Author Archives: Pete

About Pete

CEO / Co-founder Shapeways

Shapeways receives the first HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printer!

Posted by in 3D Printer

Today we’re super excited to announce a massive step in a partnership that will help revolutionize the way the world looks at product design and digital manufacturing. We have installed the new HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer at our factory in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

Why are we excited? Back in 2014 we learned from Hewlett Packard, a company that holds true to a long history of deep innovation, that they were working on a new 3D printer. They told us that the new machine would be built for finished manufacturing (not only prototyping), would deliver great quality, would be 10x faster than existing machines and deliver parts at greatly reduced cost.  We know that better quality, lead times of 1 or 2 days and lower prices are exactly what the market needs.

That is why, in October that same year, we announced a partnership with Hewlett Packard.  This collaboration will enable both Shapeways and HP to work side-by-side to take 3D printing and digital manufacturing to a new level, with the official introduction of their new HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing System.

During the last year and a half, teams at both HP and Shapeways have been working together forging the next milestone, which we are celebrating today; the announcement of this new printer by HP at RAPID and it’s first installation in our Eindhoven factory.

Being the first to take delivery of a prototype on this new platform in our Eindhoven factory, will enable a constant stream of information and feedback between HP and Shapeways.  This work will be focused on making sure the quality, speed, and experience is second to none.  (Seen here with Virginia Palacio from HP with Stefan Rink, our VP of Manufacturing)

In the early stages of testing, we will keep you posted on progress and hope to start using the machine to print your parts soon.

What’s so special about this new platform? Everything. Addressing 340 million 3D pixels or voxels per second, versus one point at a time means that the printer can bring high-quality nylon parts to life up to 10x faster than existing machines, at a much lower cost. This increase in speed could equate to the ability to move from same-week shipping to next day delivery. But that’s not all; Although this revolutionary system is rolling out with one color: Black nylon, over time the range of colors will dramatically increase, enabling the ability to include full-color plastic printing.  Yes, full-color plastic, at a cost potentially lower than current dyed nylons.




Is consumer 3D printing overhyped?

Posted by in Trends

If you’ve been keeping up with recent stories in the news, it seems that the prevailing opinion is that consumer 3D printing is overhyped. True? Or not? I think it is now a good time to share some of my ideas.

Just yesterday the news broke that Avi Reichental, 3D Systems’ CEO, is departing. In the article questions are raised about the market viability of consumer 3D printing.

In my opinion, the big problem is that consumer 3D printing all too often is confused with home printing or desktop printers like MakerBot, Formlabs and Ultimaker. Those machines are really cool and are a great tool for makers to make things at home. According to industry experts however these machines are not going into homes, but companies and schools. Desktop printers are not the only way for consumers to engage with 3D printing. This is the reason why I founded Shapeways in 2007 – to create a service enabling anyone to make great products. Not only in Plastics, but in Metal, Precious Metals, and very recently Porcelain.


Despite the obvious problems of public companies losing a lot of share value, perhaps partially driven by the lack of consumer adoption of desktop printers, I think the fact is missed that it is very likely that consumers do not (only) want their own desktop printer, but perhaps find a service more enticing. The difference is that we can offer customers access to state of the art, industrial 3D printers and it is exactly there where just over the last year very exciting news has emerged.

HP announced last year their new 3D printer which is 10x faster and substantially more affordable to run. The 10x speed improvement will enable the making of the product on the same or next day as the order was placed. It also will eventually offer full color plastic printing. This will offer a degree of creativity not seen before and we know there is a huge demand as more than 50% of the products we manufacture every month are ordered in plastic.

Even more recently DeskTop Metal has announced a new Metal printer again promising big improvements in speed and cost.

Next to the improvements in the industrial printers which users of Shapeways have direct access to, our platform offers pretty amazing consumer-friendly 3D tools to help designers understand what is printable.

For consumers who do not know how to design, there are also multiple options. You can select products from an almost infinite amount on our marketplace and we very recently also launched CustomMaker enabling anyone to have a say in design and customize the products on the marketplace.


