canada.
One can already order up 3D printing through companies like Shapeways, and get a lot more variety in the type of printing, and not be limited to paper, but that's still pretty niche. It's even more nice to have your own Makerbot. This will change over time, as it did with 2D printing and better machines become available at lower cost.
I love this video that shows how 3D printing will change the way we do things; I think they get it right.