AMS Spring 2023

3D Printing Luxury Goods On-Site? Selfridges Has the Robots for That

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One of London’s premier department stores on Oxford Street, Selfridges, has created the ultimate shopping experience. Thanks to 3D printing robots, the iconic store offers consumers the opportunity to order personalized designer items produced on-site. Sustainable, creative, and bespoke. These three words can describe what the brand calls an “experimental concept store” that relies on recovered marine plastics as input material and 3D printing technology.

At Selfridges The Corner Shop, a pop-up store where customers can explore innovative products and new collection launches, the brand decided to create SUPERMARKET. This new four-week concept shop challenges consumers to think about how the goods they purchase are produced and how they impact the environment. The result demonstrates how an ABB robot 3D prints a variety of personalized homeware designer objects made from intercepted marine plastic debris collected by Parley for the Oceans’ Global Cleanup network.

Selfridges Supermarket at The Corner Store showcases a robot that 3D prints luxury goods on site

Selfridges Supermarket at The Corner Store showcases a robot that 3D prints luxury goods on-site. Image courtesy of Selfridges.

Throughout April 2022, shoppers can experience the 3D printing process live at the Corner Shop or see the high-end 3D printed products at Selfridges SUPERMARKET online and through social media channels until May 1, 2022.

Developed in partnership with the environmental organization and global network, Parley for the Oceans, and innovative design brand, Nagami, the demonstration will use ABB’s patented RobotStudio simulation software and a 2.6 meter tall IRB 6700 robot to create a variety of printed furniture, homeware, exclusive Clean Waves sunglasses and other objects made from Parley Ocean Plastic. The robot will work with Nagami’s unique plastic extruder to print the objects, which can be selected by customers on a screen and made to order on the premises.

One step closer to a robotic revolution

ABB’s Robotics Division President Marc Segura explained that by re-using plastic from the world’s oceans to print designer objects, the collaborative display highlights the vital contribution of robots in creating the sustainable manufacturing processes central to a circular economy.

“While expanded choice is great for consumers, it also comes at a cost to the environment, with products and packaging often being discarded with little thought about where they end up or whether they get recycled,” says Segura.

The ABB robot 3D prints luxury goods at Selfridges Supermarket at The Corner Shop. Image courtesy of Selfridges.

Robots are already being used in increasing numbers in inventory and delivery management and in-store services. The Harvard Business Review suggests that companies using retail robots have an excellent opportunity to increase efficiency and accuracy in inventory management. However, ABB says the new demonstration at Selfridges highlights the broader potential of robotic automation in helping retailers attract customers into their stores.

At Selfridges, robots are not only used behind the counter but are proving to be an attractive centerpiece on the shop floor, enabling personalized production of goods at the point of consumption, adding what Segura claims is a “whole new dimension to the retail experience.”

Rethink plastics

At its core, the 3D printing robotic display found a way to repurpose plastics that would otherwise end up in the oceans.

Parley founder and CEO Cyrill Gutsch says that working with ABB and Nagami, “we can now print on demand anywhere in the world to turn a problem into a solution.” And what a problem it is. For example, Parley estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic trash end up in our oceans every year, resulting in plastic marine debris that goes into aquatic life and seabirds.

“Parley Ocean Plastic was invented to catalyze change in response to marine plastic pollution and the destruction of our oceans (…) Beyond the huge potential for reducing waste by printing directly inside retail locations like Selfridges, we want to use this technology to empower local communities across the globe – giving them the tools to turn local plastic pollution into business opportunities and useful objects. For the oceans, climate and life,” spotlighted Gutsch.

Retail strategy

Focused on showcasing the role of robotics at the point of consumption, Selfridges offers customers the chance to shop the future now. By exploring future shopping habits through the lens of consumption and ownership, The Corner Shop is a place where products and art are made on-demand or from future-facing materials and innovations.

Revolving around the idea of an ever-changing shopping experience, Selfridges The Corner Shop, which opened its doors in 2017, pays homage to the traditional “British corner shop,” a small retail locale that carries a limited selection of items. Its latest SUPERMARKET development is one of the most innovative for us. Selfridges even suggests that as it continues to experiment with creative ways of reinventing retail, they invite shoppers to “play with possible futures and explore new ways of being that are kinder on the planet.”

ABB robot 3D prints luxury goods at Selfridges in London.

ABB Robotics showcases the future of retail at Selfridges in London. Image courtesy of ABB.

Selfridges site reads: “Enter SUPERMARKET: an experimental concept store in The Corner Shop at Selfridges London with 3D-printing robots creating everything from juicy plant-based steaks to lightweight handbags and recycled plastic furniture on demand.”

At the store, customers will be able to explore a creative playground, where printing on-demand, cutting-edge materials, and sustainable innovation come together, bringing future-facing fashion, art, and food to everyone.

By experimenting with new ideas and models, SUPERMARKET will examine future shopping habits as the brand looks to reinvent retail through its sustainability strategy, Project Earth. The site will host a curation of innovation-leading brands and inspiring collaborations with both established names and startups paving the way.

Selfridges Supermarket at The Corner Store showcases a 3D printing robot.

The ABB robot 3D prints luxury goods at Selfridges Supermarket at The Corner Shop. Image courtesy of Selfridges.

Now that the Corner Shop has been transformed into an exhibition space, visitors can watch 3D printing in action and much more. But the display will be followed by a series of exclusive innovations, like a first-of-its-kind fragrance that uses repurposed atmospheric carbon and Redefine Meat’s range of plant-based meat powered by 3D-printing technology, which will be available at Selfridges restaurants and printed on-site.

Hinting at future possibilities with 3D printing, the store is really pushing the limit of what is possible to create with the technology at the point of consumption. But, even more so, SUPERMARKET fulfills the requirements of sustainable manufacturing and is one of the most creative ideas of 2022 so far.

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