Today was a typical day in the 3D Printing world when a big name does anything remotely related to the cool technology. Once the news was out, headlines were not quite accurate, comparisons to existing companies were untrue, and non-3D Printing blogs and websites were touting something they clearly didn’t understand.
Ok, first off, yes, Amazon is collaborating with several 3D Printing companies including Mixee, Sculpteo and 3DLT that make cool, unique, customizable products for Amazon to sell in a new store on their huge website. The uber-cool part of this is that the customer can go into the website themselves and easily personalize the product they want to purchase via color, size, and in some cases, design. The Amazon store covers a range of product categories, including toys and games, jewelry in complex geometries, electronics, and eccentric Jetsons-era home decor. But NOT everything in their catalogue is available via 3D Printing.
Amazon Marketplace Sales director Petra Schindler-Carter explains in the news release announcing the breakthrough 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.” But that does NOT mean that Amazon has gone out an purchased a bunch of 3D Printers to print ANYTHING a customer wants! Unlike what some blogs and news sites are saying, Amazon is NOT 3D Printing in the same manner as Shapeways or QuickParts that actually WILL make anything a customer requests – well, assuming your CAD design .stl file works ok. Amazon is relying upon their partners to do the 3D Printing.
So while this is pretty cool to the mainstream market that a customer can go online and specify how a product should look, it is not the same as Amazon replacing their entire inventory with a warehouse of 3D Printers. We are not there yet…that would take a large number of printers that can work in a range of materials. And that’s a HUGE investment!
Ok, I’ve had my say…in the meantime, check out the fun Amazon eCommerce site catering to 3D printing. But don’t expect Amazon to upend Shapeways or Cubify anytime soon as several “gurus” are claiming!