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EBay Gets Into 3-D (Printing, That Is)

EBay dips its toes into the 3-D printing pool with an iPhone app that lets users customize accessories.
July 12, 2013

EBay announced Friday that it is getting into 3-D printing with a new iPhone app called eBay Exact that lets users customize jewelry and accessories that will then be 3-D printed and sent to them. Functionally, it’s not mind-blowing, yet it shows just how far 3-D printing has come in the past few years and gives a hint of where it could go next.

A 3-D printed necklace available through eBay Exact. Users can modify the shape and color.

The app is pretty simple: Once you open it up, you see several items from 3-D printing companies MakerBot, Sculpteo, and Hot Pop Factory: mostly jewelry and iPhone cases, plus a few other items. You pick an item (I chose the Platonix necklace, available through Hot Pop Factory), and then modify a few features like the pattern, material, shape, or color. (Some items can’t actually be modified at all.) Available items are mostly made from plastic and metal. Users pay via eBay-owned payment service PayPal, and the purchase arrives within a week or two.

Since eBay already offers a number of popular and trusted apps, consumers may be more likely to find out about this one than other 3-D offerings. They may be more willing to try it, too. Eventually, I could imagine 3-D printing becoming a part of eBay’s core business, with sellers of accessory products in particular (like smartphone cases) offering a slew of customizable options.

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