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Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Dec 5 2013 23:35:56

Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity

By: Ina Steiner
Sponsored Link
Amazon is working on drones that deliver packages to your doorstep, but there's another technology that could be more impactful and closer to market than octocopters: Amazon 3D printers.

Just as Amazon anticipated the disruptive effect ebooks and streaming videos would have on its media business and developed a tablet ebook reader, Amazon is anticipating the effect of 3D printers on its ecommerce business, and could put 3D printers in the hands of consumers as speedily as it did with the Kindle.



Expensive 3D printers already exist - they are devices that allow owners to manufacture items out of raw material such as plastic or metal. The owner uses software to create a wireframe (design), and the printer uses raw material to then "print" the item.

Imagine needing a small replacement part for your coffee maker, or a customized case for your iphone? Just search Amazon's library of designs for what you want, pay for it, and quickly "print" out the product on your printer at home. (Look, ma, no shipping!)

While Amazon has sold 3D printers for years, this year it created a portal for all things 3D printer related, so it clearly recognizes the demand for such devices. Coming out with its own line of affordable, easy-to-use printers could give Amazon a huge advantage over competitors.

Jeff Bezos has acknowledged that Amazon sells some Kindles at break even - they make money on the content owners purchase to read on the devices. Amazon could apply the same "give away the razor, make money on the blade" strategy to 3D printers.

Owners of 3D printers could create their own designs, or they could customize existing designs available on the Amazon platform. Shoppers could retain a library of wireframes - their own and those they've purchased - just as they do with content. By making the designs proprietary, Amazon could try to lock in the market.

It could create an ecosystem where 3D designers (authors) create wireframes and sell them through its platform. Consumers could become designers - make something you think is popular, and earn a royalty anytime someone uses your design to print a product for themselves.

We've previously written about the Shapeway marketplace where 3-D designers sell their finished products, and they're becoming more popular. In addition to marketplaces like Shapeway and Thingiverse, you can find 3D-printed products for sale on Etsy. In fact, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson mentioned 3D printers in a blog post this fall when the marketplace changed its policy about what it considered handmade:

"When we consider the truly dazzling array of methods sellers use to make their handmade items - everything from raising the bees that provide the wax base for hand-dipped candles to 3-D printing jewelry - we realized that handmade on Etsy could never be defined as a single method or process."

Amazon is not one to bury its head in the sand - it seems to embrace disruption by following its mission: providing what the customer wants. And it seems customers want to design, make, sell and buy 3D printed products.

When I asked last month about the company's plans for 3D printers, Amazon spokesperson Erik Fairleigh told me he could not comment "on forward looking plans that are not announced."

How will 3D printers impact retail and ecommerce? Have you experimented with 3D printing? And who has the best shot at dominating the 3D printing space?



Comments (9) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Dec 6 00:21:57 2013
Any die-hard Star Trek fan will immediately recognize the 3D printer as one small step for man in the direction of the "replicator". Amazing technology.
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Dec 6 01:36:01 2013
Once again, it's Amazon with the attention getting story.

Over in San Jose they're getting excited because more people are paying with mobile devices. Wow, that's big news.  
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Fri Dec 6 07:18:08 2013
I've been fascinated by these devices for some time.  I'm looking forward to watching this technology evolve.
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
This user has validated their user name. by: Captain Nemo
       
Fri Dec 6 09:58:13 2013
A good and very smart friend of mine has a 3D printer he bought (and built) as a kit.  It's quite amazing, and the main limitation really is the availability of 3D designs.  It's simple to print, but complicated to design.

They are also using the same technology to ''print'' skin grafts using actual skin cells, and will eventually be able to ''print'' organs on an organic frame using your own cells.
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Fri Dec 6 10:37:58 2013
When affordable software is available to turn a 2D design into a 3D design quickly and easily I will be all over this.   I think 3-Sweep has that software technology but I don't think that it is on the market yet.  My guess is that Adobe is watching this.  As with all new technologies the expense will eventually come down.

I do think these devices are one of the most revolutionary devices of this century.
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
This user has validated their user name. by: Puck
       
Fri Dec 6 12:20:56 2013
How about replicating a lean corned beef Reuben heavy on the Russian dressing for me...and it better not taste like plastic.
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
by: Santini This user has validated their user name.
       
Sat Dec 7 14:12:16 2013
Entrepreneur magazine wrote an article about a device like this 36 years ago. It used lasers to measure and fabricate duplicate items. I've heard in recent years it's being used in some cases to make dental crowns, etc. I guess these things take a while to come to market!
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
by: BackInBlack This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Dec 9 01:18:17 2013
We have one at my work, and I recently saw it used to make a small plastic part for a robot we're building. Intel actually has a so-called 'robot' design (really just a talking smart-toy with no mechanical functionality) that can be printed this way, releasing in early 2014.  The only downside I see right now is the very slow speed to make even a small part - about like an old dot matrix printer compared to one of today's high-speed laser printers. But I'm sure, as with all technology, these will get smaller, faster and cheaper in... a nanosecond.
Perminate Link for Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity   Forget Drones, Amazon 3D Printer May Be Bigger Opportunity
by: BackInBlack This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Dec 9 01:19:44 2013
@Netwatch, @Puck:
"Tea, Earl Grey, Hot."


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