Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, was issued with a question regarding the company and the potential effects of 3D printing on its business at Amazon’s annual shareholder’s meeting last week. Whilst recognizing the future potential of the tech, Bezos remained skeptical as to where the tech currently stands: “I think 3D printing is super interesting, but it’s probably more interesting for prototyping and other areas along those lines, not for mass production.” Besides the economy of scale aspect, Bezos also used a toaster as an example of a seemingly simple product, which in reality has various different materials and components, and – currently – couldn’t be produced on a 3D printer.
Of course standing strong behind their current strategy – with strong SW/HW integration pushes and the eagerness to enter the global hardware market with their Kindle Fire tablets – is something that has to be clearly addressed to the shareholders in such an event. However, if looking at 3D printing tech through eyes which only see potential in huge global volumes and centralization, Bezos is of course right – complex multi-material objects created within a single printing session on the end-users own premises are far from reality. But if 3D printing is perceived only as a direct replacement tech for current manufacturing processes, the smaller evolutionary steps taken ever more frequently might also be easily missed by Bezos and other leaders of the current global retail-logistic giants.
It still might be that in the future 3D printing will be playing one of the leading parts in this e-juggernaut’s strategy as well. Reaching that stage of market maturity, however – where recurring buyouts of 3D printing start-ups will start to occur and appear on the news – isn’t here just yet, but it is, in my opinion, inevitable.