Shapeways is a 3D printing company. This was an amazing opportunity to see behind the factory doors into the heart of this company. Prior to this visit, I had no idea how far 3D printing has come and the possibilities that comes with it. Shapeways had several different kinds of printers, some which cost $1,000,000. Seeing these machines work was really fascinating. In terms of single color plastic printing, they combine as many different products as possible into one 3D printed tray. The negative spaces of the designs are filled with wax particles, so they may be warmed and melted away from the models. Some of these models are dip dyed to the desired color. Shapeways takes orders from everyone and also generously offered us a student discount. The customer uploads their design, and the Shapeways team evaluates it for printability. The 3D printers do have some limits, as most can only print to 0.2 mm thin. Batches can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over 24 hours to print.

I can easily see the advantages 3D printing would have for prototyping products or any other designs. I was really inspired by visiting this company. I was impressed that they were experimenting and developing 3D printing in ceramic. Seeing professional, high grade 3D printers at work was especially neat. The process looks technical yet at the same time, logical. I never knew there were so many methods to 3D printing. I really liked how we got to see the process from the start to finish with an up close and personal view in the factory.