Known for being an e-commerce giant, Amazon not only sell almost everything online, but has also become a major player in cloud computing. Amazon Web Services (AWS) powers hundreds of thousands of companies, even NASA uses Amazon's cloud computing in Mars landing mission.
"It's an interesting case study in how a company can take an objective and goal, externalize and not only drive a new business opportunity but refine an internal capability as well," explains Forrester (FORR) analyst Brian Walker.
3D printing can be a potential long-term threat to Amazon's online business, because you can make so many your own stuff. One forecast estimates that the 3D printing market will be worth $5.2 billion by 2020.
Amazon's Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is a science fiction fan but also a long term thinker. Amazon makes its own gadgets, and earlier through through Bezos Expeditions Jeff Bezos helped MakerBot raise $10 million along with two other venture capital groups. Amazon's business allowing third-parties to sell through them is also a great success, it's impossible to think Jeff Bezos won't embrace 3D printing.
Sam Finegold from Harvard Political Review says Bezos and his company may take steps to lead the change in 3D printing.
The first step would probably be to buy up companies such as Shapeways which are already allowing users to upload designs and customers to then print these designs. Amazon can also create in-house 3D printing and tools on its site to embellish conventional products using its in-house 3D printing. It is unlikely that most adults will have the necessary skills, the time, and interest to design complex products. Amazon can offer the easy alternative: offer customizable products. By acquiring companies and hiring in-house designers, Amazon can head off the inevitable diversity of suppliers and instead establish itself as a marketplace for different users to upload their designs, as Shapeways already does.
"Amazon is well positioned to take advantage of 3D printing, but it also stands to lose out if it does not stay ahead of the curve." Will the proposition come true? If Amazon did do this, designers and makers who sell their products online would certainly benefit from Amazon's marketplace and supply chain, one that has the obvious benefits of being quick, easy, and effective.
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