Price increase of $20 on the BrandingIrons

We have reduced the prices once more, check it out here.

We’ve increased the price of the Text BrandingIron and the Logo BrandingIron by $20. A customized 3D printed branding iron will now cost you $45 (28 Euros) including shipping and VAT if you live in the European Union and $38 including shipping if you do not. So depending on where you live it will now cost you $45 or $38 to get your words; your 2D design, logo or image turned into a mini-3D printed-Stainless Steel Branding Iron. 

So why did we increase the price of the BrandingIron? We are simply exhibiting expected behavior for a monopolist. After conquering and dominating the customizable 3D printing mini-branding iron market we of course will raise prices. Just kidding, but the real reason might be more interesting.

One of the truly special things about Shapeways is that we believe that it is our task to democratize manufacturing. We believe that we have the opportunity to provide anyone, anywhere with manufacturing capability. The steps we take, each day, slowly but surely walk towards that goal chiefly consist of us making Shapeways more affordable and more inspiring for our community.

Inspiration is why we develop things such as the BrandingIron. It is meant as a demonstration of what can be done, a new direction, a hint, a trigger for many other designs by our community. Our willingness to earn less than any other company, our scale and our ability to optimize the processes we use better than any other company mean that we can keep costs low. This means that more people can make more stuff. Rinse, repeat.

Thanks to Boing Boing, Wired, Make, many other blogs and people on Twitter (thank you all!)the BrandingIron became a hit. At the ridiculously low price it was at, the product helps spread the word for Shapeways. We now believe that we can use the success of the BrandingIron to in fact subsidize our community rather than offer it at the same low prices as everything else on the site. So we put $20 on top of each BrandingIron so we can build new software and buy more 3D printers. We’re also curious to see how this affects demand and to what extent people will be less willing to buy them now. What is the ideal price point for a BrandingIron? How much will you pay to have your logo turned into 3D printed metal? How much is a ‘fun idea’ an ‘edgy’ concept? How much does unique cost?

I’d also like to thank everyone that was so concerned with the legal aspects of this. I would also like to reiterate that the objects brought from Shapeways are only for decorative purposes and they are not suited for any other purpose. We wouldn’t like to go looking for the edge of the envelope only to find a paper cut.   

Note to self: Digg bait still not working 


  1. Shelley Noble

    I don’t mind you setting prices as you wish, I don’t mind you trying to get picked up by a specific site to expand your profile, I don’t mind you creating on the edge. But I do mind you saying the BrandingIron is functional but not to be used, calling it decorative to cover your ass for legal reasons. That strikes me as wholly disingenuous on your part. Which, can quickly cancel out any good faith units you’ve built with the online community. Honesty prevails here.

    Make things that are safe to use, use disclaimers for orders, say things as they are. My opinion.

    1. Joris


      The point is a fair one. And I totally get what you want to say. I’ve used it and would recommend it to friends. But, it does get hot and someone might burn themselves with it. Logic dictates that a cautionary note would suffice. But, because we live in a world where your washing machine comes with a warning telling you not to put children or cats in it, I have to be confusing indeed.

      So should we not sell it because of this? If our community thought that this was the case I’ll stop selling it. So tell me and I’ll take it offline. We live and die by those credits you mention, and we realize that. We are also building an as ethical, honest, trustworthy a business as we can.

      I’m not trying to be disingenuous. I’m trying to balance a fine line between “making” and possible legal risks to something we’ve worked very hard to build, Shapeways. How should we phrase it? What should we do? Or should we just cancel this?

      I have an inherent problem with a state of affairs where fire, manned flight, the internal combustion engine and most innovation would be blocked by “legal.” I understand that legal structures, liability and warranty have evolved to protect consumers but I at least hope that people understand that I’m trying to balance a series of best interests here. So what do you suggest?

    2. MaryAnn

      After waiting over 3 weeks I’ve received the branding iron that I was going to give to my daughter in college to use on her things. When I saw it on an e-mail ‘Thrillist’ had sent to me I thought it was a clever idea and something that would differentiate some of her things from the identical items her 3 roommates own. The site you are taken to from the ‘Thrillist’ e-mail said your branding iron only worked with certain lighters. The only place I could find them was online so I bought some – the smallest amount you could buy was 20. (In hindsight probably pretty dumb but I figured the lighters wouldn’t last very long if you were branding with them.) When I received the branding iron there were no instructions on using it so I went to your website to make a copy of the instructions to include when I shipped everything to her. Now I find out on your website that these are just ‘decorative’ and they can ‘explode’ if you use them. How do you figure it’s ok to tell people they need to buy certain lighters for the branding iron to work and to show pictures of what the brands look like on wood and then while they are waiting for their branding iron to arrive you decide they can’t be used? I really didn’t want to pay even the $25 the iron cost me just to make a ‘decoration’ out of it and the lighters required to use it. I feel really taken by your company.

