While 3D printing may not be disrupting entire distribution chains, there are quite a few people who will be printing their next iPhone case, or glasses, or headphones, or toy set…rather than purchasing one off of Amazon. While it may be a drop in the bucket, it is still real, and it is a threat. During the open-question session of last Thursday’s annual shareholder meeting for Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos was pegged with the question of how 3D printing could disrupt Amazon’s distribution of products and reduce the need for traditional delivery methods. Here’s what he had to say.
Is 3D Printing a Threat to Amazon?
“I think the answer to that is, not anytime soon…that’s far, far in the future.”
While current day 3D printers may be limited to few and specific materials, every day seems to bring rapid new developments that break down the barriers and change the rules of personal manufacturing. What if it isn’t about 3D printers creating complex objects but rather, a shift in the consumer mindset that simplifies everyday objects?
While citing the capabilities of 3D printing today, Bezos stated that you can’t build ‘interesting objects’ with limited materials. He specifically referred to a a toaster having dozens of materials that would come across as a ‘very complicated object’ for 3D printing whereas in the traditional manufacturing world it is actually quite a simple product:
“Any objects that get built in volume are already built very efficiently.”
There’s no point in arguing with Bezos about that. Even if you could theoretically print a toaster at home, the upfront costs of the materials alone would be too astronomical to even consider printing a toaster instead of picking one up for $29.99.
However the point here is that 3D printing isn’t just about recreating existing products—it is about creating new ones, and even, simple ones. While nobody will be creating a traditional toaster anytime soon, few people considered that we would be living in a time of 3D printed structures, either.
“It will be an exciting world, though, when it happens someday.”
To some degree or another, isn’t it already happening?