Tag: Shapeways



1)Are there any possibilities for food-safe materials to be 3D printed and offered by Shapeways?

2)In what ways does Shapeways highlight its community members’ work?

3)Do you envision Shapeways building more facilities worldwide as the company continues to grow, or expanding the two existing spaces to accommodate for that growth?


When we arrived at Shapeways’s location in Queens we were introduced to community and outreach manager Eleanor Whitney. Eleanor gave us a tour, first showing us the office space where a team of designers were working on prepping user submitted files for printing. Eleanor gave us an overview of the tools the team uses and the process from user submission request to final shippable product. We then toured the factory first seeing the industrial grade nylon and plastic 3D printers. Eleanor discussed the ways in which desktop 3D printers differ from the industrial grade printers found at Shapeways. We then moved on to a larger room with more 3D printers and got to see the machines working up close. After that Eleanor directed us to the next room where finished batches were taken apart, cleaned off, and organized for either shipping or dying. Finally we returned to the office space and lounge area to further discuss how the company has evolved over the years as well as Eleanor’s own responsibilities as community and outreach manager.



Samples of 3D printed materials from Shapeways



What I found personally interesting about Shapeways was their growth and evolution as a business. As Eleanor Whitney explained the company started in the Netherlands. Very recently the company expanded by acquiring its factory space in New York by attracting investors looking to create manufacturing and tech jobs locally. In that way it was interesting to learn about a startup that was able to expand internationally yet still keep a small ecosystem of under 60 employees. It was encouraging to hear that a creative/tech company could gain the kind of attention Shapeways did to help invest in the growth of their company.





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.




  1. Shapeways print a lot of different things for people across the globe. Are some of the designs made by the workers in Shapeways, or are they mostly from clients?
  2. Back in Toronto, there is a company called Hot Pop Factory, which is a start up that prints 3D objects and laser cuts different items. They offer printing and cutting where the client can get their stuff printed and leave. Does Shapeways have that leniency for people to come up and pick up items, or is the process mostly online?
  3. A lot of people use plastics for printing. However on the website, there are various other materials such as metal. How are those made? Would the machines be able to do mix media, meaning print different types of materials at once?


The class arrived at Shapeways Factory, and was guided to the lounge area nearby the kitchen to settle our belongings there. Eleanor then introduced herself and talked a bit about Shapeways. Shapeways is a 3D printing company that uses and experiments with a variety of materials, such as nylon, sandstone, cast metal, steel, and porcelain.

IMG_20150318_164250They are a company that started in the Netherlands, which they then opened a branch in New York. The two branches work collaboratively in order to proceed with faster shipping all across the globe. The Netherlands branch covers the Eastern side of the globe, while the New York branch covers the West. Eleanor described that the job they do could possibly for Etsy as well. They print off designs that people could not print themselves, as well as make their own. Some objects include figurines, drone parts, jewellery, iPhone covers, and so on.


After the introduction, we were brought into the different equipment rooms where we were shown various different types of 3D printers, the process of making each print, and how different material and machines are moved around the factory. We ended the visit with a brief Q&A session with Eleanor, and concluded the day from there.


Personal Reflection:

Shapeways is a very remarkable factory from any other factory I have seen before. I find it remarkable because there are not a lot of factories out in the world that accepts custom designs to be printed out. Not only do they allow custom printing, they also allow users to sell the made items in a shop. They have an application that allows users to do so. They are one of the first companies to initiate printing in various materials as well, which is not something I have ever encountered before. Eleanor spoke of printing ceramics and printing metal. Normally ceramics are moulded, and metal are melted in order to create a shape. The company brings new materials to light using the new 3D printing systems. It makes me think that soon enough, these printers are not only able to print using a large scale amount of materials, but they will also shrink in size, where people would be able to create their own models and prints within their own homes.

Relevant Links: http://www.shapeways.com/


Do you see 3D printing becoming a viable production method for larger companies?

Is there anything that Shapeways really likes printing?

Are the majority of Shapeways orders art/design or technology/parts?

In Queens we visited the Shapeways factory. Shapeways is the leading 3D printing marketplace community; basically “the Etsy of 3D printing”. Shapeways gives anybody the ability to turn digital designs into real products. The company was started in the Netherlands in 2009-2010 before being incubated by Phillips and then breaking out on their own. Shapeways prints in over 55 different materials including nylon, gold, porcelain, ceramic, and steel. The facility produces large amounts of various products such as jewelry, figurines, camera parts, etc. At the factory we were given a tour by Eleanor, the community manager for Shapeways. She took us through the factory floor, first showing us were both high detail acrylic and nylon products get printed. Then we were taken to “break out” where nylon products are removed from the blocks of raw material in which they sit and cleaned. Following this we saw the dyeing and sorting areas of the floor, where products are coloured and sorted for shipment, before finally completing the tour.

This visit was really quite novel for me. It was really amazing to see not only such large 3D printers but such a large facility dedicated just to 3D printing. A few years ago I would have never expected 3D printing to be so accessible and on such a large scale. I also really enjoyed being able to see so many different kinds of 3D printed objects; I find anything 3D printed to be automatically really interesting. Additionally the visit gave me a bit more insight into the ease of 3D printing (or lack thereof) and how a start-up company like Shapeways can have a massive overhead budget compared to some smaller or software based start-ups.

IMG_20150318_151444 IMG_20150318_164124


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