  2. codec6

    hmm, I was about to order this, as something that might get used a few times but was more of a “neat thing”. I had it saved in an open tabs for a week or so and then when I finally got around to ordering the price jumped by $20, the price was high for what it is before, but something I could live with, but now it doesn’t feel right to me considering I wanted simple text , two letters.
    I wanted to give you feedback since you mentioned above you were curious about where the right price point was, in my mind it was the original price.

    good luck though, neat idea

  3. duann

    This is a great reversal to the mass production model. I would love to know what mass customization guru’s Joseph Pine and Frank Piller would think of such an open business strategy.. To increase the cost of the most popular item, to help fund the more individualised items being made….

    well done


    1. Andreas Jaritz


      What you describe reminds me a bit of the “freemium” strategy popular with digital goods (software…). But here you don’t have e.g two fixed prices (nothing and something; as with the freemium strategy; check out Chris Anderson’s book “Free” to learn more about that). You have rather one price that changes (it actually almost gets doubled, depending on VAT etc…i know)

      So one item sold at a higher price subsidizes loads of items sold for a pretty low price

      I do agree with you that it is an interesting experiment but I am a bit skeptical about doubling the price. How do subsidizing low price items and doubling the price of a best-seller go together?

      Maybe because cow-populations are growing so fast that cowboys can’t get enough branding-irons… ;)

      Shapeways will surely reveal soon what it’s all about, aren’t you?


  4. Nick Taylor

    I think you’re breaking an unspoken social contract that there is a meaningful relationship between the value of something, and the price.

    1. Joris

      I love the comments on this post so far!

      So is a ‘neat idea’ worth $20 but not $40? Or is that simply outside a lot of people’s impulse buy range? Is price really a comparative store of value? Or does it send a lot of different signals? Do people believe in “right” prices, scientifically derived ones?

  5. Shapeways Blog

    The Shapeways 3D printed Stainless Steel BrandingIron Co-Creator is one of the more creative and insane things we’ve ever done. You type in your text or send us a link to a logo and we model and 3D print a mini branding iron for you. The branding iron

  6. Kevin

    I was considering buying one (or a few) of these until this obviously unnecessary price increase. Thanks?

  7. David Drummond

    In re: the relationship between pricing and value (cf. Nick’s post). The value is not set by Shapeways; it is set by the consumer. Each consumer will likely derive a different amount of value from the object — in this case, the branding iron. By setting the price (much) higher, Shapeways is betting that the decline in the number of people who are willing to pay that price, multiplied by the new price, is larger than the number of people willing to pay the old price multiplied by the old price. Assuming a moderately rational consumer (let’s give ourselves some credit), that’s roughly a bet that the value of the branding iron to an average consumer is in fact higher than SW initially thought.

    As for “unspoken social contracts,” I don’t think SW is breaking any. The only contract linking value and price is that if you set the price higher than the value, eventually no one will buy it. There is a naive notion that price should be linked to *cost*, which is quite different. SW’s cost for producing the branding iron didn’t change, but their price doubled. Oh goodness! This notion is naive because market pricing is driven by demand, with cost generally setting a minimum threshold for price (otherwise, there’s no profit!). For a non-essential item like a branding iron, no one can argue that they *need* the item and are thus being forced to pay a higher price. If you don’t think the value to you equals or exceeds the price, just don’t buy it. SW is not morally obligated to provide people with branding irons.

    This is a standard elasticity situation ( To Joris’s question, yes, I believe in semi-scientifically derived pricing, namely, that a price elasticity curve exists and that SW can, in principle, get some data about that curve by altering its pricing to see how demand changes. That kind of thing goes on all the time: they’re called “sales” and “one-time only deals” and “sorry, our sale ended yesterday” etc. etc. — most sophisticated companies are keenly tracking sales during each one of these events to better understand their demand curves.

    I think SW is doing exactly the right thing. Particularly by positioning this as a play for profit that gets plowed back into our community — that makes SW’s profit motive beneficial to us! (And I don’t doubt that SW is going to do exactly what they say.) I’m fascinated to see how the experiment turns out.

  8. matt

    I want to add my 2 cents as well… The original price was already dear, but I was willing to wear it and support small business. However, US$38 is ridiculous for a small piece of metal that goes on your lighter. I’m down in Australia, so I would have to pay an additional premium on exchange rate and postage.

    Your musings about “impulse buy range” and “scientifically derived prices” are risible… How about you take a serious look at the _value_ of this product and find some other way of funding your desired expansion… Your customers are more likely to encourage their friends to buy if they feel they got *value-for-money*. Attracting investors to invest in your company, instead of passing expansion costs on by way of a 100% mark-up, would screw your customers less.

    I look forward to cheap chinese knock-offs at a more reasonable price.

    1. Joris


      I understand that now. The “sticker shock”, “unreasonable-ness” and unexpectedness of the increase were negative effects and it was dumb of me to not consider them.

    2. Duann

      David’s understanding seems to represent a broader understanding of what shapeways offers rather than impose products that are not needed

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