Today marks a milestone for Shapeways. On behalf of the
Shapeways team, we are truly excited to announce a new round of financing of $30 million led by
Andreessen Horowitz, with Chris Dixon joining our executive board. Our existing investors – Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Lux Capital – also participated in this round.
All of our investors believe, like us, that 3D printing has the potential to completely change the world. With this funding, we will grow our team (we’re hiring!), build more factories around the world, and solve challenging technology problems. Though many people have heard about 3D printing, we have a ways to come. We will make our service much easier to use. We will explore the frontiers of 3D printing materials, enabling YOU to make and purchase any product imaginable.
As we embark on this next phase in our company’s journey, we wanted to take this opportunity to look back at how far we’ve come.
3D Printing is Changing the World
When we started in 2007, very few people had even heard of 3D printing outside of the engineering and design communities. It was mainly used for prototyping. Today, 3D printing has taken the manufacturing industry by storm and everyone is talking about this groundbreaking technology. President Obama even recently called out 3D printing as one of the important technologies that can bring manufacturing back to the USA.
We believe that 3D printing is fundamentally changing the manufacturing ecosystem in its entirety – how and where products are made and by whom. For the last century, big companies were in charge: they determined what consumers wanted and made those products in large quantities using mass manufacturing. Now, thanks to 3D printing, those days are over. This technology enables everyone to create unique products on demand, putting the customer in control and localizing the manufacturing process.
How Shapeways Fits In
We founded Shapeways in 2007, but weren’t a typical startup: we made things. And we built our business around four key elements:
We want to enable everyone to turn their ideas into reality. We pioneered the first customization software called Creators, or 3D printing apps, and we’ve now made this technology accessible through our API. Over 1 million designs have been uploaded to Shapeways.com to-date. And not only can you work with a designer to customize a product, you can also create a product from scratch with easy-to-use templates.
Back in 2007, 3D printing was expensive. We knew that if we wanted to make the technology affordable for everyone, the price needed to drop. We’re proud that we have already succeeded in lowering prices significantly, but we‘re not stopping there. Remember, the cost of an iPhone case was about $70 in 2008. Today, it’s below $20. We believe we can lower the cost much further and this will result in lower prices for everyone using Shapeways.
In the early days, in addition to higher costs, the variety of materials was limited and the quality of the products made was quite low. Today, we offer over 30 materials and finishes, including high-quality sterling silver and food-safe ceramics. We plan on adding many more.
Shapeways Shops enable anyone to launch a business and sell products worldwide. Today, the Shapeways marketplace is comprised of over 10,000 shop owners. They are the future of small business: they don’t have inventory, they rapidly iterate on products, and they have direct access to customer feedback. We will continue to invest in tools and resources to ensure they become even more successful.
Our community is a very important part of Shapeways. You share the belief that 3D Printing is incredible and are as passionate as we are about making products. In the forums and during meetups, you continually surprise us with the ideas that you bring to life. We are thankful for your passion and inspiration.
Looking back, we are encouraged by how far we have come. But we are even more excited for the incredible journey ahead. We hope you will join us for it!
Over the past three years shapeways has grown from an ambitious idea, to a vibrant community passionate about making their ideas real with 3D printing. In that time we have introduced 21 new materials, experimented with processes and pricing models. The time has come to consolidate the pricing structure to be more consistent, and better reflect fabrication, handling and distribution costs.
The basic philosophy
Before going into the details, it is important to state that our goal is to make it possible for everybody to make whatever they want using 3D printing. To enable this, we feel it should not be the case that large models are too expensive and small models are too cheap. The new price structure is based on the true cost Shapeways is incurring to print all the awesome models made by the community. Why is this important? It gives an incentive to behaviors that helps the community. As an example, shipping a $100 order in one shipment is more efficient than doing so in four shipments. In the old system, there was no incentive for this, with a shipping charge there is. If we all behave in a way that makes Shapeways more efficient, Shapeways will give back those efficiencies in lower prices. That in the end will make it possible for all of us to make whatever we want!
