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3D printers come to Amazon: a revolution of sorts?

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A store devoted entirely to 3D printing is one thing (see iMakr ), but a huge Web showcase is a whole different story. Here is the news: Amazon U.S. devotes an entire section of its online store to 3D printers. There are offers under $ 2,000 and a wide selection of accessories and raw materials. The entire Makers universe, now just a click away. In a nutshell, things are changing; you just have to figure out how.

If you are familiar with the FabLab’s manifest, you’ll surely realize that Makers are no amateurs. Sharing, open access to knowledge and resources are the key, ever-present points. However, home-based, private printing opens a wealth of new opportunities. For the curious approaching 3D printing for the first time, Amazon might seem the most suitable portal. Indeed, there are some plug-and-play solutions that even a child can manage. Insert a USB flash drive, prepare the ABS filament and the printer takes it from there.

Prices on Amazon appear to be competitive but Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platform offer models at better prices (here are a couple of examples). Now, we must understand we are nonetheless dealing with prototypes, which may prove unable to scale your business model in the future. Not to mention the technical difficulties connected to 3D printer management – a potential deterrent for base users. Same thing holds true for the products of MakerBot – former start-up and now company – or organisations such as Ultimaker, endorsing open source approaches.

In Italy, there are different companies like WASP and Kentstrapper, which developed open source 3D printers. Their projects provide a clear added value: a network of people ready to help you. It is a priceless quality that remains available to all those seeking further knowledge. However, technology often spreads faster than human relationships. An increasing number of people will approach 3D printing from different and possible unexpected directions. Dale Dougherty, founding editor of Make Magazine, made ​​an interesting reflection on the topic. What is your view?

“What will motivate a million people to buy a 3D printer? Will the utility of it persuade buyers to consider it as another household appliance? Will it be seen as common household tool, like a Dremel? Or will it be considered a form of entertainment, like a game console or media player? Will it be considered a specialized piece of equipment for recreational hobbyists, like rocketry or boats?”

What will motivate a million people to buy a 3D printer? Will the utility of it persuade buyers to consider it as another household appliance? Will it be seen as common household tool, like a Dremel? Or will it be considered a form of entertainment, like a game console or media player? Will it be considered a specialized piece of equipment for recreational hobbyists, like rocketry or boats?

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