Recent additions to Amazon’s growing 3D marketplace could indicate trouble ahead for current popular 3D print services.
For years, consumer-focused 3D print services were the purvey of several startups such as Shapeways, Sculpteo and a few others. They catered to the growing interest by DIYers seeking higher quality 3D prints than could be produced on home equipment. To expand their markets, each service eventually added libraries of pre-existing 3D models from which the public could place an order. This meant those not capable of creating 3D models could participate in the 3D print service. It’s a business model that’s worked well for some years now.
However, this could change. Amazon’s 3D print marketplace has been steadily growing with the addition of new 3D models for printing. It’s essentially the same business model as Shapeways and the others as described above, with one difference: the companies appearing in Amazon’s marketplace must produce the prints themselves, which, ironically may generate use of Shapeways, Sculpteo or other 3D print services behind the scenes.
But what if Amazon decided to start up their own 3D print operation in their own factories? They certainly have the monetary capital to do so, as the cost of setting up a Shapeways-sized operation would be trivial for the giant retailer. Do they have the expertise to run such a factory? Perhaps not, but that same capital could quickly gather the required expertise.
They could then provide discounted print services to companies in their marketplace who used their internal 3D print services. That could generate a lot more growth in usage, as customers seeking a specific 3D print might find the cost of the item lower at Amazon than other sources.
What can the other services do to compete? They can focus on exclusive content, for one thing. If you want this particularly cool 3D print, you’ll have to go to Sculpteo, for example, to get one. So far, Amazon has scored deals with several companies to provide such content:
- Mixee Labs
- Joshua Harker
We suspect there’s a bit of a battle brewing in the near future in this space, and it’s not clear who the winners and losers might be.