DESIGNERS.Now that anyone can buy a 3D printer at Staples or through Amazon, interest in 3D printing is rising. According to Lux Research, 3D printing will be an $8.4 billion industry by 2025, up from under $1 billion in 2012. Although the models at Staples and Amazon sell for around $1200, some low-end printers, such as the MakiBox, will cost around $200. Enterprise-class 3D printers are expected to be available for under $2,000 by the year 2016.
What the 3D printing world needs now is easy access to print-ready files for creating a wider range of products. Here are a few online marketplaces through which designers can make their files available to consumers around the world.
Founded by three 3D printing enthusiasts in Lausanne, Switzerland, Cuboyo provides a virtual library for any type of useful object a consumer might want to 3D print and use immediately. The Cuboyo team is striving to take 3D printing beyond the realm of technophiles and make it more user-friendly to consumers. They promote their site as the marketplace for 3D printable objects. Product categories include hardware, gifts, accessories and spare parts, home and garden, sporting goods, automotive, logos and symbols, travel, IT and electronics, and kids and baby.
The process flows like this: A skilled designer creates a file corresponding to a 3D product such as a cellphone case, chess set, or ice cube tray and uploads it to Cuboyo.com Consumers can then browse through the categories, select the objects they want to print, and download the files.
This Cincinnati-based start-up has developed a marketplace through which industrial designers, companies, and makers can upload and sell 3D printable designs directly to consumers. They offer designs for toys, tools, fashion, furniture, and gadgets.
“With all of the interest in 3D printing, and the sheer number of 3D printers being sold, there will soon be a huge demand for content, and that’s what 3DLT provides,” explains 3DLT CEO Pablo Arellano, Jr.
Buyers can output purchased designs on their own 3D printers or have the designed object printed at one of the 500 print shops already in the 3DLT network of 3D printers. The printed item can be picked up or drop shipped to the buyer’s home. The 500 3D printers that can be accessed through the 3DLT website provide abundant options, including a wide choice of materials and competitive pricing. The founders of 3DLT believe this feature can help make 3D printing possible for nearly anyone.
Arellanno believes 3DLT’s business model has the potential to change the way people shop: “Walmart made shopping easier by putting millions of products under one roof, closer to the consumer. Amazon took the next step of delivering to your doorstep. 3DLT goes even further by allowing you to choose, when, where, and how the items you buy are manufactured.”
Coming Soon to a Print Shop Near You?
Even if 3D printers become affordable enough for use in homes or collaborative studios, the size of the items that can be printed at home may be limited. Commercial 3D printing businesses can specialize in outputting larger objects or more complex designs on a wider range of materials.
It will be interesting to see how the topic of 3D printing is addressed at the PRINT 13 Conference, September 8-12 in Chicago.
A post on Forbes.com contends that “UPS May Have Hit Pay Dirt with 3D Printing.” The article describes some of the early successes achieved in a UPS test project to see whether it makes sense for UPS franchisees to offer 3D printing as a service. The 3-D printing service offered by a UPS Store in San Diego has attracted interest from consumers, students, small businesses, and corporations.
When I’m in Chicago for PRINT 13, maybe I will visit The 3D Printer Experience on North Clark Street and get my head scanned and “printed” as a 3D bust. The facility has more than twenty 3D printers in house and conducts workshops on different facets of personal, desktop manufacturing.