Shapeways and 3D Printing

Last week, in the thread on Herky Jerky Investing, the AVC community forked into an incredible discussion about 3D printing and our portfolio company Shapeways. If you click on this link, you'll see that the conversation just goes on and on and on. Clearly 3D printing is something that has captured the imagination of many members of the AVC community.

We are huge believers in the power of technology to feed creativity and new kinds of businesses. 3D printing in general and Shapeways in particular is exactly that kind of transformative technology. It is still not on the radar of most people. But that is rapidly changing. To get a sense of how fast things are changing in the world of 3D printing, check out this prezi that Shapeways published on their blog yesterday (hint: go into fullscreen mode, it's way better).


#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    Very nice timing. And very good going! The end of year numbers look really nice. I guess the Shapeways team will make their way on to this thread. It would be nice to see a ‘Stories’ section on their website. As it is still a new concept, I would like to see examples of people who’ve used these products, why they’ve used 3D printing over something else, how it’s working out for them and atleast an idea of the cost. Eg: Dad built DIY stroller. Why did he use 3D printing? What difference has it made? How much did it cost vs normal DIY stroller.When you’re so early on the S curve, educating the market helps.

    1. William Mougayar

      Good point Rohan. Have you looked at their website? There are Tutorials, Tips, Forums, etc… I think what’s missing is that the mainstream media hasn’t been writing about it enough in order to educate the masses. 

      1. Rohan

        I did take a quick look at these things. All these are aimed to help me get an understanding of the concept.I’d much rather hear from people who’ve used this.. and what they feel about it. At this point, it’s appealing to my logic more than appealing to my emotions.And logic leads only to conclusions versus emotions, which leads to action of some sort. (eg: level 1 – even if I don’t want to buy, maybe I’d be inspired enough to blog about it!)So, I literally walked away saying ‘Oh okay.’ vs ‘Wow. That’s a cool story. Should share!’

        1. William Mougayar

          You’re right, there needs to be more mass understanding and awareness. Not just from their website, but from other places as well. It’s an opportunity. Maybe you should work for them and help 🙂 

          1. Rohan

            I half agree on mass understanding and awareness.That said, I believe you’ve got to get your story right first. Else what’s written by the media will also be fuzzy..

        2. Ana

          Hey Rohan,I think you’re dead on. I’m Shapeways’ community manager, and I can tell you firsthand that there are some incredible people using our platform as an engine for their creativity. But we haven’t ensured that their stories are visible enough up till now.It’s really easy to get bogged down in technical details of 3D printing, but we need to keep our eyes firmly on the human side of the picture, since it scales far better. 🙂

          1. Rohan

            Indeed.What we need is a Jobs-esque ‘1000 songs in 1 pocket’ description or something that describe what you are doing/what people are doing in 140 characters.Something simple, clear and human. PS: There’s a great book on making great stories – Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. The summary of their theory is on… – a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago for a module in university. 

          2. Ana

            That’s a great analogy.The challenge, which is also the exciting part, is how to package the message effectively when the significance of Shapeways is so fluid, and evolving so quickly. Which is why conversations like these are so valuable. I’d love to pick your brain a bit, but don’t want to clutter up the whole thread. Can I shoot you an email? 🙂

          3. Rohan

            Absolutely Ana. rohan [at] rohanrajiv [dot] com 🙂

      2. markslater

        my wife is at Gillette. They have been using 3D printing for some time now on prototype design. I think what we are saying is how this new innovation comes to the consumer. Its been used effectively within businesses  now for some time

        1. William Mougayar

          Right. But it’s not as complicated as wafer fabrication or 3D printed circuit boards, so it has a chance to reach mass consumption. The problem is when it left the factory, it still had that technical name attached to it. It’s as if a new car was called “assembled 3D parts for motion”

          1. markslater

            i agree

          2. Carine Carmy

            Totally agreed…the industry language is not welcoming to non technical folks. Also, “printing” compels us to compare the possibilities to the 2D printer analogue, which is misguided IMHO.Wrote a little bit about this on our blog last week in response to Anil Dash’s thoughtful post on the future of the home device market –

          3. William Mougayar

            Are you thinking about finding a better name than “3D Printing”? – posted via

          4. William Mougayar

            One more thing. The URL you shared below is giving a 404 error. I couldn’t reply from the blog to that comment. Thanks.- posted via

        2. fredwilson

          yes, exactly

          1. LE

            “new innovation comes to the consumer.”I’m really wary of this with consumers vs. business. Business customers you can make money because people are not spending their money and their expectations are much lower for the value provided.  I can’t stress this enough. If you want an simple example see what onsite repair cost per hour on a business machine vs. a home appliance. The business machine cost per hour for repair is 2 to 4 times as much.  And the knowledge required or skill in no way equals the price charged. 

