Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) newest storefront can make online shopping a little more fun and a little more creative than what you might expect. The retailer has launched a new store for 3D-printed items, accessible at Amazon.com/3dp, which offers more than 200 3D printed items ranging from toys to tech accessories and jewelry to home decor and kitchen tools. The products can be ordered directly from Amazon’s store, where consumers can use a “product personalization widget” to customize them before ordering.
The items are printed on demand and shipped to the customer by a wide range of partners, including Mixee Labs, 3DLT, Thingify, i.materialise, and Sculpteo. While not all of the items currently in the store can be customized, Amazon allows consumers to personalize some of the products via a “Personalize Now” button right above the “Add to Cart” button on the product page. Customers can change the item’s color, size, materials, or even aspects of the design, and preview the item with a 360-degree display. Amazon even links to a PDF guide that steps consumers through the process of personalizing an item in the 3D Printing Store, which features a “Creative Expressions” section dedicated to products that consumers can customize.
Because every item is printed on demand, choosing to customize an item doesn’t affect its price or ship time. Shipping times vary, with ranges like “6 to 10 days” or “1 to 3 weeks” cited on the product pages, while prices range from $8.22 for a heart pendant to $739.34 for a “Chaos” table lamp.
In a press release announcing the launch of the 3D Printing Store, Petra Schindler-Carter, Amazon’s director for Amazon Marketplace Sales, noted that the new store enables Amazon to offer products that more closely align with customers’ preferences, as well as offer a new, more “immersive” shopping experience.
“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 personalize and truly make their own,” Schindler-Carter said. “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 personalize a potentially infinite number of products at great prices across many product categories.”
The store may be only a modest attraction for consumers in its current state. While it’s fun, there are only so many bobble-head dolls, molecule earrings, and monogrammed cufflinks that you’re likely to order. But the launch is significant in that it shows that Amazon is getting on board with a new model of retail, a model in which customer demand directly drives production and new 3D printing technology enables economical customization. Amazon’s new storefront is also good news for the partnering 3D printing companies, which have gained a much larger platform to reach customers who might not otherwise seek out 3D printed products.
In the future, as 3D printing technologies progress and consumers become more accustomed to buying products that are made and shipped on demand instead of mass-produced and sent from a warehouse, Amazon could offer consumers the opportunity to customize virtually anything that can be 3D printed. It will also be interesting to see if Amazon offers an option for consumers to upload or otherwise provide their own product designs.
Right now, Amazon customers can only choose to customize the items that are already available, instead of creating and ordering their own, like they can with companies like Shapeways. Moving forward, as the process and technology evolve, it would make sense for Amazon to act as a platform by which consumers can customize or create any 3D printed object.
As 3DLT co-founder John Hauer said in Amazon’s press release, it’s a milestone in itself that Amazon, the U.S.’s largest online retailer, is getting into the business of 3D printed products. “Amazon has a history of valuing innovation and 3D printing has the potential to evolve manufacturing in general and consumer products specifically,” he said. “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.”
On the landing page of the storefront, Amazon has placed the phrase “Shop the Future” above a changing slideshow of the store’s different product categories. The phrase hints at the potential of the endeavor, which could go far beyond the cool but maybe not-that-useful products with which the store is currently populated. Depending on how quickly Amazon expands the store beyond its initial 200-some product offerings, the storefront could evolve into a destination for cheap and custom 3D-printed goods, limited only by what the technology can do — and, of course, by consumers’ and designers’ creativity for products beyond bobble heads and custom pendants.
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