For about a year, Amazon.com has been quietly playing in this space, partnering with companies like Mixee Labs to bring 3D products to their customers. Mixee Labs offers a variety of 3D products that Amazon customers can order and have shipped to their homes, but their signature product is a customizable bobblehead doll (clothing, facial features, hair) to make it look like themselves or someone they know.
In February of this year, Amazon.com announced a deepening of its partnership with Mixee, bringing the Mixee Labs team in with Amazon.com’s 3D team. The partnership will be headed by Andrew Thomas, 3D designer and former customer service coordinator of Shapeways.
In the latest news, Amazon.com has filed for a patent that will allow it to produce 3D products on demand via “mobile manufacturing hubs.” The move appears to be an attempt to reduce its warehouse costs. Amazon.com already does this with books, with many of its titles printed on demand through Ingram Distribution, which is owned by Lightning Source Inc.
As reported by 3D Print
By utilizing ‘mobile manufacturing apparatuses Amazon would be able to send an STL file to a mobile unit that’s closest to a customer, providing it with instructions to print out an item which was ordered. When the item has been completed, it could then be within miles of the customer who ordered it and quickly delivered or picked up.
Commercial printers aren’t going to be competing with Amazon.com to produce bobbleheads and plastic parts, so what does this mean for you?
Benefit: It increases the visibility of 3D printing among both businesses and consumers, creating the perception and expectation that 3D production is a viable option for all manner of products. This continues to build the foundation for potential discussions involving 3D products with your customers (whatever that model looks like).
Drawback: It increases the competition for providing those products. Anytime giants like Amazon.com get involved, it becomes the easy solution. We can easily see this model growing to accommodate promotional products and other items used in marketing. This continues to move printers into the position of being idea generators and developers or more complex solutions, not pure output providers.
How do you see Amazon.com investment in 3D printing impacting this industry?