Shapeways creates first online market for 3D fabrication models

You hear about 3D printing here and there, but for the most part it’s a bit irrelevant to the average person because fabrication is messy, difficult, and prohibitively expensive. Even dedicated DIYers have to get their stuff custom made. Hopefully that will all change with Shapeways, a new service which bills itself as a sort of Etsy for 3D models.

Users submit their designs in whatever 3D document format they like, and Shapeways does pretty much all the rest. Say you design a cool Megatron model or an improved coat hanger. People will be able to browse by category or go to featured pages just like any other user-generated merchandise site. They order it and it gets made and shipped, and within ten days, they’ll have a nice neutral-colored Megatron and you get however much money you put as the markup.

It’s not clear exactly how you are limited precision and size-wise; obviously you’re not going to be replicating 19th-century mechanical watches, and likewise you won’t be prototyping a new all-plastic car. Still, it’s a good size for miniatures, components of things, accessories, nozzles of various kinds, you get the idea. The best part is the descriptions, which run along the lines of “extruded with ‘mograph spline wrap’ on a cube with helix-shape spline.”

There’s nothing surprising about the business model, which is proven many times over, but the question to be settled is whether there’s enough market to keep this neat little service alive. I’d like to think so. And now I have a use for my 3D-savvy friends. They’re gonna design me up a sweet exoskeleton for my dog.

The site is live, as you can see, but it should be noted that it won’t be possible to order stuff until early Wednesday according to people who know these things.

Here’s the full press release, which I neglected to include at first:


From Model Trains to Gadgets, Shapeways Shops launches for 3D designers to Sell their Products in the Worlds First 3D to Reality Marketplace

CES – January, 2008 – Shapeways, the 3D printing and production service, announced today the
launch of the much anticipated Shapeways Shops. The Shops offer artists, designers and hobbyists alike, a unique online platform to show and sell their designs to a world-wide audience. This new marketplace enables anyone to make money with their 3D modeling skills, bridging the gap between the digital 3D models and real tangible products.

More details can be found at
Shapeways makes unique production affordable. Whether you design beautiful interior
accessories or make useful items for you and your fellow hobbyists. You don’t have to think about
mass production anymore. From now on you can actually make money with your 3D models.
Upload your models and sell them at the Shapeways Shop and start your own personal
production line without any investments.

Shapeways does everything for you: payment service, customer support, production and
shipment, which is all provided free of cost. All you have to do is creating your own 3D models.

Shapeways provides an easy, online interface for 3D artists and contemporary design consumers
of all skill levels to order their reasonably priced 3D designs as physical, printed objects. Within
ten business days, a tangible, 3D product will be produced and arrive at the customers home.
Join Shapeways and become a member of the vibrant and creative community to share your
knowledge, interest and now make some money with things you really like to do.
Key Points:

– Shapeways offers an online platform for 3D creative’s to show and sell their designs to a
world-wide audience
– Shop owners can price the items they are selling with their own mark up.
– Artists and designers keep the copyright rights to their designs / products.
– Shapeways assumes full responsibility for production, orders, shipping and customer
service enabling designers to focus on doing what they do best: Imagine and create.
– Shapeways accepts most file formats of 3D modeling software (.STL, VRML, .X3D,
colada) what makes uploading a design easy and efficient.
– Users and potential buyers can browse through their favorite designs easily through
categorized objects the can enter the shop via the models or via the shop gallery.
– Shop owners have the ability to promote their shop and 3D designs on the Shapeways
landing page as well as display feedback and comments through Shapeways Shops.

About Shapeways:

Shapeways is a 3D printing and production service that harnesses the power of a global network
of 3D production service partners to ensure cost-efficient, reliable manufacturing and order
fulfillment of 3D designs starting with custom 3D printing. Shapeways, passionate about creating.
Shapeways is spinning-out from the Lifestyle Incubator of Royal Philips Electronics, located in
Eindhoven, The Netherlands