Shapeways, The Community

The Shapeways Co-Creator Platform


The Shapeways Co-Creator Platform and
what it means

Co-Creation is the general tendency of
companies to work together with their customers in order to create
value for them both. CK Pralahad, one of the co-coiners of
the term has

”Think of Google. I can personalise
my own page, I can create iGoogle. I decide what I want. Google
understands that it can have a hundred million consumers, but each
one can do what they want with its platform.”

With iGoogle, Google makes the
platform, the content is provided by Google and many other publishers
and users make it meaningful by personalizing the page to their

The Shapeways Co-Creator Platform is
our way of taking co-creation and 3D printing to combining the two. 

A designer can take a single design and
turn that design into a template. Within the variables set out by the
designer the buyer cant hen adjust or specify his own unique design
within the confines of that template. Shapeways does the production,
shipping, billing & customer service.

The customer can then very easily
customize, personalize and create his own unique objects to his or
her specifications. The Co-Creator Platform allows anyone buying a
gift, for themselves or others, to tap into the skill and creativity
of the thousands of designers, artists & animators on Shapeways.

A designer can now take any design they
have and using Shapeways make it into something others can adapt and
customize. The advantages for the designer are:

  • Ship & sell real physical objects
    worldwide with start up costs of a few hours of your time.
  • Make unique designs for others in
    comparatively little time.
  • Initialize and own the initial creativity and creative process.
  • There is also no risk of designing
    something without getting paid

This last point is the biggest
practical difference and most unique thing about the Co-Creation
platform. You could have previously entered into design competitions
or do work made to order online. But, these both bring risks to the

In a “made to order” scenario all
the work before the customer agrees to buy the product is a risk
taken on by the designer. Small errors in scoping, finding out what
the customer wants could waste hours and end up underpaying or
resulting in the designer not getting paid at all. Even if all goes
well the constant pitching, emailing back and forth, negotiation and
work to get a customer to choose you is a waste of the designers

Competitions are really made to order
work whereby hundreds of thousands are asked to do a “made to
order” assignment but where you end up paying only one. This
clearly would provide uneven & unsure returns for participants. A
competition is great for the organizer because it means that much
more effort goes into your design than if you just paid one person.
This is why we use competitions for fun and to inspire our community
on Shapeways. However, when it comes to tools that we deploy to let
our designers make money we have purposefully avoided competitions.

With a template a designer knows ahead
of time how much time he or she will spend in customizing each
resulting design. The returns for the designer would be more constant
and more predictable. The designer gets to decide how much they want
to earn for a quantity of work that they can estimate. And possibly
most importantly the customer only comes to them once they’ve already
paid for the product. This means that expectations, returns and
deliverables are managed for both the designer and that designer’s
customer on Shapeways

We think that the Co-Creator Platform
points towards a future where consumers can design many of the
objects that populate their lives and where designers can become
“brands of one” by having their own production capacity.

Please note that co-creation does not
consist of co-developing or co-designing products themselves. This
process is co-design and could also occur between designer and
customer but a better example of this would be our Creators
such as the Ringpoem Creator

For an overview of some short
definitions of the relevant buzzwords you can check out the list below.

Mass customization- Is allowing the
customer to have and even create is own individual product or

Co-design, also spelled codesign is
when a customer gets together with a designer and they both design
the final product together.

Open innovation: is the collection and
collation of customer input and ideas to develop new services,
products and concepts.

Crowdsourcing is when a group of people
are asked to perform a certain task or tasks to help achieve a
common objective.

Co-Creation is the general tendency of
companies to work together with their customers in order to create
value for them both. A classic example of this is iGoogle or Netvibes
where the company provides a platform or tool that the customer can
personalize to his or her liking.

Competitions as in a traditional design
competition is in my opinion none of these. Since it is just a
‘brief’ you send out to many people and end up paying only one. This
is not the route to go through because in the long run it would limit
the quality, variety and earning potential of our community.

“made to order” according to me
does also not apply since it is simply a brief that one would send to
a single person asking them to build whatever the brief says. Granted
the difference between the Platform and made to order is at first
glance a small one but by putting the designer in charge of the
initiation of the project will over time lead to significant deviation between the two.

Depending on who you listen to or how
narrowly or broadly define each term, what Shapeways is doing could
possibly be all of these terms.

Our Creator products are pure mass
customization tools. We develop a piece of software and a template
and the customer gets to, within the confines of this template,
create his own unique product.

Shapeways as an upload service whereby
people get to upload their own designs that we can then produce
could also be seen as mass customization & co-creation.

Our Shapeways Shops where any designer
can upload a design and then sell it could be seen as co-design, open
innovation, crowdsourcing and even co-creation itself.

The community
member feedback, forum discussions and emails we listen to and
discuss actually make up a significant portion of our own software
development roadmap. With a little stretch this could be seen as
co-design, co-creation and even crowdsourcing.

Now that you know the future of production and design, what are you going to do about it?

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