5 Ways That 3-D Printing is Going to Shake Up Retail
3-D printing at retailers that are certified sellers of branded products will provide the advantages of validation — and perhaps offer warranties — for parts and products as well. For example, consider if a consumer prints a replacement part for his washing machine at home, but it turns out to be faulty and ends up causing water damage in his house. Until home machines gain some of the quality control feedback mechanisms that commercial-grade 3-D printers are just getting now, consumers may find it wise to leave those liabilities with retailers and manufacturers.
3. Newer small retail businesses will grow out of 3-D printing's possibilities. Services like Shapeways are already empowering up-and-coming retailers to produce and sell 3-D designed jewelry, accessories, toys and other goods. Inviting users to "turn ideas into products," these services can put made-to-order production and sales capabilities into the hands of artists and designers new to the retail space.
These newcomers and their fresh products should provide excitement and possibly add unpredictable new segments to the marketplace. Alliances between established retailers and these newcomers will be mutually beneficial, amplifying the exposure and availability of new products. In fact, Target recently opened a Shapeways shop that offered exclusive 3-D printed gifts for the 2014 holiday season.
The near future will also see tech-savvy entrepreneurs broadening retail's 3-D printing possibilities. Take, for example, the student at Harvard who has developed a prototype 3-D printer that produces makeup and lets the user choose any color with complete customization. Expect the reach of 3-D printing to spread into unexpected areas as these possibilities come to fruition.
4. Change in retailer supply chains. 3-D-printed products can potentially revolutionize retailers’ supply chains, with products created on-site only after ordered and paid for. This figures to have many indirect advantages, creating additional savings by reducing or eliminating shipping, warehousing, damage in transit, shoplifting, and goods not sold. In many ways, manufacturing is leading the 3-D printing revolution, discovering new efficiencies and even challenging the notion of factories as we know them going forward.