Over the years, Shapeways has become the home of more than 700,000 makers and designers. More than 150,000 products are uploaded to our platform every month and we print more than 200,000 products in more than 50 materials. These are numbers that have grown quickly and will continue to grow. The short of it is that I think that there are a lot of reasons to support the assumption that consumer 3D printing is very real. But perhaps we have been looking at the wrong solution to enable it. It’s about having access to this amazing technology – not owning it in your home. The Shapeways platform has been growing very quickly and more and more people are discovering it does exactly what they want: Making it possible to get amazing products.

Redefining product creation through 3D printing

Posted by in Community, Shapeways

Hi Shapeways community,

I have some exciting news to share with you: Shapeways has just closed a new round of funding. We raised $30M led by INKEF Capital, and supported by new investors Hewlett Packard, Presidio Ventures, as well as existing investors Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, Lux Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

We see 3D printing as digital manufacturing technology, disrupting the old analog mass manufacturing technologies and business models. This has a profound impact on manufacturing and society. It changes who is in control, from corporations to individuals. It changes what products are available, from what’s available in stores to whatever you want. It changes where products are made, from centralized huge factories to everywhere in the world (we brought manufacturing back to New York City and Eindhoven, the Netherlands). And it changes the time to market of products, from months to days. In this new world of digital manufacturing Shapeways is the platform enabling anyone to make amazing products come to life.


Strandbeest by Theo Jansen

With this new round of financing we will continue to make investments to benefit our community. We will improve our website, our materials portfolio, and our service, making it easier, more fun and faster for you – our community – to get what you want.

Since Shapeways started it has been an amazing journey, starting on the Philips High Tech Campus in 2007 and  launching in July 2008, to becoming an independent company with our first investment from Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures in 2010. We opened our first factory in Eindhoven in December 2010 and our main office in New York City at the same time. In 2012 we opened our factory in Long Island City, Queens. Most recently, in October 2014 we moved to an amazing and huge factory in Eindhoven, because the previous one simply was too small.

Entry to our new factory in Eindhoven

Entry to our new factory in Eindhoven

During these years we’ve grown a lot! We now have over 620,000 community members, designers and companies using Shapeways. Over 30,000 are using Shapeways as the platform to run their business and our database holds over 2.5 million 3D printable products. We are offering over 50 different materials and finishes and there are many more to come.

It’s really awesome to welcome Robert Jan Galema from INKEF Capital to the board. He knows Shapeways from our early years at the Philips Lifestyle incubator and I enjoyed working with him during that time. His experience in growing small businesses and running large businesses will be very valuable for our next phase as a company. We are also excited to welcome HP, a company that is working on the next generation of 3D printers, and with whom we already announced a partnership to become one of its foundational customers. With this round HP reconfirms its commitment to 3D printing and we are excited to team up with them. We are also excited to welcome Presidio Ventures, part of the Sumitomo group. Their knowledge about Japan will help us bring Shapeways to the Japanese market when the time is right.

This funding round ensures that Shapeways will succeed in its role as the world leader in the next industrial revolution.


Thank you for being part of this amazing journey!



Shapeways is an early customer of the new HP 3D printer

Posted by in Shapeways

Today I’m excited to share that Shapeways is an early customer of the 3D printer HP announced today!

Shapeways is a part of HP’s Open Customer Engagement Program, which means we are working closely with HP, giving them feedback on features, quality, reliability and operational functionality of its new 3D printing technology. We expect to begin piloting the new printers next year, with commercial availability defined by HP’s roll-out plan. During the pilot period we will work with you, our community, to collect feedback to make the machine even better.


The new 3D printers from HP are not available yet, but we have seen the specs and the products it can produce. From what we have seen and know, it promises to be a real game changer. The new technology is up to 10x faster than any 3D printer currently on the market, can produce incredibly detailed products, will be able to print in full color (CMYK), and it is capable of printing more accurate and functional parts, even potentially with electrical parts in the future.

The speed improvement by itself is enough to be happy about, since it will enable us to really start turning around your orders much faster. Using existing technology we typically are printing 20-40 hours per tray. With this new technology, the print time could be as low as 4-5 hours per tray.

