BRAZIL has the honor of having the first 3D printing franchise chain in the world. At least as far as I know. The company Imprimate in Sao Paulo focuses on solely on ZCorp technology. Their customers are professionals and small companies in architecture, engineering and design.
The concept of franchising has been very successful in other markets, and I think it can work in this market, as well. A lot of service bureaus in the market today are small, and a chain can add a lot of value for them. Marketing, sales and purchasing can be centralized. As a chain, the market reach can be improved, and brand recognition will help to increase sales. Best practices can lead to improved quality, lead time and reliability. The chain can help in maintenance and inventory management. Lots of processes in handling and storing of the digital files can be handled through a shared website which keeps investments low for individual 3D printing service bureau owners.
At the same time, they keep the power of being local and accessible to their customers.
Last year, I wrote about the 3D printing service bureau market, and pondered about the idea that service bureaus may not need to own a 3D printer at all. I still think that is an option. A lot of 3D printing service bureaus are actually providing more services than 3D printing alone like building complete prototypes, post-finishing options, etc. In case of Imprimate, they focus on ZCorp technology and those parts are often used for design validation purposes, and are not meant to be a part of a bigger product or as a master for a mold.
In 2012 Imprimate wants to add 25 printers to their network of franchises and increase their sales with 30%. They focus on franchisers in cities with more than 200.000 people, and they promise the franchisor a net income of 3-5 thousand dollars per month. Maybe a new Kinko’s is born?