What once was a bland and static page detailing your order has gone through a transformation and is now the almighty "Order Status Page". Why is it so awesome? Because it not only offers more transparency into the current status of your entire order, but also shows you what's happening with each individual item. In addition to being taken to this page immediately after checkout, you can also get here from the My Orders overview.
We've also added detailed information on refunds and credits on a per-order basis for all new orders. Additionally, this overhaul lays the foundation for some even cooler features that will be coming in the near future.
3D Printing is not only about mouse clicks and lasers, there is also a lot of hands-on work required to take an item from bits to atoms, that is why we are always looking for talented people to help make things real in our Eindhoven and New York offices. Every model is lovingly removed from the various 3D printers, cleaned (sometimes dyed) and shipped around the world. We do not always get to see what you then do to the parts, what post processing you undertake to make them even more beautiful, but when we do, it inspires us and makes all of the long hours worthwhile.
We often get asked 'at what point does it become cheaper to mass produce and item rather than 3D print it? at which point we have to ask what do you want to make, in what material and to what level of complexity or customization? To approach a need and simply switching method of manufacturing misses the power of 3D printing.
A recent blog post by 3sourceful compared the cost of manufacturing two items using Shapeways 3D printing and Protomold to make injection molded parts.
"In this case, we prices out two different parts. One, a very small bracket (~1cm^3) and one a larger jig (~50 cm^3). To compare, we obtained quotes from Shapeways and Protomold. And for simplicity, we just assume the cheapest material from each. We then plotted out the total cost of production for different quantities. As we would expect, the tooling costs of the molds resulted in 3D printing being cheaper at lower quantities in both cases. But, in the case of the larger part, the cost of the 3D printing material meant that over 100 units, Protomold became the cheaper solution. Where, for the smaller part, 3D printing was cost effective over 1000 units."
This is great for a simple equation for comparing the cost of a simple part required in bulk like their bracket, but if there is any level of complexity in the part or strict tolerances, the price to injection mold is likely to quickly increase, where as the price to 3D print would likely stay the same or may actually be reduced if the complexity is in the form of meshed or perforated features. The larger item might not have taken advantage of the density discount on Shapeways that can dramatically reduce the cost of large parts.
The comparison does not take into account the upfront investment required along with cost to warehouse and distribute the injection molded parts with the liability of predicting sales and holding inventory that may not sell. Customization and/or fast iteration is also an incredibly powerful advantage of 3D printing not so easily posible with injection molded parts. If you want to make 1000 components that are very similar but not the same, the cost to 3D print remains the same where as with injection molding you will need to invest in 1000 different molds, or at the very least, 1000 different mold inserts which would then need to be manually changed out after each part is manufactured.
Same too with fast iteration, if you want to modify your design in any way to optimize your design there is no additional cost or delay with 3D printing where as with injection molding you would need to retool in most instances, adding greater cost that would need to then be amortized across the sale of your product.
Since we introduced Sterling Silver to our material catalog we have seen a lot of beautiful 3D printed jewelry in the Shapeways gallery making the most of the beautiful material. Our Sterling Silver is first printed in wax then cast in silver using traditional techniques so in the end you have pure Sterling Silver in a standard or glossy finish.
Check out this 3D Printed Sterling Silver which shows the beautiful, crisp details and shine of the glossy finish. Sometimes with the standard finish you will still see build lines in the silver from the process of 3D printing the wax for the silver. With the glossy finish, we spend a little more time to buff these out but you may still sometimes see the build lines and unpolished areas in the hard to reach areas. In some instances such as the Ancient Dragon Skull Pendant, this can help to add definition to the design.
What do you think of the Silver finish? Have you printed any of your designs in Sterling Silver at Shapeways yet?
While this is pretty much a hot glue gun squirting out plastic, for $75 you can get yourself a 3Doodler, what they claim to be the world's first and only 3D printing pen. Legend has it that the first ever FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printer was invented by Scott Crumb when he 'printed' a frog for his daughter using a hot glue gun. Scott Crumb went on to form Stratysys and the basic technology upon which the entire RepRap ecosystem is based, including desktop printers such as the MakerBot, Ultimaker and the Cube.
Now 35 years later you too can simply draw objects in thin air with the 3Doodler too.
While it is a cute idea and a relatively simple concept that might be a fun toy to get people started with a very basic start at making things with plastic, they state the pen is not suitable for children under 12 years old (270c of hot metal squirting plastic at your fingertips), most likely their ideal market.
At the time of writing they have already raised over $145,000 from backers for their device with 33 days still to go so they have obviously found a market willing to give this novelty item a try.
Shapeways Operations Manager Hugo Ploegmakers shares his thoughts on how continuous improvement and Kaizen principles apply to 3D printing.
In our continuing challenge to improve the service we provide at
Shapeways, to improve quality, lead-time and drive down cost (making 3D
printing more affordable for our customers), we are fully embracing
continuous improvement as a methodology. In short: continuous
improvement means that you never accept the status-quo, everything can
be improved, and everybody is involved in the improvement process.
How does this rhyme with the lean methodology, which
we've embraced at Shapeways? Does this contradict with the small steps
of 'continuous improvement'? I don't think it does. Bold Audacious Goals
are a requirement to make lean a success!
Improvements comes in
two different shapes. One, a continuous stream of small improvements:
the many changes we make to our production process each day in our
factories in New York and Eindhoven. Two, the less frequent but huge
breakthrough projects (e.g. our new back-end tool: Inshape). The picture
clearly shows how the combination of continuous improvement processes
and breakthrough projects makes us twice as fast! Only when successfully
applying both, we can improve as quickly as needed and make our
Bold Audacious Goals trigger breakthrough, which
is needed to remove the boundaries for continuous improvement before we
reach them. They accelerate continuous improvement: it
makes every tiny problem worth solving.
As we see more and more fashion designers like Kimberly Ovitz embrace 3D printing as a way to take their designs direct to market we need to discuss what directions are most suitable to be explored in 3D printing fashion. Jewelry is an easy win when we can 3D print items in materials such as Stainless Steel and Sterling Silver but we are also seeing more and more textile like geometries being 3D printed in Nylon to create digital fabrics.
Eyebeam in New York City is hosting a panel discussion on Fashion Innovations in 3D Printing on the 27th of February to explore the intersection between fashion and 3D printing highlighting collaborations between fashion designers, technologists and manufacturers such as Shapeways.
As part of the Computational Fashion program series, Eyebeam presents an exciting event featuring designers and producers using cutting edge 3D printing techniques to push the boundaries of fashion. From the runway to the DIY hackerspace, 3D printing and rapid prototyping have become an increasingly popular and accessible way to produce objects that are both highly complex and easily replicable.
Joris Debo, Creative Director (.MGX by Materialise)
Using an aerosol jet technology, Optomec are able to 3D print electronics onto complex 3D printed structures with conductive nano particles. The potential to add 3D printed conductive components to your designs will be a massive step forward in 3D printing when you can add another level of complexity to the products you design.
It will be interesting to see how 3D CAD software will approach this technology, because without the proliferation of software to design these electronic components, the adoption of the technology will be relatively limited. Similar to the ability to 3D print mulit-materials with the Objet Connex machines, it is the software and file handling that is still retarding the adoption of the process at Shapeways.
The demand for novel consumer and military electronic devices that pack more functionality into less space is driving the need for advanced manufacturing methods that tightly integrate electronic circuitry with physical packaging. 3D Printed UAV Wing The unique ability to print electronics directly onto 3D surfaces, for example on a cell phone case or an aircraft wing, makes Aerosol Jet an ideal solution for reducing device size and weight. Common electronic materials including conductor, dielectric, resistor, and semiconductor inks can be processed by the Aerosol Jet system to print conformal sensors, antennae, shielding and other active and passive components. Printing these electronic components directly on or inside the physical device eliminates the need for separate printed circuit boards, cabling and wiring thereby reducing weight and size while also simplifying the assembly process. Device performance can also be improved by eliminating protruding components such as antenna thereby reducing aerodynamic drag.
When you can 3D print electronics, what will you design? How much is the ability worth to you? Do you think this will be another game changer?
When the President of the United States mentions a technology such as 3D printing in the State of the Union address, you know his staff have undertaken substantial research from every possible angle, that his aides have spoken to engineers, economists and experts in manufacturing to understand the revolutionary potential. When Obama mentions a "network of additive manufacturing hubs," he is at the same time validating the Shapeways business model that consists of a network of manufacturing hubs, in both the USA and Europe, a network that brings manufacturing closer to the people that buy the products. Creating products and jobs locally.
When Obama says 3D printing will revolutionize manufacturing, he is not only speaking of the technologies we have at hand today, the technologies that allow Shapeways users to create their designs in Nylon or Stainless Steel to sell to people around the world, but also he is speaking of the technologies that will soon evolve. When you will be able to 3D print plastic and steel composites in a single 3D print, when you will be able to 3D print electronics into your products, when you will be able to make things that are beyond the realm of the imagination right now.
Think back to five years ago, when the ability to 3D print your ideas was extremely expensive and the option to buy and sell 3D printed products simply did not exist. Now for us at Shapeways it is the new normal. Obama and his advisors obviously think that 3D printed products will soon be the new normal for the rest of the world, really soon.
Sam Jacob has written an opinion piece on Dezeen that has a somewhat pessimistic take on the future of design and 3D printing. A world where "3D printing will merely bind us even more closely to fewer and fewer corporations" due to an iTunes like DRM controlled ecology with the only alternative being Pirate Bay style sites sharing inferior quality 3d files and bad scans.
Not content with only one negative scenario, Jacob goes on to imagine another, a world full of half finished, half baked mis-prints of ill thought out designs poorly realized. Ok, dropping an academic context to frame an overly negative viewpoint may help to give some credibility, but many people with great business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit think otherwise, people like Jeffrey Immelt the chief executive of GE, Carl Bass the CEO of Autodesk, and thousands of people using Shapeways to make and sell their 3D printed products to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Jacob does have a point when he discusses the division of labor from design;
"There is something undeniably appealing (to designers) in the removal of the production process between the designer and their artifact, a shortening of the distance between their imagination and its physical product. But part of this appeal is that it shifts the value of the object toward the designer rather than the labour of production."
But this division of design from labor is exactly what makes it possible for a designer to successfully scale their works for financial success, this is not something unique to design for 3D printing, it is typical to design. The difference now lies in craft, where a craftsperson can create their work using digital fabrication and thereby scale their work just as designers have. Their craft may be in the manipulation of digital tools, voxels and code rather than with hands and physical tools, but is craft just the same.
3D printing is already starting to free us from mass produced, corporate controlled forms of consumerism. It is relatively early in the growth of a technology and many of us are all still feeling our way to find the best use of the technology, whether it be biological, mechanical, gastronomical or to simply replace current forms of production with a more agile variant. The important thing is that it is already available for anyone to use with an ever growing breadth and diversity of materials and processes. Thanks to open source projects such as the RepRap and research labs in universities around the world focusing on ways to leverage the technologies in a myriad of ways. There may be some major players trying to capitalize on the growth of 3D printing but there are also thousands of bright young entrepreneurs who will leverage the technology in areas that are so innovative they will blaze their own trail into the future.
Back in January Shapeways participated in a 3D printing conference at the US Patent and Trademark Office in Washington DC. Alongside representatives from EOS, ExOne, MakerBot, Stratasys and 3D Systems we briefed staff from the USPTO and other interested parties on the history, present and possible futures of 3D printing, and how they might interact with the patent office.
It was a fantastic forward thinking move by the patent office to recognize that this is an area of growth that needs to be nurtured to realize the full potential. That while still protecting the intellectual property of those engaging in meaningful research, we do not close off the field with broad, over reaching patents that could really hamper the growth. Along with the representatives of the USPTO and companies involved in 3D printing, there were also interested stakeholders looking at the world of 3D printing and patents from various angles, including those that might try and control 3D printing with a digital rights management system, and others such as the EFF are looking to keep 3D printing as open as possible.
At Shapeways, we have been nurturing our 3D marketplace of 3D printed products for years as some of the best designers from all around the world are opening Shapeways shops and selling their 3D printed products on demand. Those designers are fully aware of the benefits of using 3D printing to make their products available to the public. The major benefits for designers being:
Designers do not need to invest financially in the product as all items are 3D printed on demand.
There is no inventory so no parts management.
Shapeways handles all production so designers do not need to source third party manufacturers.
Designers do not need to handle distribution, import or export duties, so they can sell to a worldwide audience with no additional complexities.
Shapeways handles all customer service, so designers can concentrate on what they do best, designing.
This works really well with the Shapeways business model that is all about empowering designers to sell their own products, and for anyone to buy those 3D printed products designed by some of the best designers around the world. It will be interesting to see how Sainsbury can leverage the same technology to be powerful enough to compete with what the Shapeways community has to offer, let alone their existing competitors.
Great to see it is on their radar.
If you want to learn how to get started designing for 3D printing we are running an introductory class in New York City on Thursday the 14th of February, 2013. The class is suitable for anyone, of any age who is interested in getting started 3D printing.
The Intro to Design for 3D Printing class will cover the basic principles behind design for 3D printing, the free tools available to get started and the materials and processes used to make your ideas real. Bring your Mac or PC laptop your charger, and an external mouse and create an account on Shapeways prior to the event and download free 3D modeling software 123D Design from Autodesk prior to the class so we can run through some of the basic tools, and maybe even design a little something.
Sign up via Skillshare and be sure to bring your laptop and mouse.