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Amazon’s 3D Product Storefront Could Change the Retail Landscape

E-commerce giant Amazon launched a new storefront for 3D printed products earlier this month and the move could reshape retail as we know it.

Amazon partnered with 3DLT, a marketplace for 3D printing templates, for the pilot site in an effort to make 3D printing more mainstream. 3DLT partnered with independent designers who create the 3D printable files and consumers can purchase the files from their website, download, and print them from their own 3D printers.

Last June, Amazon launched a store in its marketplace dedicated to selling 3D printers and accompanying supplies. Now, at amazon.com/3dlt, shoppers can find products like iPhone cases with leaf patterns, lampshades and a heart-shaped pendant–all produced by a 3D printer.

John Hauer, 3DLT’s CEO, said, “When it was announced that Amazon would begin selling 3D printers and supplies last summer, the industry heralded it as a defining moment, a clear indication that 3D printing was going mainstream.” He added, “We think the decision to sell 3D printed products sends an even bigger message. Consumer products are the next frontier.”

There are currently nearly fifty 3DLT-made products available for sale on Amazon, and the company said it plans to add new items in the coming weeks.

In recent months, 3D printing has seen a rapid rise in popularity as many companies are testing the technology’s capabilities and rethinking what the printing could mean for consumers.

Many think 3D printers will be in most homes before long and some say by year’s end, consumers could be printing even their own clothing at home.

Startup company Electroloom has begun testing a 3D printer that can pump out apparel and, so far, they’ve printed sheets of polymer fabric. The Electroloom team plans to create a solid prototype clothing printer that could have people printing T-shirts from an Electroloom design database before the end of 2014.

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OpenKnit is united around a similar goal and is currently tweaking the technology for a loom-like device that can turn 3D printing files into finished knitted clothing.

Washington Post blogger, Dominic Basulto, said that while the 3D printing industry still has a long way to go before it’s producing anything other than plastic bric-a-brac, what Amazon is doing stands to revolutionize the retail landscape.

“Theoretically, one day Amazon might just sell the design file for a product, and the consumer would print the design file at home with a 3D printer in the comfort of his or her living room,” Basulto wrote in the Washington Post.

According to Basulto, “In this radically new business model, Amazon would be selling the 3D design files and the 3D printers and the 3D printer filament, but wouldn’t be selling actual ‘products’ as we currently think about them. The consumers would print the products, not buy the products.”

For now, 3DLT is just focused on targeting 3D printing and its capabilities to a wider market.

The company’s COO Colin Klayer said, “We think 3D print¬on¬demand will be very attractive to companies who want access to a new, digital channel. It will also be appealing to independent designers who’ve told us they want access to a large consumer market.”