We all know that 3D printing is changing the world, radically. But what is it doing for the way we buy and sell things? Check out a piece I wrote for Forbes' Techonomy blog about how the Shapeways community is fueling the rise of creative commerce. Snippet below...
However, e-commerce is likely to go beyond better of the same; it will be different. Looking at creative trends and the emergence of 3D printing communities, we can expect the rise of "creative commerce" (c-commerce). It will be a shift from a two-sided marketplace (BUY and SELL) to a dynamic makerplace (CREATE, BUY and SELL).
People of all tech backgrounds are already involved in the creation of the content they consume - from music to art to news to video. Take blogging, for example. With easy-to-use tools like WordPress, Tumblr or even Twitter, writing and sharing ideas became easy for everyone. The desire to be involved in a creative process before the purchase extends beyond digital content and into the objects that populate our lives.
The growing Maker Movement and the trend toward participatory design
are early signs of the shift to creative commerce. Crowdsourcing of
designs is already quite common, and there are lightweight customization
platforms that allow consumers to give T-shirts or sports gear a
personalized design, for example, using platforms like Threadless, CafePress, and NikeID.
Some of the most successful products of the past decade used community
insights to drive product innovation, such as the revival of LEGO Mindstorms.
One of the tools best suited to democratize product design and development is 3D printing. It enables you to make something - on demand - that fits your needs exactly. And unlike the days of couture, the costs and quality of making one thing "just right" rival products that you can buy off the shelf. The ease with which 3D printing allows people to tap into their creative potential is one of the main reasons I joined Shapeways, the 3D printing marketplace and community. As our CEO Peter Weijmarshausen often explains, we are not used to thinking about our individual needs first because we are so accustomed to mass manufacturing, which caters to the lowest common denominator and hence, lowest price.
The 3D printing hardware prices are still prohibitive for small businesses to start the c-commerce revolution. Still in the 10k price range and up.. but I'm sure in just a couple of years this will all change and it will finally explode.