Wal-Mart CEO Says Retailer May Consider Buying 3-D Printer Maker

May 28, 2014 2:40 pm ET

May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said the world’s largest retailer may use 3-D printers for producing supplies and might even make an acquisition in the market.

“Three-D printing is interesting to me,” McMillon said today at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. “We can use 3-D printing over time for replacement parts.”

The still-nascent 3-D printer industry presents both a threat and opportunity for retailers like Wal-Mart. The devices can create small products and components -- say, auto parts or home-repair supplies -- potentially reducing the need for consumers to go to the store. At the same time, retailers could use the technology themselves to maintain inventory, cutting their supply-chain costs.

In response to a question on Wal-Mart buying 3-D printing companies, McMillon said it might make sense “in some cases.” More generally, the retailer is planning to ramp up acquisitions and partnerships, he said.

“We’ve been more acquisitive lately, especially for talent,” McMillon said. “And our pace of acquisitions, I think, is going to accelerate.”