What have we learned
Our current system has “free” shipping and in quite a few cases does not charge a handling fee per model. Why is this the case? When we started we wanted to make the pricing system as easy as possible. The result is that small models and small orders are actually costing us money while large parts and large orders are generating a lot of money. This is, we feel, in both cases not right. Everybody should pay what it costs to produce and ship their products, plus some margin for Shapeways. In doing so we do not penalize certain models or subsidize others and in the end this will make it easier for us to lower prices faster, which is our goal.
The cost of 3D printing is made up of 4 major components:
Material (the material used, the support used, cleaning and polishing materials)
Machine cost (the amount of machine time attributed to the production of the product)
Labor (preparing / checking the file, operating the machines, cleaning the product, sorting and packing the product)
Shipping (shipping cost with UPS)
It is quite easy to reflect the material and machine cost of the products made in the cost per volume (and this is how we started). The cost of labor is reasonably constant per product, whether big or small (the handling cost). The cost of shipping is mostly the same whether one or multiple products are ordered. The main difference with shipping is the shipping destination. Currently our cost within certain European countries, the US and Canada are similar, where we have higher cost when shipping to the rest of the world.
Therefore we will introduce new prices based on:
price per product = handling fee per product + cost per volume of product
price per order = price of products + shipping cost
We are proud to announce the first 3d printed bikini,
made in partnership between Shapeways and Continuum Fashion.
It started in August of 2010 when Mary Huang of Continuum Fashion
visited our booth at SIGGRAPH and was immediately captivated by our Digi-Fabric
sample printed from White Strong & Flexible. "You could make a bikini
from this," Mary said, and the project started. Jenna Fizel then also
joined Continuum, contributing her background in 3D computational geometry, and
together they aimed to make the first wearable, accessible 3D printed garment.
Over the following months much research and trial and error was done to model
the highly complex 3D structure that would create a design that is visually
striking as well as comfortable to wear. Early in 2011 the first samples of the
now finished product were printed, and the photoshoot with the first full
prints were done in May. Today the product is ready for launch and is available
for sale at a reasonable price through Continuum's Shapeways shop.
The significance of this launch should not be underestimated. Of
course there has been some 3d printed fashion on catwalks around the world, but
those were concept pieces that are impractical for usual wear, and not readily buy-able. Continuum is demonstrating that with the current state of the
technology and a platform like Shapeways you can make an innovative fashion
design that is immediately accessible to everyone. This is a totally different
industry that can start to use 3d printing for personal production, which is
huge. The Strong & Flexible material (selective laser sintered nylon) is very
versatile, and has proven itself in a number of unexpected applications. As the
technology gets better and even smaller and thinner structures can be printed
the possibilities for 3d printed fashion will grow.
It is great to see the first 3d printed clothing. It will hopefully
inspire the fashion and couture industry to imagine new directions in how to
use 3d printing. Meanwhile we are proud to have to worked with Continuum on
this product and further possibilities. It truly shows that 3d printing is a
serious production technology. We can't wait to see what's next!
We are really excited to announce that we have our own 3D printer!
Working together with EOS we now have an EOS P100 SLS printer in our Eindhoven office! As we had to move in Eindhoven, we have moved to a location where we can house some production of our own.
Why? Well we have several good reasons: - We want to learn, learn, learn about 3D printing and nothing beats having your own machine in that respect. Can we print even higher details? And if so how can we do that reliably? Can we make incredible stuff? Can we make stuff more affordable? How can we automate more of the production process etc. - We want to support rush orders more reliably. From time to time we get requests to ship parts within one or two days. Having our own machine we can simply use it to get those time critical items out to you before you even know it! With the Strong and Flexible materials it is possible to turn around orders within 48 hours. We will announce rush orders as a new option soon. - Cause its fun! We have learned already that having your own SLS machine is not straight forward. These are big machines and require 380V, compressed air, air conditioning etc. We have also learned that cleaning in different ways can enhance level of details, so expect cool high res prints!
Does this mean Shapeways will no longer work with partners for 3D printing? No, absolutely not, we will keep working with existing and new partners, but we also wanted to have our own and now we do!
