There was little doubt before about 3D printing having a real future, but at the moment, the industry is on fire. Mere weeks ago, Microsoft announced that Windows 8.1 would be natively supporting 3D printing, a major boon to those who need it. Today, we learn of yet another way that 3D printing is getting into the hands of consumers, albeit a little differently than the rest.
With its "Exact" service, eBay is offering people who don't have access to a 3D printer the ability to make use of them - at least to some small degree. The company has partnered with Sculpteo, MakerBot and Hot Pop Factory to offer a variety of base designs, and using its mobile app (available only for iOS at the moment), users can search, select a product, choose a color, customize to some degree, and then order.
According to some of the initial reviews of the app, things are quite limited at this point. You unfortunately cannot import your own designs and have the responsible companies run with it. At best, you might be able to customize the name that appears on the product, such as with an odd-styled iPhone case that's being offered.
That all said, there's little doubt that the service, or future services like it, are going to become more robust over time. A project like this could have huge community potential. On Steam, people can create models and submit them to the Workshop for others to make use of - imagine if that ability was here. Similar services exist already, just not for 3D printing.
Hopefully we'll see the flexibility become better sooner than later, and especially see the app be made available for other platforms - the decision to go with iOS exclusively at launch is a little odd.
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