As the costs involved with 3D printing technology continue to drop we are seeing it used more and more as a profitable method of small-scale manufacturing. From artists selling their designs on places like Shapeways or Etsy, to web stores with a small collection of curated products, more and more 3D printed products are ending up in the consumer’s home. Niche marketplaces have already proven themselves to be highly profitable by selling low-volume, unique products like t-shirts. Websites like Cafepress have allowed individual artists make their own products and sell them all over the world without requiring the need for large inventories. 3D printing is now offering a new community of artists the same luxury.
Babaobox is a Chinese company that sells a small selection of hand-picked and handmade bespoke products. They range from jars of organic honey with a handmade wooden spoon to an olive oil tasting set to delicately hand-painted porcelain tea cups. The products clearly aren’t for everyone, and that is kind of the point. They are aimed at a specific consumers aesthetic and they clearly aren’t the sort of products that will be selling at Target any time soon. In addition to the products, Babaobox is also selling the individual artists by including a small, collectible book with stories about the products.
Their newest addition to Babaobox is a collection of Miniature World Paperweights featuring a small 3D printed diorama that incorporates a kinetic light that will glow when you shake it. The paperweight has a solid stone base, with a clear cube set on top of it containing the tiny 3D printed scenery. The kinetic light featured in each of the cubes is a 3D printed egg-shaped LED light that will briefly illuminate the small scene. The light was designed by artist Wilton Ip from the custom made housewares and lighting company Artonomos. Each light has a different, randomly generated pattern, so every Miniature World Paperweight will be completely unique.
There are three different versions of the paperweight available. The first is called Moongazing and features a man and a woman laying in a grass field looking up at the sky. The words “If you feel lonely, look at the moon, someone, somewhere is looking at it too” are wrapped around the cube. The second design is a dance party with group of 3D printed party guests using the LED light as a Discoball, featuring the words “Dance me to the end of love.” Neighbours is the final design, a wall divides a group of people and the words “The grass is always greener on the other side” reminding us of a lesson most of us should have learned as children. All three versions are available on Babaobox’s online store.
The LED lights that make each of the Miniature World Paperweights glow are also available on Babaobox individually. And again, each design is randomly generated when it is 3D printed, so no two lights will be exactly the same. As with the paperweights, shaking the light will cause the illumination to increase, and when you set it back down, the light will slowly fade. You can find several more of Ip’s lighting designs on the Artonomos website, including a larger version of the LED light.
And while there are those who will dismiss many of the products offered on Babaobox as over-priced crafts being sold to hipsters, as a friend looking over my shoulder while I was writing this said in a much crasser way, but that is the beauty of niche marketplaces. It really doesn’t matter if you would buy it, it just matters that someone would buy it. Because I guarantee there is something that others would classify as worthless but you would be willing to purchase without question. Let us know what you think of niche marketplaces like Babaobox in our Miniature World Paperweight forum thread at 3DPB.com.