The auction site eBay has always been a place to find all kinds of unusual things — including a seat in heaven.
Until now, though, it hasn’t been a place to find unusual things designed by you.
A new app for Apple devices, eBay Exact, lets users do that with a process called 3-D printing. EBay says:
For the uninitiated, 3-D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model. “Prints” are created from an additive process where successive layers of material — be it plastic, metal or even wood pulp — are laid on top of each other in a structured way. EBay Exact allows users to order products directly from our partner 3-D printers on the app, pay with PayPal, and receive the item within seven to 14 business days. Buyers who choose to buy from Sculpteo can play around with a 360-degree preview image of the item they want to customize and buy.
To be clear, the intent isn’t for you to make things to sell to other people. The app lets you pick a design, modify it in simple ways — such as picking the material and color — then pay to have it made and shipped to you.
“Currently, customers can choose from only about 20 items, ranging from technology accessories to jewelry, but that number is likely to grow fairly quickly,” The Next Web says, if it’s popular. Prices range from $7 for a plastic phone case to $350 for metal rings.
The idea behind 3-D printing is that you can model anything on a computer — think of computer-animated movies like “Toy Story,” though you’re unlikely to get such detail — and then have a machine “print” it out, producing a finished item. Unfortunately, there’s a steep learning curve to the software and the printers can cost thousands of dollars.
Services like Shapeways and Sculpteo make it easier and cheaper, with ready-made designs you can customize a bit and have shipped to you. They are the Kinko’s of 3-D printing, and it’s through partnerships with such companies that eBay is offering Exact.
If you’re new to 3-D printing, this could be a fun way to learn about it and create something unique. I recommended it as a Christmas gift idea last year.