Co.Design

How 3-D Printing Opens Billion-Dollar Markets to Regular Joes

The Canvas Wrap proves that there's a brave new world for small-time design startups.

The market for iPad and iPhone accessories is worth billions--and it usually takes a sizable, glossy company powered with lots of marketing and PR to horn in on it. (Think of Incase or Belkin.) But not anymore--and not in the age of rapid prototyping. Solitary designers can readily produce products as good as any you'd find in the Apple store--as the iPad Canvas Wrap, by designer Jeff Bare, proves. Just $50, Bare, a one-man outfit, designed it himself and distributes it through Shapeways, a Dutch company that does 3-D printing for regular Joes:

The Canvas Wrap's design protects the iPad, without adding a huge, ugly case that obscures the beauty of the original design. It simply covers the corners and the rounded back--so that it sits flat on a surface without slipping, all while protecting the corners, sides, and screen from a hard hit if it does fall. And we think the filigree on the back is quite nice--just a tad shy of frilly, and appropriate for the iPad without slavishly aping the original design, as many lesser products attempt to do.

We've seen plenty of fabulous applications of 3-D printing--from impossible objects that cast crazy shadows to gorgeous rings made cheap but with stunning craft. But Canvas Wrap is proof of an even greater use for the technology: Products built by an army of one. What's more, Bare doesn't need to take an outsize risk with the product, ordering a bunch of them and hoping they sell. Since it's 3-D printed they can be made on demand.

You can buy the Canvas Wrap online here.