3D printing is a slowly spreading technology. However, its expensive equipment and complicated design software still make it difficult for the everyday buyer to get into.
Amazon has been trying to simplify the process. Earlier this year, the online retailer got into the 3D printing game by providing templates for items to make on 3D printers. However, other companies already had that market covered, including Ebay, 3DSystems and MakerBot. Today, Amazon announced that it has teamed up with 3D printing service companies Sculpteo, Mixee Labs and 3DLT to fulfill the custom orders as they come in. The store will allow customers to print "more than 200 unique print on-demand products." Amazon said it expects to expand its product line over time.
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The store operates by providing users access to design templates that will be customizable via a personalization widget on the site. Amazon then takes the order and sends it to a printing service, which will create the product and mail it to the consumer. Amazon believes that this store will redefine the online shopping experience. According to Sculpteo CEO Clement Moreau, "Amazon's deep understanding of customers coupled with Sculpteo's fast, high-quality manufacturing process offers an unprecedented level of product possibilities for customers. With 3D printing, customers are no longer limited to what is in stock, but instead by what they can imagine."
Other companies, including Kraftwurx and Shapeways, have created 3D printed product marketplaces where they take design files and print the products for the customer. However, most of them require users to either buy from independent sellers or upload their own plans in order to print them.
Amazon's store currently allows users to customize their own iPhone cases, wallets, jewelry, and even bobbleheads. Customers can change the product's size, color, finish, height, design or other features along the way. The store is set up on the same page as Amazon's old 3D printing store. However, there is no link on Amazon's home page.