Jan 3, 2018 | By David

Few companies have had as big an impact on the retail industry in the last decade as Amazon has, and both its customers and shareholders have benefitted greatly from the way it has transformed the supply chain in a huge range of sectors. The 3D printing world may soon be transformed by Bezos’ online behemoth, as Amazon just received a patent for a new retailing system which enables the company to process orders for custom 3D printed items. Customers can get their designs 3D printed through the service, and then receive them through the mail or pick them up.

Currently, there are several made-to-order online 3D printing services, such as Shapeways, but these are aimed at a more industrial or 3D printing-savvy market. Amazon’s retailing system could bring the many advantages offered by 3D printing to manufacturing projects, to the needs of an everyday consumer.

This idea has already been floating around for several years, with Amazon initially filing for the patent back in 2013. An example given by the company back when the patent was first filed, was a household fitting like a faucet handle breaking off. This could be quickly solved with the help of additive manufacturing. A customer could place an order, which would locate a digital CAD model of the replacement part in an online library. This would then be printed off from one of any number of 3D printing sites.

The 3D printing apparatus could belong to a third party or be located at an Amazon warehouse, or some of the 3D printers that are part of the service could be mobile, maybe even located in the same truck that would eventually deliver the part to the customer’s door. The company sees this as an innovative way to save time and money, with a reduction in processing times being accompanied by a reduced need for storage space and labour costs. This kind of technology-driven advance is typical of Amazon’s business model, which recently saw them experimenting with carrying out deliveries by remotely controlled drones.

The Amazon website has had an additive manufacturing section since 2014, offering hobbyists all kinds of 3D printing supplies and hardware, featuring products from LulzBot and 3DSystems, amongst others. An actual 3D printing service has never been offered before, however, and Amazon could see the service as an opportunity to change the way people relate to the technology. The company’s faith in 3D technology was displayed towards the end of last year, when they made a serious investment in a 3D scanning company. As we reported, NYC-based start-up Body Labs was bought out by Amazon for a fee of between 50 and 70 million dollars. This was a relatively small deal for the company, whose growth shows no signs of slowing down.

The filing of this patent was initially greeted with some scepticism, due to the service’s similarity to pre-existing online 3D printing services. The U.S Patent Filing Office eventually awarding Amazon the patent is a real vote of confidence, however, and it could be the start of a new level of innovation and expansion for one of the established giants of our era.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Joe D wrote at 1/13/2018 7:13:41 AM:

On demand printing of things like T-shirts has been around for a very long time. On-demand local printing of Architectural drawings, via. a world-wide network of company with large-format printers, predates the Internet. The use of these existing concepts for 3D objects is something that is rather obvious to anyone. So, at first glance, I question the validity of the patent also.

Dave H wrote at 1/4/2018 10:37:20 AM:

Even if its true for a company like Amazon that, patents are cheap and you can just throw enough s**t at the wall and hope some of it might stick, this one is really scraping the barrel. I'd bet almost 99% of Amazon deliveries are multi material assemblies, making direct printing impractical. Are we expecting the driver to assemble and package all these parts as well?

3dPrinter wrote at 1/3/2018 9:59:16 PM:

It is not about Amazon doing this but about restricting any competitor from supplying such services.

David Cawley wrote at 1/3/2018 7:21:17 PM:

What part of this is innovative and not the fundamental basic idea of the future of 3d printing and its benefits that has been the basis of the idea for years? Printing on a truck?

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