I recall writing on this issue a while ago (maybe two years) and I'm wondering if there have been any developments.
The way an object is oriented during printing can have a very marked effect upon its final appearance, especially it seems over flat surfaces. One orientation can give a very appealing 'topographical' effect, whereas another orientation can accentuate the horizontal/vertical prining lines, which in turn can interfere with modelling and mapping detail. To date there's no way of predicting this and you have to wait until a model appears and then have your heart sink or lift accordingly.
I previously received an answer that said this was being looked into as an upcoming option.
Have there been any developments with this?
By the way though...I'm very happy with Shapeways (I know it must be a sprawling beast to manage).....keep up the good work.