New Exact app from ebay lets you customizable and buy 3D printed goods — but a disappointing launch

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See update at end of article for my thoughts after using the app.

It seems all the big players are jumping on the 3D printing bandwagon. For example, we’ve recently seen Staples now selling 3D printers in their store and online, and Amazon launching a 3D printing store. Not to be outdone, ecommerce giant eBay has just entered the game as well.

But they’ve chosen quite a different route from Amazon and Staples, who have become resellers of 3D printers, supplies and associated products. eBay has decided to create their own app that allows users to browse 3D printable items, customize them, and then have them printed and delivered.

No, they haven’t set up their own 3D printing center to print the products themselves. Instead, they’ve partnered with printing services to deliver their products. To begin with, they’ve hooked up with Sculpteo, Makerbot and Hot Pop Factory. Currently there are just 18 products, from iPhone cases to jewelry to tech accessories, ranging from $9 to $350. Expect many more as existing and new partners add more items. Purchases through the app are similar to paying for an item won on an eBay auction. All payments are done through PayPal and orders are usually sent out 7-14 business days.

Steve Yankovich, Vice President of Innovation and New Ventures for eBay commented on the new app: “Shoppers today not only want to buy items anytime, anywhere through mobile devices, but they also want to be able to personalize their purchases. eBayExact brings these two desires into one shopping experience.”

The app works on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. It’s optimized for iPhone 5. No word yet about Exact coming to Android or other platforms.

Update: I just loaded the app to my iphone and took a look. Honestly, it’s very disappointing. I was expecting some pretty cool customization abilities, but for the most part it’s extremely basic. Here’s what I see:

Makerbot products: There are the Makerbot Mixtape and the Makerbot Watch. The Mixtape only allows you to customize it by choosing one of two colors, and the Watch has no customization options whatsoever. Fail.

Sculpteo products: Sculpteo has eight products, three of which are jewelry that cannot be customized at all. However, the other five products are pretty decent. Two of them are iphone cases that allow you to customize such things as patterns, text, shapes and materials. One is a ring with some very basic options like size, height, diameter, thickness and a choice of polished or raw silver — nothing too special. Another ring lets you choose one of three very silly patterns I can’t see many people wearing. And finally there is a personalized figurine whose 3D face is customized from photos you upload, and set on a selection of body styles. But on that one, especially for the $149 price, you’re probably better off going to the various dedicated figurine apps. Not too bad a first effect for Sculpteo overall though.

Hot Pop products: These eight barely customizable jewelry pieces miss the mark. Most just offer a choice of colors, with the ring having a size option and a couple products getting a choice of a few shapes.

I did not check out with any of the products, just went as far as the Buy It button.

My excitement over the ebay Exact store has waned considerably. I assuming this is just a start and they will be adding more products and capabilities. Especially capabilities.

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