The much higher speed also means that the cost of printing will be reduced. As you can read in my posts about Strong and Flexible plastic, the time the machine spends printing is a substantial amount of the cost of a part. As this machine is much faster than existing technology, that part of the cost will be less. The higher speed and the initial prices of the machines we’ve seen lead us to believe that we could bring prices down substantially.

In addition to the above, the HP 3D printer will be able to produce true four-channel full color plastic going forward. This is what everyone has been asking for! Not brittle parts, no super glue needed. Real full color plastic with the strength you’d want, so you can create even more useful, full color products.


It’s really awesome that HP has asked Shapeways to be an early customer for this new 3D printer as it reflects on you, our community, for being incredibly innovative. We have built a platform enabling designers to bring amazing products to life, and as a result, HP decided our community should be among the very first to get access to the technology. They realized that in working with us, they can learn how they should further improve their machines. The new HP 3D printer has a lot of promise, so we can’t wait to get our hands on the machine so we can start testing it and give you full access to it.

Today marks a really big moment for 3D printing. A very big global technology company is entering the 3D printing market with quite an amazing machine and technology. Surely this will trigger a response from the existing 3D printing companies to accelerate their development of their technology, which in the end benefits you! Can’t wait to see what the future will bring.

Pete / CEO Shapeways

New Pricing for Strong & Flexible Plastics and Steel

Posted by in 3D Modeling

This is one of the most important blog posts of the year. We’re changing the way we price Strong and Flexible Plastic and Steel in a way that makes it more transparent, and better for you, our customers. This change is based on over nine months of research in our factories and an analysis of the over 2.6 million parts we’ve printed.

Why are we doing this?

We’re learning and iterating towards a pricing model that truly reflects cost as we gain experience and better understand the production process and range of products we’re capable of making. From the very beginning, we’ve strived for the most transparent pricing possible. But this is a new industry, and figuring out the cost of a single model inside a machine with 400 others is far from easy. It’s taken us this long to figure out what the right price structure should look like, and therefore how to give every model the “right price.”

We expect you to optimize your models for cost, and we want to make it so that when you do that, the models are getting easier – not harder – for us to make. Now, when your model gets cheaper, it’s because you’ve made it easier for us to make.  With your prices based on our manufacturing costs, our incentives are aligned.

Pricing in this way lets us lower the price of 75% of the models we’ve printed this year in White Strong & Flexible Plastic, and 85% of the models we’ve printed in steel. On average, across the marketplace, WSF models are now 20% less expensive, and Steel models are now 30% less expensive. This is the biggest price drop we’ve ever had on these materials, and we’re excited to see how it will enable you to make even cooler products than ever before. Unfortunately, some of the popular products on Shapeways are much more expensive to produce than we realized, and as a result will go up in price with the new price structure.

What is the new pricing structure and how will this impact you?

As you’ve learned from my blog post on the Selective Laser Sintering process, a huge amount of work and some very expensive equipment go into producing your products. Our new pricing structure reflects these realities by pricing models on three components:

  • Labor (part count): the number of things that need to be handled individually during production.

  • Material: the amount of material that is needed to manufacture your product.

  • Machine Space: the amount of space your product takes inside our 3D printers.

To see a more in-depth explanation of how we price, refer to this support page.

Starting today, and for the next week, you will see the new prices on the models you own. We offer this week as a way to get used to the new prices, and if you are a Shop Owner, an opportunity to prepare your shop for the change. There is no immediate change for products sold in shops, but we expect Shop Owners to change their product prices starting next week (here’s more info on how to update your prices). If you happen to be negatively affected by the change, you can still buy a few of your own models at the old price.

On October 7th, we will implement the new prices.

Below are a few models and their before and after prices to illustrate.