All of us at Shapeways are excited to announce that our community now includes a world record-breaker. Renowned puzzle designer and long-time Shapeways community member Oskar van Deventer has seen his ambitious 17x17x17 rubiks cube go from a wild idea to a real-life 3D printed puzzle. Congrats Oskar!
Oskar started designing his puzzles as a boy at the age of 12 in the Netherlands. More than 30 years later, he has a reputation as one of the world's most prolific puzzle creators. Oskar first started 3D printing twisty puzzles thanks to Bram Cohen, who began posing challenges to Oskar back in 2008. Today, several of his innovations are being sold in traditional toy stores and lots more are available through 3D printing in his Shapeways Shop. Most recently, Oskar's twisty puzzles have been used as a very original way to propose.
When Oskar heard of the world records being set for twisty puzzles, like the 7x7x7, 9x9x9 and 11x11x11 by Panagiotis Verdes from Greece, he wanted to try his hand at setting a new record himself. With sponsorship from his close friend Claus Wenicker, Oskar set about designing and testing a number of prototypes, and his third attempt was printed successfully with Shapeways. Sorting and dyeing all 1539 pieces took Oskar 10 hours of work, followed by 5 hours of assembling. The result is an oversized (140 millimeter, 5.5 inches) and fully functioning "Over The Top" 17x17x17 puzzle.
Oskar will be in New York City on Saturday Feb. 12th, where he'll be unveiling his "Over the Top" cube.
This is a short impression of the first week-end of the Dutch Design Week. Above you can see our booth (located in "het klokgebouw" at Strijp S) with the lamps (30 pencil icosahedron)and 36 pencil bowls from Michiel Cornelissen. It was fun to see that yesterday the pencil bowl was picked up by the RTL4 news. Michiel was there promoting his designs as was Virtox. Of course there were also a few of us (Robert, Arno and Maartje) around! Below you can see Virtox' Gyro the cube and Shell-light.
Next to these beautiful designs, we also have designs from N-E-R-V-O-U-S (pictures will follow), our own Lightpoem and other designs at our booth. Of course there is lots and lots more to see at the Dutch Design Week. It is a bit of Design overload! So go check it out. The Design Week lasts till the end of the month!
Things are really hectic at the office. First of all because of all the media attention we are getting because of our fund raising announcement and now we have been nominated for the Accenture Innovation Awards!
Shapeways has been nominated in the category best web and we have been nominated for the overall price (Blauwe Tulp). We need your help to win, because the winner is decided by voting. Please visit our page here where you can see my pitch of Shapeways and on the right top you can leave your email address to cast your vote ("stem"). The text is in Dutch, but basically describes what we do. Your email address will not be used for anything else but validating your vote and if you want to opt-in (checkbox) you get updates from them on the contest.
If we win Shapeways will get €50.000 in media help and €40.000 in cash. So if you want Shapeways to win cast your vote. We will then spend the money on features most asked for by the community.
We have great news to share with you. Shapeways recently raised $5 million from Union Square Ventures in New York and Index Venture] in London. This means that Shapeways is now an independent company with Philips, Union Square and Index Ventures as shareholders. The investment enables us to grow the team, add more features even swifter and open our new Headquarters in New York!
Three and a half years ago (the 1st of March 2007) we started working for the Lifestyle Incubator of Philips Electronics in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The Incubator is a great environment that enables entrepreneurs with new ideas and business concepts to grow those into companies. It provides the experience and resources of a big company like Philips and the benefits of a start-up environment. When the company is successful it becomes a part of one of Philips' divisions or spins out to become an independent company. The idea we got money from the Incubator management to work on, was enabling mass customization using rapid manufacturing. This was the birth of Shapeways.
Initially we had to do a lot of research, including visits to RAPID (getting to know the 3D printing market) and SIGGRAPH in San Diego looking for upload validation and creator software. In September of that same year the software development started on the first elements of the Shapeways service. In December, the first, albeit very conceptual, creator was running enabling us to convince Philips to continue.
In February of 2008 it happened! The first part completed the upload - test - manufacture - ship cycle. We were holding the first Shapeways manufactured piece in our hands. Now we had to start testing, first with friends and family, later with friends of friends. Finally in July 2008 Shapeways launched with a press announcement - a unique service enabling everybody to make, customize and sell unique products made using 3D printing.
