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Amazon 3D-printing marketplace promises to ‘change the way people shop online’

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Amazon this week unveiled a marketplace where customers can buy on demand 3D printed products from jewellery to home décor, and says the move represents a significant shift in the way people shop online.

Amazon’s 3D Printed Products store, available from its US website, currently stocks more than 200 print on-demand products. Customers can personalise many of them by colour, material, size and by adding text and images, rotating the image by 360 degrees to check their work. Once they’ve settled on and paid for their final version, it is 3D printed by a manufacturer and sent direct to the customer.

Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon Marketplace Sales, said: “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 personalise and truly make their own. The 3D Printed Products store allows us to help sellers, designers and manufacturers reach millions of customers while providing a fun and creative customer experience to personalise a potentially infinite number of products at great prices across many product categories.”

New York-based Mixee Labs is selling on the site. Co-founder Nancy Liang said Amazon’s personalisation widget enabled customers to make something unique within seconds, without any prior knowledge of 3D modeling. “Customisation gives customers the power to remix their world, and we want to change the way people shop online. It also makes the shopping experience more fun, creative and personal.”

“The online customer shopping experience will be redefined through 3D printing. When you take into consideration the investment needed for manufacturing products, 3D printing offers a cost effective alternative that benefits customers by limitless product options,” said Clément Moreau, CEO and co-founder of Sculpteo of San Francisco and Paris. “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, a customer’s wants are no longer limited to what is in stock but instead by what they can imagine.

Designers can also sell direct on the printed products store, with more information available here.

Prices for goods range from under $40 to $100 and more.

“In the past, inventors and designers had to spend hefty sums to get their products to market and that initial investment created a significant barrier. Digital manufacturing eliminates much of the upfront cost, giving consumers easy access to a wide range of unique and potentially customized products at great prices,” said John Hauer, co-founder and CEO of 3DLT, headquartered in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. “Amazon has a history of valuing innovation and 3D printing has the potential to evolve manufacturing in general and consumer products specifically. By embracing this opportunity and offering a diverse catalog of 3D printed products, Amazon has positioned itself to be one of the first mainstream retailers in this growing and exciting space.”

Our view: With this store, Amazon moves beyond mass market products and beyond ebooks to take advantage of the latest moves towards personalised and individualised 3D products. For the retailer, of course, bespoke manufacturing will do away with some downsides: there’ll be no returns, and no need for large runs of products that might not sell while individually designed items tend to command a higher price tag. It may take time before consumers respond en masse as they hesitate to commit themselves to a one-off purchase that they may not feel confident about, but no doubt that will be temporary.

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