Microproduction is a term coined by Jessica Hasson(who helps us with our PR) that describes the larger movement that Shapeways is a part of.
People expect more from products and they want more control over what they purchase. This is where micro production, the process of producing items on a small on-demand scale rather than in mass, can deliver.
1. Flexibility to Customize. Ecommerce is bracketed by methods of mass customization. Producing on a smaller scale allows companies to give their users options when it comes to making their unique item. Today's consumers do not want to buy one of 100,000; they want to have something unique. Ecommerce sites that can offer options and flexibility in customization are experiencing an uptick in sales.
2. Shorter Shelf Life. Most companies that deal in storing product know that inevitably you have boxes of dinged, nicked, broken or unsellable merchandise. Moreover, the gap between production and sale can be a long wait and it is estimated that 7-8% of all merchandise will be damaged. With micro production, items are only made as needed, reducing the costly expense of reparation.
3. Reduced Startup Costs. Services like Shapeways.com, allow users to individual unique products at a low-cost, without the high overhead of mass production. This allows smaller start-up companies or large companies stay competitive by only creating the amount of product they need.
4. Less Waste, More High Quality Products. No longer is micro production expensive and cumbersome, with plastics and metals printing between 1.29 USD and 3.50 USD per cubic centimeter - individual production of items is the key to tapping into the long tail with high-quality products and less waste overall in production.
5. On the Cutting Edge of Technology. Micro production, is a technology that will constantly be changing and improving making for a boom in ecommerce as new technologies are introduced and faster, easier methods are brought to everyday consumers.
These are all very good points... except the one about "Low Cost".
I've gone to great lengths to make my items as hollow and efficient as possible, but I wouldn't call any of them low-cost. They would be low cost when they are 10 cents a CC, not $1.29. At the current prices, these items are best marketed towards collectors with a love of unique items, and deep pockets!
When I go to buy objects made by others, that's how I buy. I don't mind spending $40 for something that is rare and amazing.
Of course, white plastic is a bit bland. Now, if I could buy objects that were either solid metal, or at least metal plated, then my wallet becomes more flexible. But even my wallet has it's limits. $9 a CC, and prices costing several hundred per item, is just too much. These costs need to come down sharply to really open up the market. Electroforming could make this possible.
you are totally right, we would like to be low cost and if you compare the process to any others that create unique items it is by far the cheapest process but..in the scheme of things we are not as cheap as we would like to be and not cost competitive with mass produced items.