At first, we offered one material, but 2 months later we already offered 3 materials. In the meantime, we also launched our first "creator" the Lightpoem, at SIGGRAPH 2008 in Los Angeles. The creators were the first step in making unique products very easy to make for everyone. This is one of the core elements of what we want to do at Shapeways, making it easy and fun for everyone to make whatever they want. Either for a hobby, as a personalized gift or just something really nice for yourself.
Since then, we have built on that initial platform: In January 2009, by adding the Shops, where everyone can sell their products. Then in August 2009 by adding the Co-creator platform making customizing products really easy. And on a regular basis by adding different materials, including metal and glass, materials that have only recently become available. Last, but not least, Shapeways has a vibrant, friendly and helpful community, that shares our passion, of more than 50,000 members! As a result, there are now more than 20,000 makeable products publicly available on Shapeways and lots more privately. There are more than 1,000 shops and close to 800 customizable products. On a monthly basis, we produce more than 10,000 unique products and these numbers are growing fast.
As early as 2008, we discussed with the Lifestyle Incubator management what the future of Shapeways would look like. Would we become part of a division of Philips - we could not stay in the Lifestyle Incubator forever - or an independent company. Both are great options to choose from, but we decided we want the ability to maximize our growth and do business with anyone as an independent company. This implied looking for outside funding to grow Shapeways, as we are currently not able yet to pay all of our bills ourselves. So we had to go and find investor money. This was a first for us and also not easy, as the concept of Shapeways is so different and new. Therefore, it is really great to have found great partners in Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures and Ben Holmes from Index Ventures together with Simon Levene. They believe in Shapeways and have funded us. Shapeways has now become an independent company, which we are really excited about.
So what are we going to do in the future? We are passionate about improving our service. We have been doing that and we will continue to do so, perhaps even faster than ever. Expect the Shops to improve based on feedback and the Co-creation platform to become a lot more powerful. We will make uploading models easier and we will add more materials, reduce lead-times and lower prices.
Since the start, Shapeways has been located in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which has been great for us with the Technical University and the Design Academy providing both technical and design input. However, with our ambitious growth plans we also had to look at moving to a place where we could really find all the people we need both from a design and a technology perspective. With a big chunk of our community in the US we also wanted to be closer to them. That is why we decided to move to New York, the great melting pot where media, design, culture and technology come together. Our office in Eindhoven remains with our great service team and supply chain management.
Do you want to help? Perhaps you can! We are looking for enthusiastic, talented developers, a UI specialist and more, to come and join the team in New York. Do you feel as passionate about creating as we do? Check out our job page.
We would also like to thank a few people who gave us the opportunity as early as 2007 to work on Shapeways and make it the company it now has become. Without their vision and coaching this would not have been possible. Thanks to Carlos Zwikker for your patience and coaching on all aspects. Thanks to Steve Seuntjens for your help on the financial side, with your knowledge of venturing and your support to get the deal done. Last, but not least, to Jos Burger for your advice and coaching.
kind regards, Peter Weijmarshausen & the Shapeways Team
As you may know Shapeways has attended Makerfaire 2010 in San Mateo. It was great to be back and the whole team enjoyed it. It was cool to meet community members. Some are using us very often, others know us but still want to try for the first time. It was cool to see Bulatov and also to see a lot of people getting really enthusiastic about what we are doing. In the two days we handed out over 2000 flyers and the demand was so big, we needed to have more made
The nice thing about show is, that it is fantastic to meet you all and learn what you really want, what you like and do not like about Shapeways. The key learning for me was that our delivery time needs to be faster and that all our materials are really appreciated and should be further expanded.
In the little bit of spare time we walked around and right accross from our booth was Ifixit and I think they have a great idea. They are helping everybody in repairing their own things, like computers, cars etc. The key element is that we are all entitled to manuals to repair our own belongings, to products we can repair AND to spare parts at reasonable prices. The latter is something we could help with!
