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.
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.