      3. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        I like the term “educate the masses” because that is how I see myself and how I look at the web…as one of the “masses.”  One of the results of my New Years Eve party was I realized that there is a “Occupy” tech feeling among the “masses” or a 99%/1% issue.If you want the “masses” then forget the “writing” on the part of mainstream media but rather focus on getting on Martha Stewart, This Old House, or Oprah on TELEVISION or do an infomercial.Forget customer support via emails or “tutorials, tips, forums, etc.,” because the “masses” are going to pick up the phone and call you.If you want to attract the “masses” showing a ceramic sake carafe on your home page isn’t going to hit the spot!My customer has always been “the masses” and I know them very well, which is why I look at things totally different than most everyone on this blog, which is why I am still questioning the concept of “community” and “social media”Or, to share a story that I have found myself sharing with the young “techies” that come work for me and found that some brilliant idea they had flopped big time:When we started our daycare I hired a very bright, energetic, and forward thinking young woman to run the daycare.  On the very first day she served, as a snack, peanut butter on celery sticks to the kids….It devastated her because one kid as he was leaving told his mom, “Mom, she put peanut butter on celery” and the Mom replied, “…young un, she don’t know no better, where she comes from they eat weird things….”

        1. awaldstein

          Hi CarlThe mass market is no more Martha Stewart than it is the Apple store. The pendulum has shifted and the distinctions that used to hold true don’t any longer.Communities are built around niches certainly but that doesn’t mean that it is a niche concept.

          1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

            Arnold,You buy an Apple or an Android phone because of all the apps and the ability to make a difference in your life. The masses buy an Apple phone because everyone else has one and its a status symbol.Communities are about interaction, and to have a successful community you have to know which points will led to interaction and then build a community.I made my every semester visit to the local college bookstore yesterday and I noticed that last semester Apple cellphones were popular and they all were white.This semester everyone had “individualized” their Apple phone with “skins” or covers and bling was the name of the game; think neon and sequins.I agree that the concept of community is critical, but that it always had been. The whole idea of a “fad” or a “brand” has always been a concept of “community” or the belief that by owning something or wearing something made you “in”AVC is a community built upon sharing insights, ideas, and information but if I tried to build a big and tall community around the same points but focused on apparel rather than tech I would be a HUGE failure.Long before the internet I was having conversations with Jimmy Buffet on the idea of fans, communities, lifestyle, and followers…..I have always been a big fan of communities rather than mass marketing or as I say, “if you end up trying to be everything to everybody you end up being nothing to know one.”Its going to be interesting to see how Martha Stewart does with an Apple store like concept in JCPenney.

          2. William Mougayar

            That’s it. 3D printing needs a Martha Stewart or Oprah (if she came back) moment. – posted via

        2. LE

          “My customer has always been “the masses” and I know them very well, which is why I look at things totally different than most everyone on this blog”I’ve served the masses in the past and know exactly what you are talking about. I agree that many people reading this blog are out of touch with what the masses think and feel and I think they get a little ahead of themselves and excited about something that not only doesn’t have a big demand but will take many years to have a large demand (if ever). (Oh yeah and once the demand is proven and equipment prices drop the big guys will come along and get into the business as well. On the other hand these early adopter companies now have the benefit of vc money so they might stand a chance. )By the way Carl it seems that both of your sites are down?

          1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

            LE,Its one thing to be a start up and blaze a new path, its another thing to be a brand thats been around for 20 years and has a lot of history, or baggage.In 2006 I decided that I wanted to go B2C rather than just being a B2B company and we slapped up a website and opened for business without having a clue or a plan.Then in 2008 the financial crisis wiped out my subcontractors as we were Made in USA at the time so I had to go off shore; and business kept growing and expanding: I was adding 3 or 4 new retailers a month and I had two major discounters wanting a big and tall program.All the while I found myself working like crazy but hating it because I was not heading in the direction I knew our future was; business was great but it was the wrong business. By opening, in a real half ass manner a B2C channel, I started getting calls from consumers complaining about the retailers, about the service, and about the product they carried.So, one day I sat down and thought, “..if you plan on working till you die you have to be passionate about what you do and that’s only going to happen if you do things your way.”So, I contacted all of my 75,000 loyal consumers who had registered with us and who purchased from us and told them that we were going to go “underground” for a while. They got an email address and a phone number of where to purchase their shirts but that we were going to totally revamp our business and our business strategy or as I told them, “you loved our product for the last 20 years now we are going to create a company you will love for the next 20 years.”So basically, we cut off all the retailers and just slowly let everything wind down. So, when I start back up I will be doing business exactly as I want to do it without any excess baggage from the past and I am proud to say that I am taking 75,000 really loyal fans/consumers with me; in fact they have become my partners because I send them email updates and I ask for their input.People thought I was nuts when I made the decision that I did to go “underground” for a while and I thought I was nuts for a while too, but the reality is when you find yourself going in about 5 different directions at one time you never have time to take care of the one thing that is the most important to you and your future.Now, when I start back up it will be my way, and success and the future become MY responsibilty; rather than the tail wagging the dog, the dog will be wagging the tail.I will also take back my retailers, but it will be on my terms, not theirs, because they are killing their own business and I refuse to be beholden to retailers that are killing themselves and me too.Oh, and once I prove my point, which is my 5 year plan, I even have an exit strategy (actually I have a choice of three).When you stop the gears and bring things to a screeching halt you have time to really study your business and build your business (which is a big difference between small companies and start ups) and you realize that based on your data its only going to take 250,000 loyal consumers to turn your five year plan into a success and with a start of 75,000 you are already 30% there. But sometimes you cannot see the trees for the forest….

      4. awaldstein

        Anytime your marketing strategy is built on educating the mass market, get dug in…it’s going to be a long road.

        1. William Mougayar

          True. It takes more time/money to do that. – posted via

          1. awaldstein

            Actually it goes farther than that.If you need to learn to appreciate you have a problem. If your appreciation leads to an interest in learning, you have a win,This is the wine conundrum as well. 

        2. Luke Chamberlin

          This is so true. It also raises a flag for me as I don’t think the masses are as dumb as they look.If you offer value to consumers they will take you up on it. I’ve seen many businesses with bad products say, “well, the masses just aren’t educated enough to understand us.”

          1. leigh

            never underestimate or overestimate your consumer 🙂

    2. markslater

      so i can tell you of two direct experiences. We have a 3D printer in our office complex – we have become friendly with them. They are in to 3D ceramics. the process is pretty cool – they have baking ovens etc in their facility. the use case is really mostly collectibles.You can have a really cool looking expresso cup made etc. I see them as more the ETSY type vendor.The scond use case is in the field of footwear. I have some experience here and i can tell you that in order to want to touch and feel a prototype shoe – one used to have to make molds – these are extremely expensive pieces of custom cut steel – you dont want to make the mold until you have confirmed the shoe dynamics for obvious reasons. In comes 3d printing that can make a prototype shoe. you can touch and feel it and look at it in 3D – you can make adjustments to design and perspective and color – its hugely important at this phase of a shoes development. so i guess – arts and craft, and prototyping are two use cases i have seen

      1. Brad Lindenberg

        yes 3D printing websites seem to like using case studies around shoe prototyping… 

        1. markslater

          nearly all shoe design houses have 3D printers. it transformed the shoe development process. going from line drawings to CADS was one thing. But going from CADS to design confirmation often required bottom unit and upper tooling to be made – this involved steel cutting etc – basically making a mold configured for mass production – just so that you can “touch and feel” the unit. the complexities of shoe design today and the importance of “getting it right” require prototyping. Some performance shoe design and development cycles are 2-3 years. the latest addidas predator football boot was a 3 year process. Get any part of the process wrong and its deadly. It can be a brand killer. 3D printing injects immeaurable value in to the design and development process. It allows the design teams to really see their creations from cad – and hold them, color them, etc etc. When a design hits the line and 2,000,000 pairs are made – employing 10’s of thousands of people – your worried then about your technical package, materials, QA – not distracted by how its going to look.

          1. ShanaC

            so this is is why there only seems to be very few shoe brands that fit (and not well)Huh, so when will I be able to 3d print shoes to get around that

          2. Brad Dickason

            @ShanaC:disqus there are companies experimenting with rubber and flexible materials right now. Most 3d printing materials started off as hard, unflexible substances but as things like Silicon and Rubber become printable, I bet you’ll see some great shoes! Then again, Crocs practically feel 3d printed already 😉

          3. ShanaC

            umm, yay (except crocks are ugly, and I try to dress classy everywhere except the gym)I know there already is at least one online company that does custom shoes for 250 minimum. ( They also don’t list my true size (7N). (yes, most of my shoes are a tad big for me, it sucks)Sneakers end up being this brand dependent mess.I really would prefer for athletic shoes (or even just the soles of all my shoes) be printed of stuff like silicon. I could get shoes that really fit me.  It would be awesome.  And not just for me.  So I hope silicon/rubber printing grows.@tao69:disqus – do you have any thoughts about the growth of a custom clothing market as it deals with 3d printing

          4. markslater

            unfortunately never shana.90% of all shoes fit within a size 7-10 (for men) – of you are out of this – then your ability to find shoes becomes exponentially more difficult.add to that – that 3D printing does not solve for materials – which are arguably just as important as design.3d protyping for shoes are what is called “look see” – you would never put the actual thing on

      2. Rohan

        Now, that’s clearer. I did figure out the Arts aspect when I looked at their shop. The shoes story is useful. Thanks Mark.What other applications do theyMaybe they should put you up on their website! 🙂 

      3. David McMahon

        Also, dental labs.Dentists use 3D scanners of impressions and send the digital image to the lab who make the restorations, including models, chrome partials, and dentures. Cuts out postage & some labour intensive task. Major disruptor in the industry and makes sending work internationally possible whereas it was relatively local previously.

        1. LE

          I’ve seen dentists who own that equipment in office and are marketing it as such. No need to come back for a second appointment.But as I’ve mentioned that is a good idea because it’s something they are already buying and the machine is saving time, money (I believe if they have enough volume) and creating a much better quality product than the legacy way.

    3. Duann

      Hi Rohan,Take a look at the Shapeways Blog for the amazing stories from the Shapeways community, including the stroller story, which I am proud to claim as a personal victory:)…

      1. Rohan

        Exactly my point, Duann. These stories need to be right up there in front. 🙂 Right now, they’re hidden! 🙂 

    4. Brad Dickason

      Completely agree with this @rrohan189:disqus . The stories are what make me invest in Kickstarter projects and buy from certain Etsy vendors. We need to call these out more prominently and focus on the story BEHIND the creation, as opposed to the tech behind the creation.

      1. Rohan

        Thanks for your note, Brad. Looking forward to stories to understand how and why people use these! 🙂 

  2. Brad Lindenberg

    Nice Fred!

