Slowly but surely, 3D printing is becoming recognizably available for even the average person, regardless of whether you happen to own an additive manufacturing (AM) system or not.
Service bureaus exist in every major city, you can find 3D printers for well under $1,000, and, of course, you can barely surf the Internet without tripping over something related to AM.
A number of companies have shown interest in the technology, purely from a consumer service angle, including Amazon (Introducing Amazon’s 3D Printing Store).
The online retail juggernaut has eased its way into 3D printing by first offering systems for sale, then moving to a print-on-demand option.
Now the company has moved deeper into the AM waters with the launch of its 3D Printed Products store.
“The introduction of our 3D Printed Products store suggests the beginnings of a shift in online retail — that manufacturing can be more nimble to provide an immersive customer experience.
Sellers … can offer more dynamic inventory for customers to personalize and truly make their own,” said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon marketplace sales.
“The 3D Printed Products store allows us to help sellers, designers and manufacturers reach millions of customers while providing a fun and creative customer experience to personalize a potentially infinite number of products at great prices across many product categories.”
Along with the usual array of potential 3D printed goods that include toys, jewelry, and accessories, the new 3D Printed Products store offers an area named “Creative Expressions.”
After clicking on the link, customers will find a new set of products that can be personalized by adding words, selecting different colors and tweaking the design in simple ways.
Possibilities in the Creative Expressions area include personalized bobble head dolls, a 3D printed wallet, jewelry and even miniature swords.
“The personalization widget empowers customers to make something unique in seconds without knowing how to 3D model. A product personalization platform on Amazon has the potential to become the app store for the physical world,” said Nancy Liang, co-founder of Mixee Labs.
“Customization gives customers the power to remix their world, and we want to change the way people shop online. It also makes the shopping experience more fun, creative and personal.”
It seemed inevitable that Amazon would eventually take the full plunge into the consumer side of 3D printing. While the new store is good news for Amazon customers, it might be bad news for other companies, such as Shapeways, which offer similar services.
Amazon did essentially kill Borders, and it has lost none of its commercial clout or reach since that time.
Related: The Implications of 3D Printing for the Global Logistics Industry