Following in the footsteps of Amazon, online auction site and retailer platform eBay is dipping its toe into the 3D printing pond, which is well on its way to becoming a great lake and could be heading towards a mighty ocean. The signs, in neon these days, are all there. Water analogies aside, however, it seems that many of the big players have been waiting in the wings to make their move. Amazon revealed its first hand last month with a dedicated 3D printing section selling printers and ancillaries. Then there are the big high-street retailers doing the same — Staples, Maplins et al. With the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s making noises and letting the world know that they know that this is going to be big, but their strategies are not quite in place yet.
In the case of eBay, the “first foray into 3D printing” as the organization puts it, is to develop an iOS app — currently in beta — to allow users to customize their own products and purchase them via the site. The range is fairly limited at launch, with the easy to fulfill phone cases, figurines and jewellery options. Fulfillment is currently achieved via three 3D printing service partners — Sculpteo (France), MakerBot (US), and Hot Pop Factory (Canada). But it can’t be too long before the others want in, I’m thinking the likes of imaterialise, Shapeways, Kraftwurx, Ponoko as well as other service bureaux with 3D printers that can offer more local services that will help with faster delivery and lower shipping charges. The service branches of 3D Systems and Stratasys may well want in too as eBay is a truly global brand.
eBay Exact is available now, and is quick and easy to use, although customization is limited to adding names and slightly altering shapes, as well as selecting from a choice of materials.