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 which sells 3D printers, plastic filament, parts, accessories and software—stuff which will only be of interest to you if you want your own mini-factory 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 hand-made 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:
“Create Your Own” Mixee Me
Some people find hyperrealistic 3D-printed figurines kind of creepy (and expensive). But this adorable “Mixee Me” doesn’t overdo it with the details, allowing it to ship quickly in just 6 to 10 days and at just $30.
Fractal Leaves iPhone 5 Case
This fractal leaf could be your meditation on the fragility of life—or the fragility of your phone. Either way, this $28 bumper case is uniquely pretty and offers some protection for that handset without totally covering it up.
HP Lovecraft-Inspired Cute Gameboard pieces
Put a little Cthulhu into your Chutes and Ladders. I can’t wait to see these little Lovecraftian gamepieces trounce across my chess board, and every other game I own.
Unisex Space Invader Ring
You can wear your gaming cred on your sleeve, but why not on your finger? This blocky little ode to Space Invaders can appeal to retro gaming geeks as well as modern-day Minecraft fans.
Chaos Table Lamp
The most expensive product on this list, the Chaos Lamp will wreak havoc … on your wallet. The $740 price point is steep for any kind of lamp, 3D-printed or no. But oh, if money was no object, having a sculpted art piece that’s also functional would be really appealing.
Images via Amazon