Clark Howard: Furniture benefits from 3-D printers

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The Internet offers all kinds of ways to do things better, cheaper, faster. Now that promise is coming to the staid furniture industry

I’m very familiar with the furniture business. I had a relative who was a longtime member of the industry, and I saw how all the showrooms worked. Furniture was made in bulk, shipped, and stored in warehouses. The individual stores would stock what they hoped customers would want.

It was very inefficient and you as a customer paid more because of it.

Well, things are changing. There are a couple of start-ups bringing some fresh air to the field. I recently read about Joybird for residential furniture and OpenDesk for business furniture.

With both of these sites, you go on the Web and order a piece of furniture. It is not made until you order. But this isn’t the traditional custom furniture thing where you wait a long time for your order to be made and the cost is high

This is using modern manufacturing to make it quickly and get it to you. And it comes to you already assembled. So instead of the Ikea thing where you try to figure out how to assemble your purchase with these tiny tools, this comes to you built. Of course, it’s not as cheap as Ikea in terms of price.

The approach these sites use is similar to that of 3-D printing. With 3-D printing there’s no need to spend all kinds of money on inventory. Businesses can now make things as they want them.

I’ve talked before about the wonder of 3-D printing and how it’s changing so many things. And now with furniture, you get exactly what you want at a cheaper price than the historical cost. The customer is being served better and more efficiently at a lower cost.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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