1. Basic iPhone 6 Case by Duann
Old: White, Strong and Flexible Plastic: $22.46 Red Strong & Flexible Plastic: $24.71
New: White Strong and Flexible: $16.31 Red Strong & Flexible: $17.31
Machine CC: 50.55 Material CC: 14.97 Parts: 1

2. Humble Drops by HenrikRydberg
Old: White Strong & Flexible Polished Plastic: $20.38 Red Strong & Flexible Plastic: $20.63
New: White Strong & Flexible Polished: $13.65 Red Strong & Flexible Plastic: $15.15
Machine CC: 20.1 Material CC: 12.25 Parts: 3

3. Parametric Faceted Bracelet uploaded by rstargrove, found on thingiverse
Old: Red Strong & Flexible Plastic: $64.72 Metallic Plastic: $112.27 Steel: $512.37
New: Red sf: $37.39 Metallic Plastic: $64.10 Steel $322.45
Machine CC: 81.73 Material CC: 63.3 Parts: 1

What are the new prices going to be exactly? Have a look at the materials pages for Strong & Flexible, Metallic Plastic, Elasto Plastic and Steel.

You’ll notice that in the Strong & Flexible family, the machine space and material prices are the same for all materials, making large models in finishes much less expensive. This is because the different finishes and colors are achieved with post-processing and all use the same 3D printers and raw materials. The difference is in labor, which is a fixed cost per part.

We are excited about this new way of pricing and at the same time are empathetic to the ones which are hardest hit by these changes. In the end, we believe this is the right thing for everyone in the Shapeways community, making 3D printing more accessible and affordable for everyone. Definitely share your thoughts by commenting below or discuss with our community in our repricing forum.


Pete / CEO Shapeways.

The New Shapeways 3D Printing Factory in Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Today we have some awesome news to share. After almost four years in our factory and office in Eindhoven we are moving to a new location! It’s much bigger, even more amazing, and in the center of the city!

Want to see it? You can! We have teamed up with Dutch Design Week to celebrate the opening! We’re offering public tours of the factory from Tuesday, 21 October – Friday, 24 October so you can check it out yourself.

Shapeways new factory entrance

Inside the new Shapeways factory.

Some background: when we first moved to our current location in 2010 it was a great step up from our first office at the High Tech Campus. The office was bigger (although we were sharing with two other companies) and we had a massive space for our own distribution center. We even had plenty of space for our own printers.

Now, we have grown out of the current space. After adding 30 people to the team, many tables to our distribution center, and 12 3D printers we are in need of something even bigger!

What we wanted for our new office and factory was a great location to enable even more community members to visit, more space for our office, and plenty of room to expand. We have found it! The new Shapeways factory is right in the middle of Eindhoven on the Kanaaldijk, has plenty of space, and the location has quite some history. It started as a DAF trucks factory, then it was used as one of the offices of Diesel jeans, and most recently by a marketing company. With such a colorful mix of history we feel right at home.

Over the last three months our team in Eindhoven and the landlord and his team – thanks Bob – have moved mountains. The factory is now in use! We’re still moving in some equipment but we’re almost done.

The Buildout of Shapeways new 3D printing factory in Eindhoven

The Buildout of Shapeways new 3D printing factory in Eindhoven

Looking back I can still remember when we moved in to our previous location. It gives me the perspective to see what can be accomplished in just four years. I can’t wait for the next four.

Are you interested? To visit the factory during Dutch Design Week, go to our meetup page and sign up!

3D Print in Nylon with Selective Laser Sintering – Part 3

This is the last post in the series about Selective Laser Sintering Nylon. In this post I’m going to address the challenge of the cost of 3D printing in nylon and how to minimize it. Yes, we want to make it as affordable as possible for you to make your awesome designs come to life!

If you haven’t read the first and second posts, I would highly recommend that you do. I’m assuming you know some of the concepts introduced there.

To understand the costs involved in 3D printing using SLS, lets have a look at the process, which can be broken down into the following steps:

  • Checking the design
  • Planning the printing trays
  • 3D printing
  • Extracting the parts
  • Cleaning the parts
  • Sorting the parts
  • Postprocessing (tumbling, dyeing, sorting)
  • Shipping

Each of those steps has associated costs in labor involved in the process, machine cost and material cost. Let’s go through the steps and have a look at the cost drivers.