  3. jason wright

    Is there a limit to the size of objects that can be ‘printed’? I wonder how large a printer could be? 

    1. Brad Dickason

      Currently, the biggest object we can print at Shapeways is roughly the size of a trash can 66cm x 35cm x 55cm (2ft x 1ft x 1.8ft). Clearly we need a new object-of-reference here :DSmaller printers are expanding their sizes, but the new Makerbot Replicator can print roughly a loaf of bread.

      1. jason wright

        …and Is 3D printing technology able to print objects that will function electronically, that could be plugged in to the telecomms network and communicate with servers and other devices?

      2. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        God, I have to come up with something that can be called “Makerbot Replicator”I mean, just saying it makes envious….I don’t know but it sounds like something one would use to give birth to…..FAKE GRIMLOCK!!!

  4. William Mougayar

    Ok. I’m a total newbie on this, but I went on the Shapeways site and painfully read stuff to try to understand what 3D Printing is about. I get it and I want it, BUT…WHY is it called “3D PRINTING”? It’s such a BAD name for it. It’s as if sushi was called “dead cold fish”.I think 3D PRINTING has a marketing problem in order to reach mass adoption, let alone mass understanding. 

    1. JimHirshfield

      That’s your cue awaldstein.

      1. awaldstein

        I don’t know…Actually did the early 3D crossover work for movies when we moved stereoscopic industrial technology into the projection systems in the cinema.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      @awaldstein:disqus @JimHirshfield:disqus @tao69:disqus Guys, isn’t it as simple as this?You have to have the machine working on the level you want first.  Then move into a powerful promotion capturing attention and image.  William, you’re right about the 3D printing…Set up a video where you have the top part of the machine, below it a bigger tub and have a celeb (Shatner or Nimoy would be best) come up blowing the dust off of his arms as he starts brushing it off chest and so forth.BTW @fredwilson, I did do the thing for the StopSopa banner, just don’t see it on my thing.

      1. awaldstein

        Engaging the mass market is never simple. That’s the power of why it matters when you do.

      2. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        Dave,I noticed that Shapeways was hiring a Director Of Operations and I read up on the position.Now, operations are my bread and butter and with all the sku’s involved in the t shirt business, I tried to visualize exactly how “lean” a company that is already producing 30,000 units a month that is attempting to go from “prototype” to “mass market” could be.I would LOVE to visit and see their operations, but the reality is 30,000 units is no big deal if its all one sku; 30,000 of 30,000 skus is impossible.  Especially when every consumer wants perfection, a low price, and they expect you to ship tomorrow.Its not all that different from places like Custom Ink or Blue Cotton, you send them your artwork, or you design what you want printed on a shirt right on their website and they produce it and ship it to you.The really simple stuff, standard letting, one color, they do real well with, but the specialty art takes a tremendous amount of time and in 90% of the cases the art has to be totally redone and on and on it goes.I know Custom Ink and Blue Cotton are profitable but they focus on group sales, Zazzle I have no information on but I know that Cafe Press is a loser.… 

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Fascinating.Throwing out the ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’ was just a matter of ways to think of moving away from the term 3D. I also stated doing something regarding image that is bigger/expanded needed to be at the right time to match capabilities of the machine.Need to catch up sometime.

      3. Nancy L

        Hey guys, I actually agree with you guys about 3D Printing being a bad name for it–it’s a bit too technical, and doesn’t even cover half of what we actually do. Shapeways is about making ideas of physical things into actual physical things… quickly. It doesn’t actually matter what technology we use (3D printing, rapid casting, matter compiler…). On the other hand, I do find that people are very interested in the technology we use. Even if I talk to my mom or grandmother about this stuff, they always ask about the technologies we use. In those cases, the term 3D Printing actually works best out of all the ways I’ve tried to describe it. In any case, I think getting people to think outside the context of 3D Printing or even coining a new term will be met with more resistance than you might think. 

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Good point.

    3. Brad Dickason

      @wmoug:disqus I agree about the 3D Printing problem. How do you feel about “Rapid Manufacturing” (still pretty industry-sounding) or “Infinite Creation”?

      1. William Mougayar

        I think it requires further dumbing down…but that’s just my opinion.- posted via

      2. LE

        In this situation I think you have to invent your own word. I don’t think it’s going to be easy or preferable to put together words that have other meaning already in this particular case.  Like “Segway”. There was no reasonable frame of reference and nothing to easily describe it so they created a new word. This is not like “electric guitar” or “four wheel drive” or “hi definition television”. It doesn’t extend something that people are already familiar with in a way that that the average person would be expected to understand. 

    4. Mark Essel

      Right on William. There’s no voice in “3D PRINTING”



    5. Aaron Klein

      Not sure I totally agree. What’s better than 3D Printing?The great thing is the possible visual. I remember when UPS ran the ad showing a snorkeling fin coming out of a laser printer. The voiceover said something like “Until we have this, we have UPS.”Printing is an electrons-to-atoms action that most people understand. Maybe the 3D part is the problem but a better description isn’t popping into my mind.

      1. Adam Gering

        “What’s better than 3D Printing?”Replicators.



        1. William Mougayar

          Why not “average person” instead of normal person?I’m a normal person and not stupid, but saw ambiguity in trying to understand 3D Printing the first time I heard about it. – posted via

        2. LE

          “3D PRINTING EXACT DESCRIPTION OF WHAT IT DO”Unfortunately it’s not exact in any way. The word printing has a very long history of being associated in people’s minds with something very specific which is the type of printing that most people understand. Ink of some sort on paper, plastic, fabric etc. of some sort. Or some kind of transfer of an image to an object. Not the creation of an object from raw materials.  Additionally it’s further confused by “3d” which is also associated with movies. “IN WAY NORMAL PERSON UNDERSTAND.”Look, Xerox was a completely new word that ended up meaning “copy”. But that was a word that had no meaning before that.  And not a mashup of two words “3d” and “printing” that are not associated in people’s base understanding.Over time of course people will learn what this is after they get educated. 

      3. LE

        “Printing is an electrons-to-atoms action that most people understand. “Wtf?

        1. Aaron Klein

          Sorry, I get in trouble every time I use that terminology. I’ll have to find something new. :)The bits and bytes in a computer are electrons. A sheet of paper is composed of atoms.Printing converts stuff that lives in the electron world into stuff that lives in the atom world. That’s true of paper printers and 3D printers.

          1. LE

            Well more importantly,  I think “Riskalyze” is an A+ name for your company. And you even got the obvious typo “riskalise” as well. 

          2. Aaron Klein

            Why thank you! And yes, we got riskalyse and riskalize too just to be safe… 🙂

    6. LE

      “It’s as if sushi was called “dead cold fish”Or chilean sea bass was called patagonian toothfish.You are correct though.  It’s as bad as Google’s “MapReduce” is to describe “distributed computing on large data sets on clusters of computers”

    7. matthughes

      That’s pretty funny William.A friend of mine is thinking about opening a dead cold fish restaurant. I’ll suggest this name to him…

    8. leigh

      Actually i would agree with that…similar conversation with Rogers Cable back in the day — they kept trying to sell digital cable boxes — better picture and sound quality – no one cares.But pple wanted to see the Sopranos.  To see the Sopranos, you had to have the movie network.  To have the movie network you had to have a digital box.  So we told them to sell the Sopranos instead — those that wanted to see the show, got a digital box.  Problem solved.Here same issue — people want to create an object from their imagination to sell — to create that you have to …………. Focussing on 3D printing is a misnomer.  Because truth is, if i see 3D printing i think i don’t want or need it.  But if i see a cool marketplace with cool shit in it and i get my creative brain working — again different conversation.  

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup. Rogers has lots of tricks like that.Object Maker maybe is a better term than 3D printing. – posted via

    9. paul e.

      I own if they want to talk 🙂

  5. John Best

    When the technology is cheap and accessible enough, it’ll completely revolutionise home businesses. I predict a huge expansion of the manufacturing industry, as SMEs jump to fill the “bespoke” gap that would be too expensive to touch for larger manufacturers. No doubt we’ll see spare-room startups prototyping hardware at home.I can’t wait to see where this leads.

    1. Brad Lindenberg

      Logistics will be disrupted too. You don’t need to ship stuff if it’s printed on demand at your premises.I also think places like a 3D printing version of “Kinkos” will pop up. They will have the really good printers. Just like Kinkos have the color copiers and equipment that are not economical to have at home, but for 3D. You could go to them to print a car part, but an accessory or iPhone case you might print on your makerbot.So awesome.

      1. John Best

        I wonder what it’ll do to engineering training? CAD/CAM will get a serious shake up too. More emphasis on ergonomics over deployment?

        1. Brad Lindenberg

          It will democratize manufacturing.It will speed up manufacturing.We used to make samples of golf clubs in China before mass producing to sell on lindgolf.con. It was a 60 day process for the first iteration and 30 days after each update. With 3d printing this could become a 60 minute process. It will make us all inventors and tinkerers. Companies like AutoCad will see a wave of growth. So will training providers, book publishers, etc… Around the topic. It’ll be great. Can’t wait to watch it play out.

          1. Duann

            Hey Brad,It is democratizing manufacturing and compressing the time between idea and reality.  Really importantly it is a way for designers to get their products to market with zero risk.It is a way to scale supply to exactly meet demand, a way of approaching physical products in the same way we sell digital products.  A way for artists, designers and entrepreneurs to experiment, iterate and succeed.There is a great case study of an artist seeking $500 on kickstarter to fund his project who gathered over $77k in backers and fabricated his entire project using Shapeways.Using the combination of Kickstarter and Shapeways as an Innovation Amplifier : Crowdsourced Capital and On-Demand Digital Fabrication.

          2. Brad Lindenberg

            Duann, I just watched the Joshua’s Crania video ­ wowŠ So amazing.This video REALLY shows the power of Shapeways and has crystallised in my mind, its power not just as a marketplace but also as a service to inventors who want to “outsource” production via an on demand, risk free, pay for what you make, 3D printing service.Amazing stuff. Thanks for the link.

      2. Brad Lindenberg

        Or you could use Shapeways 🙂

      3. LE

        “places like a 3D printing version of “Kinkos” will pop up”I did that business in the 80’s, essentially a service bureau for output from desktop publishing (as I’ve mentioned here before). A few differences though.1) The service bureau was an additional service we (and others offered). It was not the primary profit center. It was a niche. At the time, in today’s dollars, the equipment cost about $170,000. We were essentially the first to offer this service in Philadelphia, and one of the first in the Philly metro area. 2) We had work lined up for the equipment that we could move off other equipment (traditional methods of doing the same thing). So we didn’t depend on the service bureau work to support the equipment. And there really wasn’t additional overhead as if that was the only thing we offered. (Kinkos of course was initially established as a copy shop and initially didn’t offer self service. Good self service equipment didn’t come along until much later.)3) The price of the equipment dropped so people who waited faired much better. While I could say we gained from being early adopters and picked up accounts I can’t definitively say that quantitatively.  4) There were all sorts of issues with “pre-flight”. That is, the file created by the customer didn’t work the way it should when printed. And this was only for laser output, not 3d. It took many years for the industry to work out this issue. 5) We had a service that created repeat business customers. So we could jack the price up and make money because service and quality counted it wasn’t so much price other than to get people hooked with a discount. If you charged $10 for a page and got the work done a business isn’t going to switch for a few dollars. So there wasn’t as much downward pressure on pricing. With consumers and consumers who don’t have regular needs this isn’t the case. Only a few things above off the top, many more. Most importantly though the product was a better way of doing something that people business needed on a repeat basis that was already being done some other way.

      4. John Revay

        Why not go and call on FedEx/Kinkos – do a deal w/ them to install shapeway printers in each of their print centers – Co branded a course.

        1. Brad Lindenberg

          Well Shapeways is a centralized production facility. That is a strength that keeps them lean because they can serve the country/world from 1 place with a few machines.When you start replicating your manufacturing equipment across the country, you want to be sure that your customer base increases at a rate higher than the costs of the additional machines. I don’t think that this will happen as 3d machines are expensive. By shapeways offering more physical printing locations, they won’t necessarily grow their customer base, they just make it more convenient for customers to print stuff without having to wait.It’s a similar kind of dilemma that Groupon would have around the level of hyper-localization that they focus their sales force on. For example 1 Groupon salesperson might be able to get 5 deals a day from merchants in or around Sydney where there are 4 million people however if Groupon wanted to hyper localize and ensure more relevant deals, they could segment their database by post ode and they would need to hire more staff to work at each post code. This would mean someone would focus on Bondi Beach, another on the city etc, however there might only be say 20,000 people in bondi and 50,000 in the city.While Groupons subscribers get a more relevant offer, it comes at the expense of groupon having an increased head count. The marginal difference in sales might not be worth it. And more relevant deals don’t always translate to more sales and more customers. Groupon could end up losing money by being too hyperlocal in the same way that Shapeways could over capitalize on equipment if they went into FedEx/Kinkos. I do however think FedEx/Kinkos could be a smart discussion becausea) they are in the printing business and this is 3d printing after all and; b) they are in the freight business and 3d printing will have an inevitable disruptive effect on logistics whether it’s now or in 10-20 yrs.

    2. fredwilson

      that is very much part of our investment thesis on shapeways

  6. tyronerubin

    and new printers have two-color’s.opens a world of new possibilities.

    1. William Mougayar

      That’s a good site indeed. Also, the Related articles below the post are good reads on this subject. 

      1. fredwilson

        so you are saying does a better job of evangelizing and explaining 3d printing than

        1. Jen Berrent

          I think MakerBot does a good job explaining for the novice (like me). The MakerBotting 101 – How Does It Work video (which you can click to from the home page) is very good. 15 seconds in it says: “A MakerBot is a machine that makes you things.” which is a great distillation, and by the end, I even understood why it was called 3D printing.

        2. William Mougayar

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that. I’m realizing now they compete with Shapeways. I think the Shapeways site is clearer.But the point is that – this education has to happen at the mass level, outside of their websites. Both sites don’t seem to have a lot of traffic (38K uniques for Shapeways and 24K for Maker…which isn’t a whole lot).There’s a certain 101 level that’s missing. Both sites assume that the reader knows something about the topic. – posted via

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. William Mougayar

            That’s a good point but let’s use IKEA as example. Is printing/designing on 3D easier or more difficult than putting together an average IKEA piece? – posted via

          3. Duann Scott

            Buying a 3D printed product is easy as buying any other product, it just never sat anywhere as dormant money/inventory.Customizing an existing product to your desires takes some effort, but the reward is a personalized product that has value beyond it’s material or use.Designing your own product  can be relatively easy if you use a tool like the Shapeways ‘Creators’ where you can simply drag a mouse and click to create a vase, cup, bowl etc.You can say I designed this, and when you hold that item in your hands you WILL become addicted.Designing a complex part from scratch is not easy, but those who do will never look at any object around them in the same way. They will see it as something they can make, improve and sell…

        3. Brad Dickason

          Makerbot absolutely does a better job evangelizing 3d printing than Shapeays (in my humble opinion). I’m inspired by how Bre gets out there in the community and always seems to have a succinct and cool message for people. Many people ask us “Is Shapeways a division of Makerbot?” One of our challenges is painting a clear picture of creation and building the marketplace that people WITH makerbots want to go to when they’re looking for products.I also think we need to collaborate together more, which would be a win for the entire industry.

          1. fredwilson

            i agree 100% with you

    2. fredwilson

      that is one of the links at the bottom of my postanother is shapeways can 3d print your minecraft creations

      1. tyronerubin

        My bad, did go through links properly.Just got more excited when someone tweeted this morning about the two-color 3-D printers. 

    3. Brad Dickason

      You should also check out Maqeit who have a very high quality glaze process that spits out full color 3d printed objects that feel like a real toy!

  7. Brad Lindenberg

    Does anyone know what is the best way for the public to get investment exposure to 3D printing? I see it as an opportunity to invest in the makers of machines, supply materials etc just like it was smart to invest in Cisco in the early 90’s when they were in the infancy of building infrastructure for the internet. 3D printing is at this infant stage still. REALLY early days but its going to transform a lot.I’ve identified four companies in the space:SSYSDDDPMTC (Israeli based company that might IPO on Nasdaq soon)Who is leading the race, making the best product etc? (the Cisco, not the Nortel or 3COM or Juniper!)

  8. mike gilfillan

    Great Prezi.  Liked the Dad who made his own replacement part – can relate.But what about this warning on their Materials page:  Warning: Please note that the 3D printing materials we use for manufacturing the designs make the products suitable only for decorative purposes and they are not suited for any other purpose. The products are not suited to be used as toys, to be given to children. The products should not come in contact with electricity or food & drink and should be kept away from any heat sources.This would deter me from trying to make replacement parts.  

    1. Brad Dickason

      Completely agree Mike. Many of us here buy items as toys for their kids or as plates that people will eat off of. We’re working on this but the legal “cover your ass” side of things necessitates it.. for now! Our Ceramics, for example, are 100% dishwasher and food safe. But we need to get there with all the materials.

      1. mike gilfillan

        Makes sense, thanks for responding.  Maybe your featured creations/products page could include more examples of replacement parts (even if not for sale). That would certainly inspire the DIY types (like me 🙂

  9. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    This is available for more than a decade now… i have seen a Dentist in India (facial restructuring) using it for molding the replaceable tooth etc., some 7-8 years before.What is so different? What i see is … instead of being used as a high-end modeling tool … shapeways is using it for decorative and ornamental utilities for everyone.How it is different from 

  10. Danny

    Fred thanks for your comment on my last post.  What are your thoughts on my latest one about the difference between corporate and startup deadlines:…

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t really understand the point you are making in this post

      1. Danny

        Setting difficult deadlines is a key component to moving a project along quickly.  Although quality of product has to be balanced, a tight deadline and launching something that is not perfect is much better than launching with perfect product and finding out you have no users.  Was just arguing this concept with a talented developer today at lunch: what constitutes an MVP in a feature rich product?

        1. fredwilson

          less is more. i think getting something out there is much preferable to building the perfect thing in isolation

          1. Danny

            also fixed the post based on your feedback:…

  11. andyswan

    The $270k paid out to shop owners is awesome.  Probably my favorite stat on the page.  I can see that 750k in 2012, 4m 2013, etc.  That’s one of those number-types where “hockey stick” isn’t unrealistic.I think the key here is education.  It’s time to hit the road.  And yes, I mean trade-shows (the type where everyone is crafty but 80% have never heard of 3d printing) and hotel seminars.It’s hard, but it works.  When thinkorswim started in 1999, NO ONE was trading options…it was scary and risky.  “We’ll teach them why and how to use them properly, and from there they’ll be hooked on our platform.”  It works.Just my .02…. love the company, the tragectory and the niche.  “Wish I knew” how the F to create something in 3D to even have it printed.FULL DISCLOSURE: I know nothing about 3D printing and nothing about Shapeways efforts to educate the market….completely ignorant rant just trying to convey the value of “education as marketing”

    1. fredwilson

      yup. etsy spent many many days at craft fairs in the early years. they still do.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      With your FULL DISCLOSURE, I think you hit the nail.Some would rather make it complicated to appear smarter than everyone else.  The end run consumer just want product. The winner will be one who enables simple to consumer ordering copy vs. scaring them.

      1. panterosa,

        Mind blowing how insecurity makes people into jargon speakers and fiefdom protectors.The coolest things are open, demystified, and the people who open them for you are the ones you remember.So where is the poster girl and poster boy for Shapeways??? The Svedka are you bot or not.  Rosie the Riveter??Arnold??

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Well put.  The bit coin being discussed by @21f6733f79898df32739117bea432f72:disqus @jasonpwright:disqus @RichardForster:disqus is on the money due to its simplicity and how easy it is to transform into more creative.I guess the ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’ image enhancer will need to wait.

          1. panterosa,

            The Beam Me Up issue was addressed in Brian Greene’s recent Nova program. Can’t beam just yet. Sadly. Or if we could, would your replica self be you? Or a copy?Have you heard of a play by Caryl Churchill called A Number? A real mind bender which I saw with Sir Michael Gambon in the lead, in London about 8 years ago. Incredible.- posted via

    3. Brad Dickason

      @andyswan:disqus do you think the key is to educate consumers on 3D Printing? Or on creation? I personally feel like the latter. I’m worried that if we focus on the ‘technical’ education, we’ll be stuck explaining 3D Printing forever. The tech is cool, but the creation is what inspires!!Right now, we’re splitting our focus between education (teaching people how to create 3d models) and making it easier (building tools so that people can create without any 3d modeling knowledge).Would love ideas for how to educate people beyond “Here is a 3d modeling program, here’s how you make an iphone case!” which many companies are already doing.

