The “Maker Movement,” which seeks to revitalize American Manufacturing with open source tools and 3D printers, and has captured the attention of everyone from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to the White House. So why shouldn’t an ecommerce giant like Amazon (AMZN) try to edge their way into the action?
Amazon launched a new store for 3D-printed goods this morning, on the same day that they release the new Amazon Fire Phone. To be clear: this is not a store that sells patterns for 3D printers so that you can manufacture products at home. This is a store where you order items that they 3D print and then ship to you. You know, like regular old manufacturing.
Some items are the usual fare for 3D Printing, like bowls and jewelry with the latticework pattern that’s come to define the 3D-printed look. The rest of the items in the store are both useless and totally bizarre, like an origami crane skeleton (“Inspired by the nature”), a desktop sculpture of a psychotic pig holding a lollypop or a “3D Printed Pod,” which seems to be a small black ball that does nothing.
Granted, the premise is well-intentioned: many of the items are customizable, so you can alter the items in your browser and order jewelry with specific patterns, colors and fits. But the options in Amazon’s new store are so limited that they don’t actually offer anything new. After all, being able to have your initials put on a pair of cufflinks or have custom text put on a dog collar isn’t exactly the great innovation that 3D printing is capable of.
Some of the items are worthy of browsing, like the latticework phone cases or the badass T-rex head sculpture. But these items beg the question: why do they need to be 3D-printed? Even custom bobbleheads aren’t a new concept, and bobbleheads from other services look way more like their real-life counterparts.
The store sells only about 200 items, and users can’t upload their own patterns — probably to keep people from turning Amazon into a gun-printing service. As it stands, the virtual storefront is devoid of anything either useful or unique, and simply screams of a desperate cry for attention from the maker community.