Checking. At checking, we need to evaluate every new file ordered to see if we can make it. We use automated checks, but a final human check is still required to get the best results. It’s actually not every file, but we check every part in a file since we are printing physical products and each file may contain multiple parts. As discussed earlier, some files contain hundreds of parts and you can imagine the amount of work involved. The cost involved here is labor, namely the time spent checking each part.

Example of multiple parts in a file

Individually checking the 55 parts in KidMechanos “New! ModiBot RhinoNychus: Reptobeast

Planning. After checking, we need to plan all checked parts in the 3D printer trays. We want to plan as many parts as possible in a tray, since the cost to run a printer is pretty much fixed regardless of the amount of parts. Today, we run over 20 printers every day and each print on average has over 100 parts per tray, so you can see how packing becomes a challenge. However every extra part we can cram in the tray, reduces machine cost. The packing process itself requires an hour or two of of work and some 10-20 minutes of computer calculations to optimize.

The cost involved in planning is labor, or the time spent selecting the right parts for each tray

SLS Tray ready to 3D print

62 models packed into a single tray of our smallest printer

3D printing. Step 3 is the printing process. When a printer finishes it’s previous job,we make sure we are ready to quickly remove the ready tray, clean the machine and refill the powder. Ensuring the printer starts running as soon as possible after it’s previous job is complete reduces cost further. The printer costs money whether you use it or not (from a business perspective this is called depreciation), so running it all the time and thereby maximizing the amount of products made every month is the only way to reduce cost. The complexity of the products or the size has almost no impact on the print time. The most important driver of the time a build needs is the height of the tray. The machines can print roughly 1cm (or 0.4″) per hour. To limit the time it takes to print we try to build trays that are no higher than 25cm. This conveniently means we run the printers with 1 job every day.

Another element of the print cost is the amount of powder used. If the printer is completely empty it would still build layer upon layer of powder. As the powder is heated it ages. The industry standard is to run each build with 50% new and 50% old powder. Each tray has roughly 5% of volume in parts so after each build you are left with 95% old powder. Of this old powder you can re-use 50% in the next build. The material cost is the new powder. Obviously using more old powder reduces material cost, but the problem is that too much old powder will cause the parts to look less defined and sometimes they discolor (orange peel). We (everyone using SLS) need to figure out how to make it possible to reuse all powder since this is the most wasteful part of the process. The cost involved in 3D printing is some labor to clean the machines before each run and mostly machine and powder cost. To calculate actual cost per part is quite difficult, since it depends on the other parts in the tray. Amazingly, if we print a part one week, and then again the next week, it can cost twice as much the second time only because of the other parts in the tray along with it. One of the reasons that we’ve never charged for machine space before is that we had to build up a huge amount of experience to properly control for this and charge you the right price.

Cooling, Cleaning & Sorting. After printing, the tray needs to cool as much time as it has printed (again typically 24 hours). And then the break out, cleaning and sorting starts. The costs here are mostly part based since every part needs to be dug out of the powder, cleaned and then made sure it goes into the right box. The cost involved is labor per part. Each part needs to be broken out of the powder, cleaned and then sorted.

Models with many similar looking parts are among the hardest to track and sort properly

Post Processing. The polishing and dyeing process again are mostly labor. The tumbler is fast and can polish many parts a time, so there is almost no machine cost involved. The cost involved is mostly labor. To put the parts in the polisher, remove them and then sort. Or dyeing the parts for a few minutes, remove, let the parts dry and re-sort. Much of the cost of post processing isn’t the processes themselves, but constantly combining and re-sorting the parts at each step.

As you can see, the cost in making a product using SLS can be broken down into 4 main categories:Fixed cost like utilities and rent of the factory; Labor cost to do the actual work involved; Machine cost to pay for machine depreciation; and material cost, based on how much is used.

It’s our challenge to reduce these costs by automating certain parts of the process, make sure the machines are always running, and are run at close to maximum capacity, and that we re-use as much powder as possible. It’s also clear that our cost is based on labor per part, cost of the amount of space the part utilizes in the machine and the amount of actual material consumed.

