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Home Depot's Latest Product Could Save You From Having To Go To Home Depot Again

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The latest item to hit the shelves of Home Depot has the potential to solve one of biggest annoyances of do-it-yourself home repair: having to go to the hardware store in the first place.

Earlier this month, the world's largest home improvement chain announced the start of a pilot program to sell MakerBots, described by the manufacturer as a type of professional-grade 3-D printing machine, in a dozen stores following a three-month period of online-only sales. The MakerBot printers, which range from a compact $1,375 model to a high-end $2,899 version, went on sale July 14 in Chicago and New York City-area stores, as well as Home Depot locations throughout California.

"As we were thinking about a partnership with MakerBot, we're always looking for new innovation," Joe Downey, Home Depot's online merchant for tools, told HuffPost by phone. "It's really about bringing about new innovation to customers."

3d printed tools

3-D printed nuts and bolts from a MakerBot machine.

3-D printers can whip up everything from vagina selfies to handguns, but Home Depot envisions its customers using the MakerBots for decidedly more practical applications.

"Imagine a world where you can 3-D print replacement parts and use 3-D printing as an integral part of design and building work," MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis said in a statement.

In demonstration kiosks at the 12 pilot locations, Home Depot employees can show customers how to print items like replacement parts and product prototypes, CBS reports.

While a MakerBot can, in theory, churn out many of the same items that people go to Home Depot to buy, the retailer doesn't seem worried about 3-D printing itself into obsolescence.

"We're comfortable with the partnership," Downey said, noting that customers have "economies of scale to consider." In other words, a MakerBot owner would be unlikely to print all her own screws or bolts for a large project.

Besides, said Pettis of the current fleet of MakerBot printers, "You can't use it as a hammer."

Downey said customers typically use the printers for personalization projects, like a Chicago father who Downey said purchased a MakerBot to print custom furniture for his daughter's dollhouse.

3d printed wrench

Users can print tools like this adjustable wrench with a MakerBot.

The current generation of 3-D printers are still relatively slow -- printing an item the size of a Lego brick can take roughly half an hour -- and customers would still need to go to a store to purchase the (often costly) raw materials.

"Ten years from now, it will be quite common for people to have 3-D printers in their homes," Tim Shepherd, an analyst with the U.K.-based research firm Canalys, told Bloomberg last week.

In addition to Home Depot, companies like Amazon, Staples and Dell have joined the ranks of 3-D printer retailers.

Touted as a "second industrial revolution," 3-D printing comprises a $3 billion industry that has grown 600 percent in the past decade, Forbes reports.

This article has been updated with additional information about the characterization of the Makerbot printers.

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