Amazon announced Monday that it's adding a section devoted to 3D printing to its store, which could make the technology more accessible to the average consumer.
The ultimate promise of 3D printing is that consumers will be able to get whatever they want at the very moment they want it. Broke your coffee cup? Just fire up your printer, maybe download a blueprint, and get cracking. But there are still plenty of average consumers who may not want to invest in a mini-manufacturing hub for their living room.
Where the technology has had the most potential so far has been for small businesses that use the printers to make small runs of super-customizable goods. Sites such as Etsy, for example, have thousands of 3D-printed products for sale -- aimed at people who may not want their own 3D printer but like the idea of being able to design their own goods without breaking the bank.
That's exactly the market that Amazon, whose chief executive, Jeffrey Bezos owns The Washington Post, appears to be targeting now.
"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, in alignment with designers and manufacturers, can offer more dynamic inventory for customers to personalize and truly make their own,” said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon Marketplace Sales, in a statement.
The 3D printing store looks a lot like the smaller storefronts Amazon has launched to promote new product trends, most notably the section for wearable tech that the company began promoting this past spring.
As with the wearables section, the 3D printing store is starting small. According to the release, there are around 200 goods in the on offer, such as pieces of jewelry, cellphone cases and toys.
Some sellers offer more design options than others. In some cases, you may just have a lot of color options for a pair of earrings, very similar to the customization options you'd see in the normal jewelry section. Other goods, such as the custom bobbleheads on offer from Mixee, give you a wider range of design choices to allow you to make dolls that look like you or your friends.
Amazon said in the release that it plans to continue expanding the store over time, and even included a link to the application to become a seller.