A quiet post on LinkedIn seems to suggest Amazon is planning some activity in additive manufacturing.
The online retail giant posted a position for “Software Development Manager, Additive Manufacturing , Corporate Projects”, with a salary range of US$145-160K, based in Seattle, Amazon’s headquarters city.
The job description said:
“You are a tech leader who will build and manage a team of software and hardware engineers and scientists to deliver a design and manufacturing process that will positively impact hundreds of thousands of Amazon Associates.”
“You will manage a highly agile team of cross-functional tech individual contributors and oversee three discrete workstreams: (1) Data Collection; (2) Product Design Automation; and (3) Manufacturing.”
This is a position at Amazon’s “Corporate Projects”, which is actually not part of the mainstream Amazon business. Instead it’s a separate “internal startup factory” division that seeks to “bring net-new, strategic projects to life by working together with customers and evolving projects from ZERO-to-ONE.”
In addition, the posting said the successful applicant will be a “start-up CTO” that “operates without the operational encumbrances that are typically found in SDM roles.”
Evidently this role appears to be quite independent, and the successful applicant may have a wide space to work in.
The posting does not specifically say what products or services might be under development. It may even be an exploratory venture where that will be identified through some type of iterative approach. However, they do say this:
“You will work with CAD designers, operational leaders, and manufacturing experts to create an automated manufacturing system. You will work on computer vision hardware and develop data capture and post-capture processing. You will work on a secured data management service that will allow the storage and usage of this data with the highest standard of privacy. You will integrate with CAD systems to automate the creation of 3D models that are ready to be manufactured using the latest technologies. You will create a system that will monitor design efficacy and institute continuous product improvement mechanisms.”
What’s happening here?
Amazon has long been aware of 3D printing technology, having launched a kind of marketplace way back in 2014. They acquired a 3D body scanning company in 2017, and in 2020 presented a way to automatically fit fashions for buyers.
It’s important to note that this is a management position, and much of the posting deals with people skills. In other words, Amazon intends to have a team of people doing something in the additive space.
I believe the key take-away phrase here is “automated manufacturing system”. With mentions of CAD designs, scan data from vision systems and automated model creation, it would appear they want to 3D print parts from a highly scalable database of 3D models they intend to create or capture.
One obvious notion here is that they might be building a “part on demand” service for Amazon shoppers. They already provide dropship services, and this could be a way to “virtualize” that process: instead of warehousing parts for sale, just print them as required. This could be significantly more efficient, and moves Amazon into a digital inventory mode.
Another idea could be they are developing a service for industry that might compete with existing contract manufacturers. This is a rapidly growing industry, and Amazon’s scale and reach could enable them to compete very well.
On the other hand, this could be just another internal business experiment that goes nowhere.
We won’t know much more until Amazon decides to announce further details on their secret plans.