We proudly present this article from our partners at ReadWrite.
By Adriana Lee
If 3D printing doesn't take off, it won't be for Amazon's lack of trying. Last year, it created a dedicated retail section to sell 3D printers and materials. Now it's at it again, this time pushing actual 3D-printed goods — and feeding an ongoing debate about the role 3D printing should play in our lives.
Amazon's new 3D Printing Store launched Monday with a distinct focus on people who want to buy, not build, 3D-printed wares. Amazon already had a "3D Printers & Supplies" department that sells 3D printers, plastic filament, parts, accessories, and software — stuff that will only be of interest to you if you want your own minifactory in your house.
Shoppers can now browse through more than 200 3D-printed toys, jewelry, home goods, and other tchotchkes from vendors like Sculpteo, Mixee Labs, and others — no printer required.
Some items sold in Amazon's store are customizable — like Mixee Labs' toy figurines — while others have set designs, but offer a range of colors or exceedingly intricate detail.
3D printers — desktop machines that can produce three-dimensional objects from digital plans — have a direct and obvious appeal for designers, inventors, hobbyists, and other "makers." They've been less successful with mainstream shoppers, however.
If there's one thing Amazon knows, it's shopping. The site makes it easy for customers to discover, search, and preview products (even in 360 degrees), while letting vendors offer their own wares by enrolling as an Amazon seller.
If Amazon does this right, it could capture profits on both sides of the 3D-printing business, by helping equip would-be creators and by providing them a place to sell their wares.
3D printing has been a subject of fascination for the technology sector and maker communities, but it's still a hard sell for your average consumer. That's one reason 3D-printing marketplaces shifted focus from offering 3D-printer blueprints to stores with completed products. Early pioneers Shapeways, Thingiverse, and 3DLT got in on that action, inspiring newer competitors such as Threeding, Layer by Layer, and Cuboyo. Even online auction site eBay and Etsy, the sellers' site for handmade goods, sell 3D-printed items.
With Amazon plunging further into this niche, it could spark mainstream interest in 3D-printed goods. That may ultimately be good for all players.
Some of our favorites in the new store: