An interview with Shapeways

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It seems [Andrew] is an up and coming historian for the world of 3D printing. We’ve seen him interview the creator of Slic3r, but this time around he’s headed over to Eindhoven, Netherlands to interview the community manager for Shapeways, [Bart Veldhuizen].

Unlike the RepRaps, Ultimkers, and Makerbots, Shapeways is an entirely different ecosystem of 3D printing. Instead of building a machine that requires many hours of tinkering, you can just upload a model and have a physical representation delivered to your door in a week. You can also upload objects for others to buy. Despite these competing philosophies, [Bart] doesn’t see Shapeways as encroaching on the homebrew 3D printers out there; they serve different markets, and competition is always good.

Unfortunately, [Andrew] wasn’t allowed to film on the Shapeways factory floor. Proprietary stuff and whatnot, as well as a few certain ‘key words’ that will speed your customer support request up to the top of the queue.

As for how Shapeways actually produces hundreds of objects a day, [Andrew] learned that individual orders are made in batches, with several customer’s parts made in a single run. While most of the parts made by Shapeways are manufactured in-house, they do outsource silver casting after making the preliminary positive mold.

As for the future, a lot of customers are asking about mixed media, with plastic/nylon combined with metal being at the top of the list. It’s difficult to say what the future of 3D printing will be, but [Bart] makes an allusion to cell phones from 10 years ago. In 2003, nobody had smartphones, and now we have an always-on wireless Internet connection in our pockets. Given the same rate of technological progress, we can’t wait to see what 3D printing will be like in 10 years, either.

10 thoughts on “An interview with Shapeways

  1. Bart is cool guy. Met him at the London shapeways meet-up. (He is big in Blender). I see Shapeways definitely fitting in to the hacker culture. Sometime you need a part in metal to fix something or improve something.

    I view them as another tool to use, along the lines of my own 3d printer. A laser cutting service or 3d printing. Much the same way as hackers can send off for PCB printing (after prototyping), I can now order small productions runs after home prototyping.

    Shapeways are getting better and better. They also COMMUNICATE to customers.

    1. I can only agree with you! There are so much things that arent possible to print with your simple 3D printer. Full colored objects, or full assambled omnie wheels for example!

  2. HAD should do a piece on like… “essential sites for makers/hackers/tinkerers” or something. with all the basics, such as Instructables, and Shapeways, and Thingiverse, stuff like that.

  3. FWIW – I did a side-by-side comparison. Sculpteo was better in quality and delivery speed, a tad higher in price though. YMMV.

  4. I’m a big fan of 3D printing. Seems like personal 3D printers are getting most of the attention these days but, in my opinion, Shapeways’ model is the best- it lets the consumer choose from a dozen materials. With your own printer, you’re stuck with one.

      1. Very good point. A few years ago I built a couple of (kinda) CNC machines. None were very good but each one was a little better than the last. The point is, I learned a huge amount about the hardware, electronics, software etc. You appreciate and understand something way more when you do it yourself or at least attempt to do it yourself. Those little CNC projects really opened up the whole hacking world to me. So yes, building , maintaining, and programming your own printer is an awesomely worthwhile project.

    1. Depends on how quick you want results. Andrew also interviewed me this week on the development of Cura (interview should be out soon, I hope HaD features this also)

      Shapeways gives awesome results in a few weeks of waiting time. A personal printer gives good results in a few hours of waiting time for a lower price tag.

      -Daid from Ultimaker (Developer of the OpenSource 3D printing solution called Cura)

  5. I wonder if the “key words” that put your project to the “top of the queue”, include
    “Dollar$” “Euro$”, “Gold Bullion” and “Under the table”.
    B^)

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