Why Doesn’t Radio Shack Sell 3D Printers?

About a year ago, I decided the best deployment of unused capital in my Scottrade account was to purchase shares of Radio Shack. My investment thesis was this: 1) I bought a TRS-80 there 30 years ago. 2) I made guitar effects pedals using Radio Shack parts there about 20 years ago. That’s it. The whole idea was predicated on nostalgia. I’m in the red thus far.

I have learned a lot about Radio Shack—the business side, not where they keep the capacitors—after the fact. (The capacitors are in a metal case with pull out drawers near the back.)

For instance, the profit center of the company is the stuff you normally think of when you think of Radio Shack: The thing that connects one electronic gizmo to another, like when you are installing an entertainment center. The problem is there isn’t much growth in that business.

The growth comes from smart phones and the like. The problem here is that the profits here are slimmer and Radio Shack has too much competition.

This is where 3-D printers come in and why my griping about Radio Shack is relevant to chemistry.

I’ve written about 3-D printing in the past. It is, essentially, a new technique for processing plastics. To make a part, one doesn’t need a costly mold. But the tradeoff is that the user can’t make many of the same part very efficiently. Thus, the technique is ideal for designers to make prototypes. And 3D printing also holds promise for hobbyists and tinkerers of all kinds, especially when firms such as 3D

For sale, at Staples, not Radio Shack.

For sale, at Staples, not Radio Shack.

Systems are offering machines for as little as $1,300.

It would seem like Radio Shack would be an ideal retailer for 3D printers and, perhaps more importantly, the consumables involved: cartridges of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene and polylactic acid. 3D printers are today very much like ham radios were 40 years ago and computers were 30 years ago: outlets for curiosity and creativity. 3D Printers are also cool. Who wouldn’t be fascinated seeing a 3D printer in a store, perhaps churning out a new object right before your eyes in a demonstration? Why, people might even walk into Radio Shack deliberately to see a 3D printer up close. It would be the first time the store had a draw since it did away with the Battery Club.

But there is a first retailer getting into the 3D printing business with 3D Systems printers: Staples. Is that a good fit? I suppose. They sell toner and report covers. It is the store of last resort for Blue Fun Tak in early September. I think Radio Shack would have been better, to be honest. But Staples outfoxed Radio Shack and that’s the point.

Author: Alex Tullo

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  1. The proper term is stereolithics, been around for years, just took off with anu name.

  2. They will be soon, however let them know you want it.

  3. Probably one reason that many of the bricks and mortar stores don’t sell 3D printers is the technical support and user interaction htat is part of the printing experience. For example, using a 3D printer typically requires that you have a 3D CAD system, one that can generate a STL file. Trying to explain the concept is extraordinary use of time for a sales associate, when he could be selling something else during that time. Additionally the 3D CAD software is not going to be sold in a retail store. Explaining the tech and concept behind the 3D printing to a newbie is a time consuming process and one that requires training and ability to put in layman’s terms.

  4. Very infomative post. I was not familiar with 3d printing. Just learned some valuable information. It may help me about related matter. I will come back for more reading, keep up the good work!

  5. This is not a rqdio shack level item. it;s high tech stuff although getting back to cost effective. Not sure I want the general public the be able to “print” a hand gun either! Even though it’d take alterations to work it doesn;t sound like a good idea to me.

    – todd charske

  6. Todd, the general public can buy a handgun for $200. Much cheaper and far more effective than buying a 3d printer.

  7. As with all disruptive technologies that will be no exception and will lead inevitably with it its share of disadvantages. Intellectual property is one (although Fabuliona is putting DRM on 3D printing) and materials that are mostly derived from petrole … are another. Brief was not finished talking and argue …