It used to be, back in the day, that people who wanted just a couple custom printed shirts had to buy themselves screens and ink and figure out the whole screenprinting thing. Or, y’know, get a Gocco.
Then CafePress and Spreadshirt and all the other POD services came along, with their ability to easily print one-off shirts any time you wanted. For lazy folks like me, this was entirely awesome.
The same sort of thing is happening again, just in THREE DEE.
Now Shapeways and Sculpteo are taking on the print on demand market for 3D printing. You upload a 3D model file, set a royalty percentage, and wait for people to buy it. When someone buys it, they feed it into the 3D printer and ship out the completed thing, and you get paid. Sounds familiar, eh?
Of the two, Shapeways looks like the leading candidate – they have a sharper Marketplace, better pricing, and a wider variety of materials available. That said, note that both of them (in fact, all the POD 3D printing sites I could find) are in Europe, so be prepared to pay tariffs/duty on anything you order.
It’s not likely to start replacing MadeInChina unless the printing costs come down, but if you’ve got an eye for 3D design, check it out.