Shapeways Files For Bankruptcy

One of the earliest hobbyist-friendly on-demand 3D printing and fabrication shops, Shapeways, is filing for bankruptcy. As these financial arrangements always go, this may or may not mean the end of the service, but it’s a sure sign that their business wasn’t running as well as you’d hope.

One of the standout features of Shapeways was always that they made metal printing affordable to the home gamer. Whether it was something frivolous like a custom gear-shifter knob, or something all-too functional like a prototype rocket engine, it was neat to have the alternative workflow of iterative design at home and then shipping out for manufacturing.

We don’t want to speculate too much, but we’d be surprised if the rise of similar services in China wasn’t part of the reason for the bankruptcy. The market landscape just isn’t what it was way back in 2013. (Sadly, the video linked in this article isn’t around any more. If anyone can find a copy, post up in the comments?) So while Shapeways may or may not be gone, it’s not like we can’t get metal parts made anymore.

Still, we’re spilling a little for the OG.

Thanks [Aaron Eiche] for the breaking news tip!

36 thoughts on “Shapeways Files For Bankruptcy

  1. Noooooooo! Hope they survive. They are a great way of creating fire-and-forget parts for communities. Anybody can order the no-longer-available window sleeve clip I designed which is essential for keeping Subaru SVX windows working (the magic being they will ship it in the right plastic from their SLS machine).

    Unfortunately I open sourced the part and most people seem to be buying crappy copies from ebay, which are FDM (weaker) and in the wrong plastic…

      1. Well, they started out cheaper than my shapeways prints (and I priced them really low compared to the OEM product which we can’t get anyway), then eventually they increased prices to around double… I guess discoverability is a big part, and it is much easier to find the products on ebay rather than shapeways. Pity shapeways didn’t have ebay integration or something like that so I could sell them on amazon..

        1. > Pity shapeways didn’t have ebay integration or something like that so I could sell them on amazon..

          See, it’s that kind of creative business solutions that maybe would’ve kept them out of bankruptcy (or restructuring)

        2. But were ebay parts cheaper than jlcpcb/pcbway printed ones?

          >eventually they increased prices to around double

          Are you complaining about someone doing the leg work you are not willing to do yourself even at “around double” the price?

          >Pity shapeways didn’t have ebay integration

          If only someone offered me a button I could press to receive bacon :] preferably without leaving my house :-) Yes, I struggle with this myself :) I try not to blame others for making money on something I am too lazy to do.

          1. > But were ebay parts cheaper than jlcpcb/pcbway printed ones?

            No idea, I’ve never used jlcpcb/pcbway.

            > Are you complaining about someone

            Not really. More pointing out things that may have hurt shapeways.

            > the leg work you are not willing to do

            Actually, I did the hard bit, i.e. designing the part for the community, this involved a lot of work (way more work than FDM printing parts and mailing them out). I also sourced a place (shapeways) that could print them in the correctly material and method, and tested them and redefined them (again time, effort, and money spent).

            Then I made the part available to everybody (without restriction) so they can print their own if desired (although folks printing their own reported that the FDM printed parts failed quickly).

            I have no desire to spend my time mailing little plastic doohickeys to people, and shapeways was handling that. Not sure why you think that I should be doing that….

            As for the people profiting of my hard work, I am way more annoyed that they are shipping a defective product. Annoyed enough that future designs will have non-commercial only restrictions. Anybody wanting to monetize my designs will have to license them from me, and agree to quality standards (especially for things like automotive parts).

            Ultimately shapeways could have been selling more products, and were loosing out to more expensive lower quality parts on ebay. I guess that means blame shapeways for being too lazy??

          2. >Actually, I did the hard bit,

            Depends how you look at it. For me thats the fun easy part, like playing a logic/strategy game for leisure. It usually takes me days to weeks to design or reverse engineer something (electronics), then weeks to months to write documentation for it, and up to never when it comes to actually manufacturing (even just ordering from P&P fab house) beyond prototype and trying to sell it. That last step is pure pain. Logistics of shipping, interacting with online commerce, handling payments.

          3. @rasz_pl
            Yeah, maybe I should order a bunch before shapeways stops shipping (has it stopped?) and start an ebay store selling them at OEM prices.

            My ‘hard part’ wasn’t that much fun. Like: Trying to get accurate measurements from worn and broken OEM parts. Taking my doors to bits multiple times while iterating on the design (including reinforcing the main failure point of the part, without interfering with the window mechanism operation[1]) . Not forgetting to test the rear windows (it’s a two door) which involves removing a crazy amount of interior trim to get to the rear window mechanism. Then once I had a working design I needed a manufacturer, that involved paying for a bunch of prints and then testing (and taking my car to bits again). While it does feel good to have solved that problem, and it helped keep the windows working on at least 100 SVX so far, ultimately it was necessity which provided the motivation rather than fun. My windows would not work.

            My idea of fun is designing a “Tesla” style in car infotainment system for the SVX. The ECU is a 6502 derivative (first assemble language a learned) and is fairly well understood, so integration should be fairly fun.

