By Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch:
Amazon has launched a new store for 3D-printed goods, which include items that can be customized to change their size, color, material and even aspects of their design. The store covers a range of types of products, including jewelry, electronics, toys and games, home decor and kitchen supplies, and items are supplied by a number of partners including Mixee, Scupteo and 3DLT.
Amazon is touting this as the debut of a new way for the ecommerce giant to offer even more specialized inventory that can better cater to specific customer tastes. “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,” said Amazon Marketplace Sales director Petra Schindler-Carter, in a press release announcing the new storefront.
Along with the launch of the store, Amazon is introducing a new personalization tool for customizing some of the 3D-printed designs, which opens up a widget that lets you choose from a number of basic designs, pick the color and finish of your plastic/metal material, and preview what it will look like with a 360-degree 3D preview. You can also tweak individual aspects of the design with some items, including thickness and other dimensions.
Prices on items vary, but the most affordable tend to fall into the $30 range, and they go upwards from there depending on size and material.
The introduction of the store does indeed mark a potential turning point in the sale of online goods – it means the largest online retailer in the English-speaking world is endorsing a means of direct production and selling that could change how future products are conceived and planned. One-offs and small runs are much more affordable via 3D printing, so theoretically the sky’s the limit on the range of things customers could order, provided 3D printing technology keeps evolving.
It’s worth noting that Amazon only sells a set catalogue of 3D-printed items so far – it hasn’t yet offered a way for customers to upload their own design and have them printed as does Shapeways, for instance. Amazon likely wants to maintain some kind of quality control and not have to concern themselves with educating customers about the ins and outs of 3D printing custom designs, however – and this doesn’t necessarily mean that refinements in the process wouldn’t open the door to this kind of thing in the future.