Additive manufacturing is a powerful industrial technology, stemming from Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing, created in the mid-80s as a rapid prototyping tool. Similar techniques became available in the next decade, but additive manufacturing technologies did not become available to most of the public until after the original patents expired around 2013.

The AM process begins as the first layer is deposited onto the print bed and subsequent layers adhere to each other in forming a solid product. Differences in additive manufacturing technology become apparent, however, when resins, thermoplastics, metal particles, lasers, bonding agents, and a variety of other elements separate techniques.

Shapeways Additive Manufacturing Origins: Beginning with the Marketplace

Today, Shapeways offers over 11 different technologies, providing options for 90 different materials and finishes. Taking a step back though, the history of Shapeways began in 2007, with the launch of the Shapeways Marketplace

Serving as a unique platform for designers to create and access 3D models direct to the consumer, the Marketplace offers a unique business model that continues to grow in popularity. Hundreds of thousands of 3D printed products are available in a variety of categories, but the Shapeways Marketplace is especially well-known for jewelry produced via Wax Casting in precious metals like Gold and Platinum.

Industrial Additive Manufacturing Technology

From rapid prototyping to end-use production, manufacturers come to Shapeways for additive manufacturing in the following applications:

Shapeways offers the following additive manufacturing technology:

Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting additive manufacturing technology is named for the agents used to bond metal particles together as one layer is deposited onto another in creating complex structures. Support structures are not required as unsintered powder bolsters and stabilizes parts during production.

Binder Jetting materials include:

Benefits of Binder Jetting include speed, precision, expanded freedom in design, and the ability to manufacture large volumes with reduced material waste. Typical applications include medical devices, tooling, fixtures, branding irons and burners, and automotive parts.

Material Jetting

The Material Jetting (MJ) process is unique, relying on multiple nozzles to spray micro-droplets of resin material onto the print bed for curing via ultraviolet light, layer by layer. Shapeways Material Jetting 3D printers range in build volume from 490 mm x 390 mm x 200 mm to 495 mm x 495 mm x 300 mm, with layer thickness averaging 32 microns for full-size models.

Material Jetting materials include:

Benefits of Material Jetting include speed and precision, along with the ability to produce impressive colors, textures, and fine details. Typical applications include photorealistic medical models, architectural displays, and table-top gaming miniatures.

Multi Jet Fusion 

The Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) process stands apart due to its capacity for powerful production. Thermal heat melts layers together completely, resulting in faster production, and maximum output. Parts are well-defined with more stable mechanical properties and sophisticated interlocking parts can be printed in one piece without any need for post assembly. While size is limited to the volume of the printer, many different pieces can be printed in each build–nested horizontally and vertically–and then fitted together later if necessary.

Multi Jet Fusion materials include:

Benefits of Multi Jet Fusion include few limitations in design due to the integrity of technology and materials, accuracy in parts, and faster cooling due to an advanced standalone system that also prevents warping, shrinkage, and failure in parts. Typical applications include drone technology, prosthetics, robotics, and mechanical and electronic devices.

Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

The Selective Laser Melting (SLM) process is a powder-based 3D printing method. A powerful laser melts fine metallic powder particles together layer after layer until the desired structure is complete. SLM additive manufacturing technology produces strong metal parts fast without tooling, relying on Aluminum for stiffness, accuracy, and high thermal conductivity for making functional parts and tools.

Selective Laser Melting materials include:

Benefits of SLM additive manufacturing technology include the potential for maximum customization, and the ability to build unique complexities into strong yet lightweight parts. Typical applications include automotive technology, drone parts, mechanical components, and tools and fixtures.

Selective Laser Sintering

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is also a subcategory of powder-bed fusion. This additive manufacturing technology uses a high-powered laser to trace the cross-section of each 3D design into the material dispersed onto the build area, sintered just below the melting point. Once the desired structure is complete, parts are cooled in the build chamber to avoid warpage and preserve integrity of the prints. Shapeways SLS 3D printers range in build volume from 200 mm x 250 mm x 330 mm to 700 mm x 380 mm x 580 mm, with a layer thickness of 100 to 120 microns.  

SLS materials include:

Benefits of SLS 3D printing technology include high ductility, making it possible to create flexibility in thinner structures and rigidity for thicker parts. No support structures are required, leading to greater design freedom. SLS 3D printing is capable of printing large parts, as well as creating many different sizes of parts in large volumes. Typical applications include aerospace, architecture, automotive, home and consumer goods, medical, robotics, sports equipment, and more.


Stereolithography (SLA) is a resin-based technology. Known as the original additive manufacturing technology, created in the 1980s, SLA has stood the test of time and is still respected as one of the most powerful 3D printing processes. As a subcategory of vat polymerization, SLA technology uses liquid resin materials to build parts. Objects are cured and solidified by UV light as each thin layer of material is deposited onto the build platform at the top of the resin tank. During the SLA process, a laser traces or draws the design of the part in each layer. 

SLA materials include: 

Benefits of SLA technology include the ability to 3D print smaller, highly intricate parts with good mechanical qualities and a smooth surface finish. Typical applications include prototypes and display models, mechanical components, and snap-fit assemblies.

About Shapeways

Enjoy the benefits of this advanced technology and a wide range of materials from Shapeways for 3D printing your creations with accuracy, complex detail, and no minimum or limits in terms of mass customization or single part orders. Shapeways has worked with over 1 million customers in 160 countries to 3D print over 21 million parts! Read about case studies, find out more about Shapeways additive manufacturing solutions, and get instant quotes here.