eBay Offers 3D Printing App

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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eBay’s Exact app for iOS lets mobile users customise and produce 3D-printed items

eBay has tapped into the growing interest in 3D printing with an iOS application called Ebay Exact that allows users to buy custom-printed items via a mobile device.

At launch, the service includes about 20 categories of products, including accessories such as iPhone cases, jewellery and figurines, from New York City-based MakerBot, France-based Sculpteo and Canadian firm Hot Pop Factory.

Custom materials

Users can choose from materials such as plastics, wood and metals and can customise items with engraved words or images.

Pricing starts at around $9 (£6) for a customised iPhone case up to $350 for metal jewellery, with payment supported via eBay subsidiary PayPal. The items are designed to be printed and shipped to the user within seven to 14 days, according to eBay.

ebay-exact“Shoppers today not only want to buy items anytime, anywhere through mobile devices, but they also want to be able to personalise their purchases,” said Steve Yankovich, eBay vice president of innovation and new ventures, in a statement.

eBay did not indicate when Exact might become available on non-iOS platforms.

The launch of eBay Exact is the latest sign of growing interest in 3D printing. A number of websites already specialise in offering 3D-printed items, including Shapeways and Mixee Labs, with custom-printed products also offered via sites such as Custommade, Etsy and Makeably.

In April print-on-demand company Blurb began offering a custom-printed magazine devoted to 3D printing, Print Shift.

3D printing comes to the high street

Maplin recently became the first high street retailer to offer a 3D printer kit in the UK, while Staples has announced an in-store 3D printing service and Amazon has launched a section specialising in 3D printers.

In June Stratasys, a specialist in 3D printing and additive manufacturing, and MakerBot, a specialist in desktop 3D printing, announced a definitive merger agreement, a deal expected to give MakerBot access to Stratasys’ global reach and fused deposition modeling (FDM) process technology, helping to drive adoption of 3D printing.

The companies estimate that between 35,000 to 40,000 desktop 3D printers were sold in 2012, with that number expected to double in 2013.

The trend has also led to concerns over the fact that 3D printers can be used to make weapons, with a US law student launching an organisation called Defence Distributed in order to disseminate weapons blueprints.

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