Next week I will cover how our current price model covers these costs and how we can optimize.

As always, let me know if you have questions or suggestions. In general I like to hear from you!

Pete / CEO Shapeways

3D Print in Nylon with Selective Laser Sintering – Part 2

This is the second post in a series of three about Selective Laser Sintering Nylon. You can read the first post here and the third here. In this post I’m going to focus on the challenges we have encountered and some solutions. It would be great to get your thoughts in the comment section, since we want to learn and are always working to improve our processes to better suit the needs of our community!

As you may remember from my first post, which covers the process of 3D printing, checking is the first step and it also presents the biggest challenge. We want to ensure that the final product looks like the design on the computer screen and that we can reliably make it. Within checking we see four main categories of problems: Thin walls, thin wires, disappearing details, and fragile parts.

Let’s talk about thin walls and thin wires first. When the walls of your design are extremely thin or the design has very thin wires (see example below) our 3D printers might not be able to print them. If we find a problem during the checking process, we make screen shots to indicate what the problem is. But, in some cases it is difficult to assess whether there is a problem. Let’s say you’ve designed something like the edge of a wing that gets thinner and thinner. The thick edge of the design might certainly be printable, whereas the thin edge might not be. The only way to know is to try it. Since we like to push what is possible, we sometimes print the design to see whether it looks great or not. If we then find out that the product fails during printing or post-production, we still have to tell you, and this will already be a few days after ordering, which is not great for either of us. Together we have lost time, we lost machine capacity and some powder, but hopefully we learned something.

Thin wires example

An example of extremely thin wires 3D printed using Selective Laser Sintering

Another design issue we see is when parts are too fragile. We can’t always predict which product will be strong enough and which product is not strong enough. In this case especially we often take the gamble and 3D print it because we want you to get your product. Sometimes this leads to a suboptimal result or we find out after trying that we simply cannot 3D print the design.

The last challenge in checking is disappearing details. A little car might have an antenna, which looks great on the computer, but the printer can’t make it. A ring might have an engraving (see picture) so small that after printing the engraving is invisible or unreadable. Sometimes these issues are clear and sometimes it’s right on the edge of what’s possible.

Almost unreadable engraving

Almost unreadable engraving made using Selective Laser Sintering

As a result of all these checking challenges we launched a massive internal effort to make sure we optimize the experience for you, our customers. The effort resulted in new features like “Print It Anyway” and visualization tools. We also refined our internal processes. The result is that we have been able to reduce the amount of rejections in the checking process by a factor of three!! Also, we learned that making sure we clearly communicate to you about our concerns or reasons for rejecting your design helps you a lot.

Print orientation of a product is another challenge. Depending on how the product is placed in the machine the result varies. The most obvious solution is to give the designer the freedom to orient the part, but s/he might not know what is best, and it also limits us in optimizing the packing of the print tray. Reducing optimization causes the printing to be more expensive. Since it totally depends on other parts in the same tray, estimating how much more it costs to fix orientation is very hard or perhaps impossible. Otherwise an increased price to set print orientation would be another solution.

The last topic I would like to address is multiple products in a single file. Since we started Shapeways, we always assumed that a design file would hold one (interlocked) part. This is not always the case in reality and we understand why. How else would you easily make puzzles (see picture below), chess sets and earrings available in your shops or organize them neatly? For us on the other hand, having multiple parts in a single file presents a substantial issue. As you may remember from my first post, we need to sort all parts (and sometimes multiple times). If there are multiple parts in a file (sometimes over 100!) that sorting becomes very hard. We first have to figure out how many parts there are in the file, and then individually separate them if they are all different. Since we have standardized our processes on files this is not easy. One solution is putting all parts in a file into a “sinter box”, a small mesh box around the parts. This makes the sorting super easy, BUT since the box is square and large it is suboptimal to fill trays with. It is much better to put the small parts into other parts than have them sit together in an encased volume. The trade-off here is more work in sorting versus higher machine and material costs. Neither option is great.