The icing on the cake of 2 really cool days was that we won the Makerfair Editor's Choice Award ! To us this means people start to appreciate what we are doing and we would like to thank you, our community for making it possible together with us!
The renderer we currently use for thumbnails in the gallery and the model details pages has its limitations and we've wanted to improve these previews for a long time.
The reason being that we want to give everyone visiting Shapeways a better impression of what the actual model will look like. One of the limitations of the current renderer is that it lacks smoothing, which gives ugly results when triangles have large surface areas. Moreover the lack of depth perception in the rendered image, the overall dark look of the gallery and the somewhat odd camera position are things we wanted to improve upon.
For this reason we have been developing a new render solution. And we want to give you a sneak peek on where we are now. We are very curious as to what you think! Below two images: one of the old and one of thenew renderings. Lots of thanks to Bart, Robert and team for making this possible. Please comment and let us know what you think!
It is really cool to see how coloring your own 3D models is starting to take shape. We had a lot of requests here at Shapeways how to paint/color your own models and the tutorial featuring it is now available here.
Have a look at the pictures below
Or have a look at these little rings colored with Ecoline, thanks to Peter Paul who really enjoyed himself getting all the colors he had on them
Looking forward to more creative colorfull creations in our forums or elsewhere!
To share please upload nice pictures to your model details page or in our forum at the "it arrived" topic.
Anybody in the neighborhood? Tomorrow
Marleen and I will be representing Shapeways at Play 2008 at
Haas School of Business in Berkeley California. And we would like to
meet you in person.
Play 2008 is the Berkeley Digital Media
Conference organized by its students. This year's theme is
'Disruption: Changes in the digital media landscape'. Next to
companies like Cooliris, and Etchstar.com, Shapeways is an example of how the Internet changes how creatives
distribute and monetize art and design work.
Hope to see you or otherwise stay posted on this blog for a short review about the conference.
we are going to be at Siggraph! I am quite proud to announce that Shapeways will have a booth at Siggraph (#138).
The reason why this is something special is, that it goes back to 1999, when I was asked by Ton Roosendaal of Not a Number (Blender) to help him with the booth of Not a Number for Siggraph. This is the coolest show to be if you are into 3D! Now, after I have visited Siggraph 3 times (2x for NaN, last year for Shapeways) it is going to happen: Shapeways will have it's own booth at Siggraph and there we will announce something really cool.
So, please come and visit us at Siggraph on the 12-14 of August at the Los Angeles convention center. We will have some really exiting news and fun stuff to show. Also we will be organizing a drink on one of the evenings. If you are intending to visit, let us know on our forum, or in a comment to this post.
today we launched our new look and feel of the website, of which we are all very proud. It is a nice moment, to share a little of the process with you.
In January this year we started the process to develop our own brand, including name, personality and look and feel. It was a fun process which we tried to do using as much input from people inspired by the Shapeways idea as possible. The first deliverable from the sessions was our new name: Shapeways. We also gave our brand a lot of thought and this all came together (being an internet service) in the look and feel of our portal, together with some new features.
The new look and feel was ready in April. Now our partner iBuildings had to implement it for us. This was a lot of work, as our new look also changed the functionality quite significantly. Look for instance at the new way the pictures of "you and your design" are displayed next to the 3D model. As I felt very passionate about the new look, I could not wait for it to be ready to launch.
Today we were able to release it and I really hope you all like our new look and website as much as we do and you have fun using our service and explore the exiting new possibilities that 3D printing offers to you.
Just to let you know that, yes, we are looking for new techniques and materials which might be interesting to offer to you. One of the new materials we are looking at, as you can see in the picture is indeed metal! Using a technique which is called Metal Laser Sintering, where a laser melts tiny particles of metal together to form the object. It is a bit like Selective Laser Sintering
(SLS), which is used with nylon. MLS uses a metal powder and technically it is a bit more complicated. The positioning of the object(s), for optimal support and heat transport, and finishing of the objects needs more knowledge/experience and treatments.
But then the photo shows that it is worth it.
We would really like to know what you think! Is metal cool? Also what would you make if we would offer metal? Please let us know.