How 3D printing could transform Amazon and online shopping

Amazon’s recent decision to create an e-commerce storefront for 3D-printed products could finally bring 3D printing to the mainstream, but not in the way you might think.

If you take a quick look at some of the nylon plastic products on offer via Amazon’s partner, 3DLT, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the new pilot program is really just about an incremental e-commerce push at Amazon. In other words, Jeff Bezos now allows you to buy groovy new jewelry designs and quirky plastic toys made by 3D printers on rather than on a third-party site from Shapeways, Cubify or MakerBot. You’ll now be able to pick up a designer $18.86 plastic belt buckle and $28.26 designer iPhone 5 case at along with your books and lawn products and fashion items and have it all delivered via Amazon Prime.

But is that all there is to it?
Amazon, which opened a 3D Printer Store on its site to much acclaim in 2013, could be experimenting with a bigger concept: 3D printing is about changing the supply side of the retail business model as much as the demand side. In other words, 3D printing is not just about offering more and more consumer goods in more and more categories so that Amazon can make more and more money (although that is surely part of it). It could be that it’s about transforming the online retail model based on our changing notions of scarcity — scarcity of product as well as scarcity of shelf space – in the digital world. … (Read more)


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