Design of twisty puzzle

Design of twisty puzzle for 3D printing – “Rhomdo Transformer

Next week in my last post, I will talk about the cost of Selective Laser Sintering. Please let me know what you think by commenting and leave suggestions on what else I should address in next week’s post!

Pete / CEO Shapeways

3D Print in Nylon with Selective Laser Sintering – Part 1

This is the first in a series of 3 posts about 3D printing in nylon with Selective Laser Sintering. Click on the links to read part 2 and part 3

It’s now been almost six years since we started offering White Strong and Flexible (WSF) to you, our community and it’s a good time to share what we have learned.

So, this is the first of a series of three blog-posts that I am writing about Strong and Flexible 3D-printing. Please share your feedback by commenting, we would love to learn your thoughts and ideas!

First and foremost we are extremely happy to see the result of what you have made with WSF and later the color variants (together called Strong and Flexible Plastic). Over the last six years we have printed more than 2.5 million parts in Strong and Flexible. These part range from jewelry to cases for the iPhone, quad-copter accessories (see picture), to the fabulous Animaris Geneticus Parvus (see picture), lighting shades and more.  White Strong and Flexible Plastic and the colors have been and are still by far the most popular material on Shapeways.

Animaris Geneticus Parvus

3D print of Animaris Geneticus Parvus or Strandbeest

DJI Phantom accessories

3D printed DJI Phantom accessories

Let me share what it means to make something in Strong and Flexible Plastic. The current system on Shapeways is based on files. After you buy 1 or more copies of a product represented in a file, the work for us starts.

First, for new products, we have to check whether the products in the file are printable. Are the printers capable of producing the details? Are the products strong enough? Are the walls thick enough? Checking each new file is done by software and by hand to make sure you get what you want. If we believe we cannot print something, our team makes a clear report about the issues, including screenshots. As you can imagine this takes quite a bit of time. The checking and rejection process has become quite a challenge, more about this in the post next week!

After checking we plan the files into the tray of the machine. Depending on the size of the machine, each tray can hold hundreds and sometimes thousands of products. If the files hold multiple parts, here’s where it becomes hard. We sometimes need to increase separation of the parts (to prevent them to melt or fuse together) or reorient or simply separate them to optimize maximum tray fill. As we put more parts in a single tray, it increases the efficiency of the print run and in turn enables us to offer reasonable prices.

Now that we have planned the tray the file containing all parts for the print, called a slice file, is sent to one of our big SLS printers (picture below shows one of our massive EOS P7s). One printing run typically takes 24 hours, but our big P7 machines can print for up to 3 days! When the printing is done we quickly remove the full tray to let it cool. Cooling takes as much time as printing.

EOS P7 SLS printer in Shapeways factory at LIC

EOS P7 in our factory at LIC

After the tray is cooled down to room temperature, we retrieve the parts from the tray, which is now filled with nylon powder and parts. Digging the parts out of the powder one by one is actually a super fun process. You never know what you are going to find! The hardest to find are the very small parts, since distinguishing them from little plastic lumps is challenging. At one time someone tried to print parts as small as 1x1x1 mm!!

Now we need to remove the excess powder from each part, which is done with compressed air. Then we sort all parts. Some will be ready to go to our packing stations and be shipped, while others need post production. We either polish (see pic below of our polisher), or polish and dye the parts. After each step we need to sort again, since polishing and dying puts all parts together in batches again. So we spend a lot of time sorting parts and luckily we have gotten quite good at it ensuring everyone of you, our customers, get the right parts with the right finish. Files holding multiple parts are hard to sort. Our systems use the file as the unit and if it contains multiple parts its hard to recognize and to make sure we have all parts. Some files hold over 100 parts and even counting them takes a lot of time!

Shapeways Polisher in LIC

One of our big polishers at our LIC factory

We can typically do all the above steps in less than four days, which is quite miraculous given the amount of time the printing itself takes. Once all of these steps are complete, the products are ready to ship and are collected in the distribution wall of bins (see picture below). When the order is completed, our distribution team packs them up and sends them to you our customers to enjoy.

