Shapeways provides a low risk and low barrier model for 3d printing of products but it has not made millionaires yet

Shapeways, a 3-D printing service and online marketplace, has been described as the Amazon of 3-D printing for its on-demand model, if not its outsize volume: The machines spit out about 120,000 objects a month, a tidal flow of design that runs from the mundane to the astonishing.

Bradley Rothenberg, a Manhattan-based architect and designer, modeled snowflake angel wings and other pieces based on sketches by the Victoria’s Secret design team, which were then worn by the models in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show late last year, garnering attention for Shapeways, which printed the nylon plastic piece and Rothenberg.

Shapeways has a “lower risk, lower barrier” model. Because Shapeways prints on demand, there were no discouraging upfront manufacturing costs; Shapeways also handled time-consuming back-end processes like billing, shipping and customer service. Designers simply upload a printable design, set a price above the cost Shapeways charges to print and paid the 3.5 percent processing fee out of her profit. The designer is then assured that supply will meet demand.

Shapeways, which started in the Netherlands in 2007, as part of an incubator run by Philips, the electronics maker, initially outsourced its 3-D printing. Now there are two factories, one in Queens and the other in Eindhoven in the Netherlands; the one here is adding four printers to its fleet of 12, at a cost of $500,000 or more each. The hope is that the new machines will increase capacity, speed up work flow and bring Shapeways closer to its long-term goal of overnight fulfillment.

Of the thousands of objects printed each week, iPhone accessories and hobbyist parts like model railroad cars are the most common, Mr. Scott said, as is jewelry. “Drone parts are currently very popular, too,” he added.

Still, despite the production volume, and a few breakout objects that have sold in the thousands of units, most designers aren’t getting rich selling their products through Shapeways. The company declined to disclose combined earnings for its 15,000 shop owners.

Mr. Gant estimates that he has made about $800 so far through his Shapeways shop, but has spent about $300 on prototypes and printing his designs. As Mr. Scott noted, however, once a product has been designed and uploaded, there is potential for its designer to earn royalty-driven passive income, something Mr. Gant has experienced.

SOURCE – New York Times

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