Tech Data has signed a deal with Environmental Business Products (EBP) to distribute the new Polaroid 3D printer, which it says is among the first of its kind designed "for people who don't want to learn about 3D printing".
EBP, a supplies company based in London, makes OEM branded kit, and started developing its own 3D printer a few years ago. The printer was chosen by Polaroid, which worked with EBP to develop it into a Polaroid-branded printer with Polaroid software attached.
Peter Lunn, senior category manager at Tech Data, said EBP has not worked with the channel before but approached the distie because of its large reseller base.
"They came to us because of our breadth. They have not worked with the channel before, so the key things for them were our channel breadth and our marketing engine," he said.
"We have a broad reach in terms of channel. But if you look at some of the key markets for 3D printing, it is huge in education. There are now budgets for education organisations to buy 3D printing. We have our own education/public sector programme with the channel."
The distributor wants to recruit between 30 and 50 partners for EBP initially. It will be looking to recruit partners from its own channels to start with before going on the hunt for new partners.
Chris Connery, vice president for global analysis at Context, said that the education space is forecast to have some of the highest demand for 3D printers over the next four years.
"Demand is clearly evidenced in the desktop 3D printing market by growing sales, pre-orders from start-ups and new brands entering the market," he said. "But this is for B2B and education opportunities, not for run-of-the-mill consumers. The total global market for 3D printing including not only printer hardware, but also materials and services, is forecast to grow from $4.1bn (£3.1bn) in 2015 to $18.4bn by 2020."
As well as the education market, Lunn said Tech Data will target the design market and resellers in the retail market, in the hope of attracting consumers to the product.
Lunn said the 3D printer is designed with consumers in mind, but admitted that its £1,500 price will probably see it used mainly in schools and design companies at first.
"It is designed to be really easy to use and easy enough for a consumer or someone in education or design to use," he explained. "Initially it will probably be used more in schools and in offices into design work, then probably in the consumer market as it becomes more popular. I guess if you are into design or modelling at home, that's not a bad price for a very easy-to-use 3D printer.
"There are very cheap ones out there but they tend to be very difficult to use and you don't typically get consistent results out of them."
Context's Connery said a Polaroid-branded 3D printer is interesting in that it would be one of the first well-known brands to enter the consumer side of 3D printing.
However, he said the consumer 3D printing market is still in its infancy.
"There are not many well-known brands in the desktop 3D printer space, with market leaders XYZprinting, M3D, Ultimaker and others not having good brand recognition outside the 3D printer space. So the entrance of the Polaroid brand into the space makes it interesting in that it would be one of the first well-known brands to be present here," he explained.
"While there is a great and growing market for desktop 3D printers for hobbyists, enthusiasts, students, engineers, architects and the like, a broader market for regular, run-of-the-mill, at-home consumers has not materialised."
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