Well, it certainly didn't take long for a new business model to be created from 3D printing, and also no surprise that Amazon is taking advantage of this. It reminds me of when digital photo printing became a service. It certainly is a good mainstream way for consumers to take advantage of 3D printing.
This is a major first step in the evolution of 3D printing use. This service by Amazon will allow ordinary, non-engineering people to order (and personalize to a limited degree) both whimsical and useful objects at affordable prices.
This is the first step in creating mass market awareness and utilization of 3D printing, taking it from the pages of web magazines, newspapers and print magazines, as well as news reports, and putting the end result in people's hands.
The article doesn't cover this aspect, but I hope that a second benefit will be on the design side. Will Amazon welcome and compensate designers who provide the 3D CAD models that are being made? If so, this provides a mainstream outlet for selling designs for compensation, instead of the DYI or niche websites that exist now (and mostly provide the designs for free).
Clinton, thanks for pointing out that this could also potentially affect engineers, as well as end-consumers, by compensating them for their individual designs. It will be interesting to see if Amazon decides to go that route.
3D printers, awesome as they are, are not nearly half as accessible or as abundant as the more conventional paper printers that everyone is used to. The actual printers are also still rather expensive and out of the reach of the average consumer so even if he or she was able to customize and use it the cost of buying the printer will simply be too much. So from all appearances it looks like physical shipping from the Amazon store will still be the way out for a while to come.
For avid Amazon shoppers who have access to 3D printers or are able to buy the same, this could very well prove to be the most cost and time efficient way to go about their shopping. Am not sure though about how practical this method is going to be when it comes to the purchase of jewelry. Jewelry, especially expensive jewelry, is mostly valued because of the material out of which it is made. Wouldn't it be too costly to print, say, a diamond wedding ring?
Imagine an app-like pay structure, where the designer of an item gets paid every time someone selects it for printing. The scale of Amazon's userbase could allow someone to make a decent living if her/his designs are popular enough.
Another possibility is using the Amazon 3D printed item as a stepping stone to the purchase of the item in its "real" manufacturing medium. Someone could try a product out and if they like it, buy the "real" one from Amazon or from the designer's own website. The "real" one could offer better textures, more colors, longer life, etc,., things that might not be realized by a 3D printed part.
Clinton, that first suggestion sounds like a great idea for engineers--but I suspect not for Amazon. That's a royalty model you're suggesting, and it would require a different business model on Amazon's end. Administering a royalty system to third-party sellers (engineers), as well as administering the sale of their "objects", would be much more complex on Amazon's end than managing simple sales of "objects" including software designs. Your second suggestion might make more sense for them.
I agree with you, AnandY, which is why I think this Amazon service can bring 3D printing more to people who can't afford it. It's a good start to introduce consumers who this might be cost prohibitive for to the potential of 3D printing.
One thing that jumps out to me is the potential for this to grow the industry exponentially.
You get an Amazon pumping out millions of items, rather than dozens, 100s and so on, and they just plain need more printers and material. Volume improves economies of scale, prices plummet and those of us that use it creatively reap the benefits.
Big volume players also mean more cubic dollars running through the companies making the machines, more for research, more companies trying to make faster, more reliable machines that are going to have to be accessible to less trained folks.
Fifty-six-year-old Pasquale Russo has been doing metalwork for more than 30 years in a tiny southern Italy village. Many craftsmen like him brought with them fabrication skills when they came from the Old World to America.
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