Amazon’s Lunatic Idea for 3-D Printing’s Future

While 3-D printers haven’t yet hit the mainstream, innovators and entrepreneurs are busy experimenting with potential uses for the technology, from building airline engines to creating food.

But few of those concepts are as weird—or potentially as brilliant, depending on your point of view—as the one proposed by Amazon in a recent series of patent applications. According to the Wall Street Journal, which dug those patents up, the company is thinking about placing 3-D printers inside trucks. When a customer orders a particular good, the printer crafts it, and the truck drives the newly created product to the customer’s location.

Check out the latest jobs related to 3-D printing.

The idea makes sense in the context of Amazon’s obsession with shipping goods to consumers as fast as humanly possible. Since at least 2013, Amazon has experimented with using airborne drones as a delivery method, although it still faces considerable regulatory hurdles before it can start shipping packages via UAVs. While trucks equipped with 3-D printers wouldn’t necessarily face that same sort of government scrutiny, there’s the bigger question of whether the potential audience for 3-D printed products would justify the expense and logistical hurdles of establishing a network of printer-equipped vehicles.

Such patents show that Amazon, despite its enviable market position, is still trying to innovate, and with good reason—as the tech world has demonstrated again and again, the business that’s not disrupting its industry risks being disrupted by a competitor.

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Image: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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