Crafting and 3D printing
If you wanted to buy some homespun yarn or a bar of homemade soap, you might go shopping on Etsy. As one of the Internet's largest marketplaces for handmade products, Etsy boasts more than a million shops, each of which offers its own line of handcrafted products, craft supplies or vintage gear.
But Etsy also has a high-tech side. The site is home to thousands of 3D-printed objects, from the run-of-the-mill (iPhone accessories) to the truly unique (life-size dinosaur-skull replicas).
The shops that sell these 3D-printed creations often work with 3D-printing companies — like Shapeways, i.materialise, Kraftwurx, Ponoko or Sculpteo — to produce items for Etsy shoppers.
Those companies also have their own marketplaces that sell to consumers. Although marketplaces that sell only 3D-printed goods are growing in both size and popularity, it's Etsy's acceptance of 3D printing that could really draw this technology out of its geeky niche and into the mainstream.
Is 3D printed the new handmade?
3D printing may not sound like a hands-on process. But according to Etsy's "marketplace criteria" for sellers, 3D-printed pieces that are incorporated into finished products are just as "handmade" as ceramic pots or sterling-silver jewelry.
Han-Yin Hsu — a jewelry designer whose shop, Annxannx, can be found on both Etsy and Shapeways — is already proving that 3D-printed products are crafty. Hsu uses Shapeways to 3D print the pendants she designs for her necklaces. She then dyes these pendants and attaches them to chains before shipping them off to her Etsy customers.
"Unlike other jewelry makers and artists who make things by hand, 3D printing allows me to not have to worry about the quantity produced, and instead, I can focus on the quality of the design," Hsu said.