Shapeways

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= sells product designs via a number of online storefronts and 3D blueprint designs for consumers.

URL = http://www.shapeways.com


Description

"Shapeways is an aggregator, a web-based clearinghouse where mostly unknown designers sell software designs of unusual and outrageous product. Shapeways sells product designs via a number of online storefronts and 3D blueprint designs for consumers. Consumers browse professionally designed blueprints for custom jewelry, household goods, toys and miniatures. When consumers purchase a design, much like buying a book online, Shapeways takes care of the manufacturing and shipping of the resulting product. Shapeway’s business model rests on the assumption that customers are tired of mass produced products and if given the opportunity, will buy custom-designed products that are made especially for them.

Shapeway’s manufacturing facility and distribution center are housed in an industrial park about an hour outside of Amsterdam. Their personal-scale factory is the size of a school gym. Several manufacturing machines toil day and night, painstakingly fabricating custom objects from electronic blueprints which are sorted and placed bins where they’re boxed and shipped to customers.

The company employs a few dozen staff members, about half high-skill technicians, software designers and engineers and the other half who post-process the prints and pack items to ship. Shapeways plans to set up relationships with manufacturing companies all over the world so when customers order a design, it can be printed near where they live to save on shipping costs." (http://web.mae.cornell.edu/lipson/FactoryAtHome.pdf)


1. Frank Piller:

"Shapeways] is spinning-out from the Lifestyle Incubator of Royal Philips Electronics, located in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The site can be seen in the lines of Ponoko and other user manufacturing sites allowing users to create and manufacture their own design with a large freedom of design.

The site very neatly incorporates all elements of a good user manufacturing system I outlined some time ago in this blog:

- A 3D model library - An easy-to-operate 3D-design toolkit (well, not at this stage yet) - A flexile manufacturing system producing the users' design (more or less) rapidly

Utilizing a 3D model library, (starting with a lamp and a bowl), consumers can manipulate the structure, look and feel of their own products. Users can twist, mash, and create their own 3D objects which then are being produced within 10-days or less. Shapeways then verifies objects to ensure printability and provides a real-time cost estimate. Within 10 working days, a tangible 3D product will be produced and arrive at the consumer's home globally.

Browsing over the site, it still looks a bit beta, and their Co-Design toolkits is an external Java-based software that demands quite some time to download and install separately. Using it then however was easy (despite some annoying comments that I should create a profile). But it is a start ...

Anyway, Shapeways takes a major step towards the next generation of consumer Co-Creation and mass customization. Consumers without 3D modeling skills can shape, mash, imprint and design their own 3D products at Shapeways.com. Products are produced with a rapid manufacturing system, and in the moment they all still have this white prototyping look." (http://mass-customization.blogs.com/mass_customization_open_i/2008/08/shapeways-launches-consumer-focused-customizable-3d-merchandise-platform.html)


2. Albert Wegner:

"In parallel to Makerbot driving the price of hardware way down, Shapeways has been developing a lively marketplace for 3D printing. Shapeways connects folks who just want to buy a custom part with developers who create models and printing capacity for the actual production. The beauty of such a marketplace is that it lets everyone focus on what they do best. 3D Modelers can optimize their designs without having to worry about operating a printer or shipping for fulfillment (they become the "content" creators for 3D printing)." (http://www.usv.com/2010/03/communicator-done-replicator-next-the-future-of-making-stuff.php)


Status

'If you ask Robert Schouwenburg, CTO of Shapeways.com where he envisions his company in ten years, without hesitation, says “we will be the amazon.com of personal manufacturing – a household name.” His dream is one step closer to reality as Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures invested $5 million to build the company and moved Shapeway’s headquarters from the Netherlands to New York City." (http://web.mae.cornell.edu/lipson/FactoryAtHome.pdf)


More Information

  1. 3D Printing
  2. Personal Manufacturing
  3. Electronic Design Blueprint Aggregators