I have childhood memories of long afternoons at Joann Fabrics, wandering the aisles in a bored daze while my mother shopped for yarn. It didn't seem like an especially exciting place back in the '80s, but my opinion may be changing now that the chain (known these days as simply Joann) is adding 3D printers and other new products and services to attract tech-savvy makers.
Two new 3D printer models, the $599 Polaroid PlaySmart 3D and $499 Sculpto 3D, have just landed in stores and are exclusive to Joann in the US. These are both mid-priced printers, not as inexpensive as entry level models from Monoprice or others, but not as expensive as full-range professional-level printers.
The Polaroid PlaySmart has a smallish 120x120x120mm bed, but includes a webcam and an optional filament holder with a built-in scale, which should tell you exactly how much material is left. The Sculpto is unique in that it has a round platform that rotates under a semi-fixed arm. That allows for a printable diameter of 200mm, and height up to 160mm.
The plug-and-play Sculpto software takes care of a lot of the setup and decision-making, but may not allow for the fine control some will want. Both models have been previously available globally, but are making their US debut at Joann.
"We think there's a big opportunity to have more of a crafting/tech hub in our stores," Joann Chief Merchandising Officer Rob Will told me. "What got us very excited about these two new 3D printers is that they're coming down to a far more accessible price."
The craft retailer is also courting makers by building out what it calls a Creators' Studio inside stores, where customers can learn about 3D printing, laser cutting and other tech-enabled crafting skills. The store also offers Glowforge laser cutters, which can sculpt projects from wood, leather, lucite and other materials, making it an interesting alternative to filament-based 3D printers.
The name change, new creative hubs and embrace of technology is all part of keeping the brand relevant. "We've got younger customers in our stores that we may not be helping the way we could in terms of technology," says Chief Customer Officer Chris DiTullio. "With launching 3D printers, we really see it as opening up endless possibilities."