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Now the English language is an imprecise vehicle at the best of times. So we need to be precise here. Walmart Apollo LLC a patent and trademark vehicle of Walmart obtained a patent for the 3D printing gun. So similar to a glue gun but then for 3D printing. Or almost exactly like a 3D printing pen but instead, it has the shape of a gun. Maybe seniors would feel more comfortable holding something similar to the glue gun of yore? Is this an extreme case of know your audience?  Or perhaps kids would like the gun shape better? Its very funny really because the inspiration for FDM printing was a glue gun. Scott Crump was trying to make a little froggy for his daughter and he was using a glue gun to do it. He then thought, wait, what if we could turn this into a technology? This was the central moment when FDM (fused deposition modeling, material extrusion) was invented. And now Walmart wants to sell a 3D printing gun. Its full circle in a weird way. And well…at least they’re not selling 3D printed guns.

World’s Cutest Filament Spool Courtesy of Walmart

The design itself consists of a teeny tiny filament spool attached to the back of the gun which is going to look super cute. This is pulled into the barrel by one gear that drives another two gears. These two opposing gears lock and drive the filament forward. There it passes through a heating element and past cooling fins through a nozzle. The 3D printing gun works by pressing the trigger.

Cutaway of the Walmart 3D Printing Gun check the ultra cute filament spool on the back and the gears 42, 43, 44. 80 is where the gun can connect to a plug.

Walmart’s 3D Printing Gun will not have batteries and instead be connected to mains power (see 80 above):

“The power source may be a corded connection to an AC source of electricity. The power source 80 may be electrically coupled to a mains lead 81 (e.g. cord, mains cable, etc.) disposed within the housing.”

Insulation cap and eerily familiar nozzle.

Walmart also seems to have come up with a number of possible usage scenarios for using the 3D printing gun:

“Embodiments of the 3D printing gun  may be used on a salesfloor for a plurality of tasks, operations, repairs, and the like. For example, embodiments of the 3D printing gun may be used to enable 3D printed pieces to be fused together to create bigger final products, which may not be possible for a conventional 3D printing machine. Embodiments of the 3D printing gun may also enable real-time fixes for broken parts 3D printed for display and/or use by a retailer, business, warehouse, etc., allow for personalization of 3D printed items to be created in the field or in response to a specific request.”

I like that they’re envisioning this for spur of the moment repairs there will be a lot of that in the thousands of stores the company has. The claim that you can make bigger parts than the build volume of the 3D printer is of course also nice. I’d be curious to see if they can just scale up the gun to be like fifty centimeters in size and then just use it as a 3D printer on a robot arm while circumventing a lot of IP. Or it could just be a handy thing for associates? Despite Elon Musk’s valiant attempts to make it look like this is the future I do believe I would only really feel like we had as a human race truly arrived if A. All doors made a hissing sound and closed automatically. Or B. I could go to a counter at Walmart and a guy would repair my stuff with the 3D printing gun. “Yeah honey I’ll meet you at the canned chickens in three minutes, just need to get my phone repaired by the 3D printing gun guy.” I would like that a lot. I actually believe that there is a business case to do this. I also really love the idea of Walmart using this as a personalization tool. It would be awesome to have my name put on stuff by a person in the store. I’d also think if they had talented 3D printing gunners they could get them to quickly make a personalized positive for a mold. You could then make a silicone negative of that mold. This mold could be something to do with Deleware’s anniversary, the high score of yesterday’s high school football game, a local business name or a birthday. They could then use the mold to customize hundreds of cookies, chocolates of cakes. This would be an extremely inexpensive way to quickly personalize hundreds of food items (thousands if you included automation). I’m totally against 3D printed guns but I do hope that the 3D Printing Gun comes to a supercenter near you.

 

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