There is no doubt in my mind that there will soon be a time when the majority of the items we need are available to us within minutes or hours, without requiring us to leave our homes or offices. Whether it’s same day delivery by drone, or the ability to download millions of objects online and within minutes begin printing them out, the future of commerce is rapidly changing.
Currently most of the designs made available to us online are free, downloadable from 3D model repositories like Thingiverse or CGTrader. The next logical progression within this space, however, is for major corporations and designers to begin offering their products via download for a fee. Imagine needing a nut or bolt to fix your broken desk, or a specific screw to repair that favorite toy your kid just broke. Now imagine having the ability to quickly go online, search for that part, pay a small fee, and instantly begin printing it out. This is just what one Virginia-based engineering firm, Print-A-Part 3D, is trying to make happen.
Print-A-Part 3D is a division of Alacrity Engineering services, established in 1998 by a group of NYU computer professionals in New York City. Print-A-Part 3D itself is currently in a beta phase and will launch to the public on January 1. They are busy stocking their cyber-shelves with products including screws, bolts, nuts, washers, gears, and more.
“We are stimulating the development of high-end 3d designers, by providing a robust marketplace for the designs of freelance and home based 3d developers,” stated head design engineer, Gare Henderson. “Hundreds of designers from over 40 countries have joined the Print-A-Part family as designers.”
Once ordered, each item has its own STL file which is ready to be printed out. For now these designs are meant to be printed on your basic FDM/FFF printers, although in the future that may change. Of course not everyone with the need for a specific screw, nut, or bolt will want it fabricated out of thermoplastics, but for those who do Print-A-Part 3D may just be quite a convenient online marketplace.
Bob Al, director of the Print-A-Part start-up team tells us, “Many state-of-art automotive and machine parts are made of plastic to save weight in the final assembly, and these shops are our target.”
It will be very interesting to see how Print-A-Part 3D develops, and what changes, if any are made to the system once they launch at the start of next year. Al has told us that, designs made available on the company’s website will also eventually become available on the sites of established retailers such as Amazon and AliBaba.
Let us know your thoughts on this soon-to-launch marketplace. Discuss on the Print-a-Part 3D forum thread on 3DB.com.