Shapeways Distribution Area wall of bins

Our distribution area with the bins holding parts ready to ship

Next week I’ll spend time diving a bit deeper in the specific challenges we face and how they influence the cost of 3D printing in nylon using Selective Laser Sintering.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, or make suggestions for the deeper dive next week!

all the best,
Pete / CEO Shapeways

This is the first in a series of 3 posts about 3D printing in nylon with Selective Laser Sintering. Click on the links to read part 2 and part 3

Inspiring the Next Generation of Creators: Announcing Our Collaboration with Google on Made with Code to Inspire Millions of Girls to Code & Create

I’ve been coding since I was 13 years old. I’d spend hours taking apart computers, putting them back together, and creating worlds of my own. Technology has not only impacted the way I solve problems, it’s framed the way I view the world. First with coding, and later with 3D printing, I found that my imagination was my only limitation.

Today, I’m thrilled to share that Shapeways is collaborating with Google on Made with Code to inspire girls to code. Our goal has always been to give everyone access to the best technology in 3D printing, and we’re now investing in that access for girls — a group that has historically been underrepresented in science and technology.

Made with Code offers fun and simple projects aimed at helping girls take the first step in learning how to code. The premier project of the initiative is a coding project based on Blockly, Google’s visual programming editor, in which girls can create a custom bracelet that we will 3D print in our New York City factory using EOS printers.

Made with Code and Shapeways

Continue reading

Update to Pricing of White Strong & Flexible – SLS 3D printing

In our mission to enable everyone to make, buy and sell their own
products, we know that the price of each product is important. Whether
you’re making something for yourself or selling your design in our
shops, a product that’s too expensive immediately sends you back to the
drawing board. Shapeways’ model is and will be to give everyone access
to state of the art 3D printers at the best possible price.  As a
result over the years, our prices have come down substantially. White
Strong & Flexible
is one of our most popular materials, and we are
continuously working to lower our cost to enable us to lower prices for

Before we can further lower prices, we’ve run
into an issue that’s holding us back: Some products are very large yet
use very little material – typically these are “wiry” in design
 and have very low density, meaning they use very little material for the size of the object.
In some cases these products take up an entire print tray in our
largest printers. The technical term is that these products have a large
“bounding box with low density”. As a result, some of these products
cost us much more than what we charge to produce today. In some of the
most extreme cases, we might charge $100 for a product today that costs
us $3,000 to make. I’m sure you understand this isn’t a healthy
situation for us, particularly as our goal is to make 3D Printing
affordable for everyone.

As part of our effort to
lower our prices across the board, we have to solve this issue with a
change in our pricing structure that will only impact these “extreme”

For the White Strong & Flexible, the pricing change will be as follows: for models with an overall bounding box of 10,000cm3 or more (for instance, a cube of 20 x 20 x 25 cm) AND that have a density less than or equal to 2.6%, we switch to a new pricing scheme.

Instead of a price per material volume, the new price will be based on the total bounding box volume. This will more accurately reflect the actual costs. The price per volume of bounding box will be $0.0385/cc.

be clear: products that are either small enough OR have a sufficiently
high density will not be affected by this change – this only affects
very large 
models with very low density. 

Today’s change is a necessary step in moving towards a lower price for
the White Strong & Flexible and this price change addresses a few
edge cases that were blocking this effort. All existing models will be
updated with the new pricing models as will all future uploads.

the change goes live we will monitor what happens and are confident that
it will enable us to lower prices for the rest of the products made in
Strong & Flexible in the future.


Advancing the Mission of Shapeways: 3D Printing for Everyone

Posted by in Shapeways, What's Hot

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.

3D Printing for Everyone with Shapeways

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 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

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!

An Update to the Shapeways Pricing Structure

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:

  1. Material (the material used, the support used, cleaning and polishing materials)
  2. Machine cost (the amount of machine time attributed to the production of the product)
  3. Labor (preparing / checking the file, operating the machines, cleaning the product, sorting and packing the product)
  4. 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

Continue reading

The World’s first 3D printed bikini

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!

Shapeways starts own 3D printing production

Posted by in Shapeways, What's Hot

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!