Oct. 17 - Bringing 3D printing to supermarket shoppers. Asda, Britain's number two retailer, is offering customers a chance to be scanned and made into a detailed miniature figurine, using a 3D printer. As Joanna Partridge reports, the trial at its York store in northern England is also being closely watched by Asda's U.S. parent company Wal-Mart.
It's not what you'd usually pick up during your weekly shop - a mini version of yourself. But UK supermarket Asda is offering customers the chance to be scanned - and turned into 3D-printed figurine. They've started trialling the service at their York store in northern England. Victoria Cumberland only popped in for some tights, but decided to buy a model to give to her grandchildren. SOUNDBITE: Victoria Cumberland, Asda shopper, saying (English): "Quite why I would want one of me, but they could always stick pins in it, can't they." Having your whole body scanned takes between 2-3 minutes. The scanner takes around 15 frames a second, or 1000 per scan. The scanner can read colour as well as geometry. That means it reads the contours of the body along with the colour of the clothes you're wearing. After the scan, the image is processed by a computer and then sent to be printed with coloured ceramic fluid. Each 8-inch figure takes around 8 hours to produce and the printer can create several at once. Scanning slots were fully booked on the first trial days - with some customers travelling miles to get one. And they were many different reasons for wanting a figurine, says Phil Stout, Asda's head of Personalisation. SOUNDBITE: Phil Stout, Head of Personalisation, Asda, saying (English): "A gentleman came in, an older gentleman, came in earlier and his wife is in a care home, and he doesn't get to see his wife that often, so he wanted to do a scan to give to his wife as a present. I thought that was very touching." 3D printing is increasingly being used by industry. But Britain's second-biggest retailer believes it's the first supermarket to offer this service on a large scale and relatively cheaply. Each figure costs £40. Mark Ibbotson is Asda's Retail Director. He first saw the techology during a visit to the Innovation lab of Asda's U.S. parent company Wal-Mart. SOUNDBITE: Mark Ibbotson, Retail Director, Asda, saying (English): "Our customers are telling us they like new, they like innovation, and above all they like value. We saw an opportunity to bring a really innovative product to the market very quickly. I think we've tried all sorts of things, we've tried chocolate, we've tried printing phone cases, but this really does excite people." Wal-Mart will also be watching to see how the trial works out in the UK. But shoppers hoping for an unusual Christmas gift might be disappointed. Asda will roll out the service in the new year if it's a success - the response so far suggests it certainly will be.