This week eBay is partnering with the French company Sculpteo to power their newly created 3D printed objects store called eBay Exact. The mobile app allows for users to customize their orders to create truly unique designs. Now you might think – a new iPhone cover design, exactly what the world needs. But think twice because the new partnership puts Sculpteo one step ahead to dominate the 3D printed market.
Until now Sculpteo has allowed users to design their objects with their own online tools. The company went as far as creating a Cloud Engine for users and businesses to tightly integrate Sculpteo as their manufacturing partner. After a user creation had been done, it could easily be sold through Sculpteo’s marketplace – other users could also include their customizations and order the designs as 3D printed objects.
So what’s really new here? Well, Sculpteo has been working hard to consolidate their position as leader in 3D printing with an aggressive acquisition plan, for both technology and printing capacity. Yes, in a way the eBay Exact app will compete with Sculpteo’s efforts to build a marketplace community for P2P exchange of user’s created objects. At the same time Sculpteo also knows who is good in creating such a community – eBay.
The auction website eBay might have lost the war against Amazon back in the days when online marketplaces started taking off, the behemoth that Amazon has become proves their strategy right. But eBay is not sticking around selling cheap, auctioned, second-hand iPhone cases: they are paving the road to build the leading 3D printed object store. As an early entrant in the scene eBay can have a real advantage when other players join the game, and if Sculpteo is able to grow with them, the increased sales can help develop their business.
While the community marketplace is critical for eBay, Sculpteo needs to streamline the tools for creating 3D printed objects. That means having easy to use modeling tools that are user friendly, and at the same time give powerful customization options. The same applies to further develop printing techniques – to have a fast product with good quality, and innovative materials, are key in this market.
For Sculpteo’s business the move is a big milestone, it brings its dearest Cloud Engine to the core of their strategy. They are far more interested – and should well be – in integrating their tools into other websites than to focus on developing a vibrant community at the cost of missing out on platform reach. That’s why they are partnering with eBay, especially considering the fiercing competition that is building up in this area. Note that eBay partnered with MakerBot and Hot Pop Factory in the same deal that it made with Sculpteo.
We are entering pure digital marketplaces where we buy a design to print instead of ordering the standard physical product. In Obama’s words, it will change the way we do almost everything. To get a piece a piece of that sounds extremely enticing, so if the French based Sculpteo is able to manage the steam on their stove that’s certainly very good news for the French tech ecosystem.