Even if you never feel the need to own a 3D printer of your very own, the odds are fair you may want to take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) at some point for a special gift, hard to find item, or just for the novelty. Print-on-demand manufacturing is a growing business, already operating at enough volume for companies such as Shapeways to build their own dedicated factories.
Following the general modus operandi of, “If it’s sold online, we want a piece of the action,” Amazon has taken note of the potential for sales in the print-on-demand market. The result is a partnership with 3DLT to launch a pilot program offering both print-on-demand items and digital designs ready to be printed at home, or at the office if you are sneaky enough.
“We’re thrilled to be included in the pilot,” says 3DLT COO Colin Klayer. “We think 3D printondemand will be very attractive to companies who want access to a new, digital channel. It will also be appealing to independent designers who’ve told us they want access to a large consumer market.”
3DLT is a 3D design and printing clearinghouse that offers a large number of printable items in categories that run from useful household items, to toys, to artwork. The pilot page will begin by offering around 50 or so designs, and will increase the catalog over the coming weeks. Customers have the option of choosing different colors and sizes for their prints.
Amazon has shown increasing interest in riding the AM wave. The company began by launching a 3D printer sales department last June, and followed that with an initial offering of 3D scanners in January. Amazon has since expanded its scanner selection by adding products from Artec to the mix.
“When it was announced that Amazon would begin selling 3D printers and supplies last summer, the industry heralded it as a defining moment, a clear indication that 3D printing was going mainstream,” said 3DLT CEO John Hauer. “We think the decision to sell 3D printed products sends an even bigger message. Consumer products are the next frontier.”
3DLT is only one of five companies joining the pilot program. Assuming Amazon customers show any interest in the pilot program, it is probably safe to assume other companies will also join in offering AM-related goods and services. I don’t think Shapeways or Materialise has anything to worry about just yet, but this development might make them wary. Remember the fate of Borders any time Amazon decides to enter a new market.
Below you’ll find a short video that discusses both Amazon and 3D printing.