            [1] If I was really business orientated I would have made them fail slightly quicker than the OEM ones so I would sell more.

          4. >has it stopped?

            yes. I highly encourage you to check Chinese offerings. The only thing bottom of the barrel about jlcpcb/pcbway are the prices, might even turn out you will get your part for the price of just shipping Shapeways used to charge.

          5. I’ve been looking into alternatives and finding most are more expensive than Shapeways, and I need to order significantly more parts to get the price close to Shapeways. Some have a minimum order size/cost, so to get a sample to test I would have to order 50 parts (or pay a hefty minimum order cost making the price 20x the Shapeways cost!). For reference the pcbway one is 1.5x the cost of the Shapeways one, but if I order 50 parts it is around the same.

            Shapeways shipping costs did suck, so with a large enough order I should be able to beat their price. But there is a risk in placing a large first order to a place you’ve never used before.

            I will keep looking and order some samples from the ones supporting low volumes.

    1. Yup, granted I have no idea of the costs of running their business, but I stopped having parts printed by them a few years ago as their prices became prohibitive. Wonder if this is another cautionary tale about making “increasing shareholder value” the sole focus of a company.

  2. Damn it! This makes me sad, I have made great use of their services over the years. I guess I will have to learn what these Chinese companies are if they go under.. We really need to figure out a way to keep all our manufacturing from being frittered away like this

      1. Also what is called “environmental arbitrage.” Although China may have some environmental and worker safety laws, they aren’t enforced well, especially if, as is very often the case, political fatcats are somewhere in the profit chain. It’s much cheaper when you can just dump hazardous waste. BTW, this is also a large part of why they have a near monopoly on rare earths (which aren’t actually rare) besides their usual dumping to sell things below their production costs to drive out any potential competitors.

      2. Has nothing to do with government subsidies and everything to do with charging reasonable prices for products and services, which you can’t do when executives need to extract million dollar salaries and the focus of your business is the enrichment of investors. Large companies with broad ranges of services can afford such leaches, small focused companies very often cannot. But the motto these days is “fake it ’till you make it, then milk it ’till its dead”.

  3. Hmm all the links are dead for the FUBAR labs open source 3d-printed rocket engine repository. Does anyone know what happened? Did that stuff get archived anywhere? The shapeway links also 404, did they get shut down by the feddies or something?

      1. I am not talking about shapeways inc, I am talking about that open source repository linked in the middle of the article. I didn’t want to necropost on the years-old comment thread though

    1. Sounds like it.

      But what the heck is this, from Jules Witte: “Confident about the sound operation and supported by a unified team we are gearing up to restart the business on our own account. Please reach out for any business opportunities if relevant!”

      They’re thinking of spinning up another similar company?

  4. Sad but not surprising. I used to use their service all the time. Imo their death warrant was the advent of cheap and reliable home 3D printing. Sure they can make slightly better quality prints than I can on my prusa, and they can print in metal; but it’s not worth $100 USD more and a 2 week wait. Once desktop printers started becoming practical they had to pivot radically, and I guess they didn’t.

    1. This didn’t surprise me at all. They not only had alot of layoffs throughout the end of last quarter of 2023 up to May of this year, but their management was not good at all (inside knowledge) . China probably has nothing to do with this. The idea of the company is amazing but if the right people aren’t moving it forward this is the outcome.

  5. Shapways was always like SendCutSend: something that sounded amazing to have available… as long as you lived in the US. Shapeways did at least offer international shipping, but the cost was sufficiently high that it never made much sense to actually use it.

  6. It is the availibity of cheaper technologies, also desktop devices for the prosumer, and the fact China can produce for a fraction of the cost, when it comes to metal (alloid) additive manufacturing, is what drove them bankruptcy. Mix in poor management decisions that is how most companies end up filling for cheaper 11. Companies who grow way to fast and are not constantly evolving all end up like Shapeway. Shapeway will be bought up by some corporation for pennies on the dollar and life goes on.

  7. Here is a personal anecdote that I cannot help but extrapolate on this sad day:
    Back in 2016 I designed an impossible to get replacement part [0] for the Breville BCG800XL SmartGrinder and sold it through ShapeWays. It paid for all my coffee up until ~2022 when another company popped up and began selling an injection molded copy of my part on Amazon, Walmart, etc. ShapeWays’ marketplace always let you easily see the top sellers in each category. I somewhat wonder if outside firms simply caught on, bought one of each, copied it, and made an injection mold to mass produce everything cheaply. This is great for the consumer but I have no idea how ShapeWays could have defended against it. I am thankful it lasted the few years it did. 3D printing was a fun way to make a little while helping folks keep their stuff out of the landfill.

    [0] https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/BCG800XL+Grinder+Jamming+due+to+Worn+Impeller/62905

  8. Sad to see a pioneer like this go, but it follows the scale pattern of custom manufacturing technology. For the casual / one time need without a time crunch, cheap, high quality options are more available from Asia with low(ish) shipping costs. For high usage and “need it now” work, the tool has become affordable enough that its easy(ish) to find local shops making their equipment available when not in use for reasonable prices.

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