We’re celebrating a huge 3D printing milestone this week: Shapeways has printed over 5 million community-designed Strong & Flexible products on EOS printers. For those of us who have been working and watching for consumer 3D printing to realize its potential, 5 million individual products is a very big deal. And what that means for the industry is that since 2010, Shapeways and EOS have created and now grown 3D printing “software as a service” for everyday people.

While the overall 3D printing industry largely focuses on enterprises and industrial uses, Shapeways exists to take the power of that innovation and put it in the hands of people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. Unlike the early consumer 3D printing industry that focused on desktop printers, we created a service business model that enables creators to access the best and most innovative technologies without constantly buying new machines themselves.

EOS has been a key partner, providing the most innovative technology for selective laser sintering (SLS), or powder bed infusion. The company is the leading machine manufacturer and materials supplier for SLS industrial 3D printing, which is known for having the best repeatable quality result — key to serving our million-strong community of creators. EOS also gives Shapeways a competitive advantage beyond quality and consistency: access to material parameters unavailable from other technologies — in any color, size, or repeatable dimensional accuracy. The powder bed acts as a natural support structure for parts, enabling geometries that are difficult to print with stereolithography and fused filament fabrication. And quite simply, it is one of the most forgiving materials processes as the world of 3D creators rapidly expands – with versatility for tech accessories, jewelry, eyewear, scaled models, fixture, mechanical parts, and more.

Our factories house 19 industrial-sized EOS 3D systems that print thousands of products at once, running 24/7. With roughly 200,000 unique designs uploaded each month, we’re pioneering high-mix, high volume production.

As Adam Penna, EOS Sales and Marketing Lead put it, “We have supported Shapeways since its early days and we’re listening closely to them as a customer and to their community for improvement of processes involved in the digital value chain related to industrialized production as well as innovation on what’s next.” At 5 million products printed, we and EOS are celebrating the milestone — and then getting back to work building the accessible 3D printing service of the future.