Amazon And Staples Bet On 3-D Printers, But There's A Risk

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is now selling a selection of 3-D printers and supplies, making it the second major retailer in as many months to bet on 3-D printing, VentureBeat reported on Monday (June 10).

The e-commerce giant's move follows the announcement by Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) in early May that it will stock a $1,300 3-D printer in some stores starting this month. Staples has also been selling the 3-D printer online for several weeks.

In addition, Staples is rolling out a service at stores in the Netherlands and Belgium that lets customers upload a digital design, which is then rendered in-store by a 3-D printer. In those stores, the rendering is done by a printer that carves the rendering out of stacks of paper, which makes possible photorealistic coloring. Staples is marketing the service as an extension of its standard flat-paper printing offerings.

The 3-D printers sold by Amazon and Staples use ABS plastic instead of paper. That limits their color range, but makes them appropriate for more conventional hobby work. But it also puts them in the category of devices that could be used to create working handguns that couldn't be spotted by metal detectors—at least in theory.

Neither Amazon nor Staples seems to be very concerned about that possibility. And in practice, a handgun made by a sub-$2,000 3-D printer isn't likely to work without exploding (the ones that have gotten recent publicity were made with much more expensive 3-D model makers) and couldn't make it through a metal detector (the firing pin still has to be made of metal).

Still, that won't stop the first lawsuit against a big retailer the first time someone tries to use a home-printed handgun for a robbery—or the first time an amateur gunsmith uses a 3-D printer to make a firearm and then blows his hand off.

For more:

- See this VentureBeat story

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