Shapeways announced an advanced product creation service that links directly into their making engines.
The long-time consumer-oriented 3D print service has frequently experimented with different approaches, and I believe this one could be one of their most successful. But you have to look a bit behind the scenes to understand how important this could be.
At the front, Shapeways calls this “Spring & Wonder”, a “fully customizable line of 3D printed jewelry”. It’s a kind of “customizer” approach that we’ve previously seen in a few other online 3D services.
The idea is to have a professional designer create a base 3D model that can then be customized by a buyer using easy online interfaces. Customization could include resizing, choosing colors, inserting text messages, choosing fonts, etc. It enables the buyer to “produce” a unique item that means far more than one of many identical mass-produced items.
The “Spring & Wonder” jewelry set is but one of an infinite number of possible collections that could be enabled by their customization technology. You can imagine others, like kitchen items, fashion doo-dads, or others.
But if we’ve seen a customization approach done by others, what’s the difference here?
It’s in a paragraph in their press release:
Oh! You can now embed your Shapeways customizable products easily into sites such as Shopify. You can find out more details on how exactly this is done here.
If you’re not familiar with Shopify, it is a very easy to use service that allows their clients to pop up sophisticated online stores in minutes for virtually any kind of product. There are certainly other shopping services out there, but Shopify is definitely one of the leaders, and they currently service something more than 600,000 online stores.
All of which can now directly and easily integrate custom 3D printed products into their stores via the Shapeways interface.
This has to be of prime importance to Shapeways, because it could theoretically change their business model. Their business model used to be:
- Acquire a fleet of sophisticated 3D printers
- Build a website to gather print requests
- Entice designers to place products on said website
- Promote use of the website
You see, it was all about their own website, and driving traffic to it (and by implication print requests). Now that might change.
Instead if they merely supply a sophisticated interface others do much of the promotion work on their own websites. How many? More than 600,000, I’d say is possible. That is a very significant amplification of their power, and could generate enormous traffic in the long run.
It’s a very interesting move by Shapeways and we will see how it changes them over the next few years as they continue to push it out towards shopping sites.