      1. LE

        Not to be cliche but people buy benefits not features. So stick to what people can do with the product. An example from the codecademy home page attached below. People are reminded of what they can do if they learn to code.

        1. LE

          Attached below. 

      2. LE

        “how to educate people beyond”To show how easy it is you should show children and older people creating things.  (age) social proof. 

      3. andyswan

        Totally agree….no one cares how it works….teach me how to use it!I like where your focus is….love the company…just suggesting more face-time with people is a solid next step. The magical mystery shapeways tour!

        1. fredwilson

          you can never spend enough face time with your customers

      4. panterosa,

        Why not focus on stories?Different users. Not just the stuff they made, but why and how, and by whom.



        1. fredwilson

          that is the shapeways approach – “masses download models other people make” it is really a market for modelsthe print and deliver feature is optional in many ways but necessary right now and maybe forever

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  12. John Revay

    Cant’t wait for this to go main stream – this real be a real game changer – disruptive.I once interviewed for a job @ Quirky – while in their office – they showed me their 3D model maker – I recall them saying that it was one of 3 machines in the US…sounded like it was a very expensive machine.This will change how quickly new products come to market and how they are distributed.Think Amazon Prime shopping cart connected to whole network of shapeway printers.

  13. jason wright

    Will they print Bitcoins?

    1. Duann

      There are Bitcoin rings :)…

    2. fredwilson

      that’s a cool idea

    3. RichardF

      or fredbucks?

      1. jason wright

        OMG!!!The Fed is toast! – ‘The Frederal Reserve’.Better. A new GLOBAL currency, built on algorithms and 3D printing.

        1. RichardF

          ‘Frederal Reserve’ – luv it – Kid Mercury will no doubt be borrowing that phrase

          1. jason wright

            That’s OK, my bitcoin borrowing interest rates are very reasonable 🙂 

      2. ShanaC


  14. Trish Burgess-Curran

    I ‘fell in love’ with the technology and the concept when I first read about it on The Economist a few months back.  I do not doubt that it has been used in business for many years but I, as part of ‘the masses’, had never heard of it before.  For me, seeing it on the cover of The Economist meant that it was probably not just any technology but an important technology with a clear opportunity to succeed at a very large scale in business and / or consumer levels. The Economist, and Business Insider, are just the first steps, many other magazines need to echo it – advertise it, hype it, explain it and demonstrate it.  TV wouldn’t hurt.  How about talking about it in general forums in FB, post on LinkedIn…  Somehow, in spite of considering myself as somebody that is well informed, particularly around technology, I do not see this revolution (and I do think it has the potential to be a revolution) being talked about on GigaOm, TechCrunch, AllThingsD… on a regular basis.  How can we change that?  How do we get it to the welcome page of Yahoo!?I absolutely loved the PrintrBot Kickstarter project to make a 3D home printer (…, he had over 1,800 backers and he raised over 33x what he needed.  How can we make that story go viral? I agree with @awaldstein – ‘Anytime your marketing strategy is built on educating the mass market, get dug in…it’s going to be a long road.’  So we had better get started right now!

    1. Duann

      Hi Trish,Shapeways has been mentioned on TechCrunch a few times but yes, broader awareness is needed.As far as Kickstarter goes we have seen a few fantastic projects using Shapeways and to power their projects.

        1. Trish Burgess-Curran

          I had not looked Shapeways up in Kickstarter.  Thank you for the pointer! The projects have had a lot of support and have raised much more than needed.  My question still stands, how do we make these stories go viral?  

          1. Brad Dickason

            Another important question – it’s very common for people to do a Kickstarter project or an API integration, or build something for a friend, but not mention Shapeways. We want to be a part of that conversation but it’s so easy to cut us out and think of us as a ‘Service Vendor’ which is the last thing we want. 

          2. Luke Chamberlin

            The API integration issue should be easily solved by requiring acknowledgement of Shapeways in your terms & conditions.Ultimately the only way you avoid becoming a service is through the creation of original content tied strongly to your brand. I.E. I recognize a Threadless t-shirt when I see one.Either that or your quality is so far above other 3D printers that a “Shapeways” 3D print is differentiated from the rest.

          3. Trish Burgess-Curran

            I think that @twitter-41899343:disqus and @awaldstein:disqus w answers are somewhat pointing in the same direction.  What are you adding to the process?  If you are really ‘only’ the ‘machine that prints out the product’, then it is easy to see you as a service vendor and difficult for you to differentiate yourself from the other companies that are coming up with 3D printing services.  With time it will not be enough to be technologically better (it will be an exhausting race) like with the example you give around materials. How involved are you in the creative process?  How can somebody that receives the present know that Shapeways has been involved?  How could you make the product distinctive enough so that if I give somebody a present made with Shapeways, I would like to tell them about it?  I don’t have the answers but these are probably some of the questions. 

          4. Trish Burgess-Curran

            Also, I have another question for you…  Have you guys thought about integrating with one of the major platforms out there?  Maybe Facebook or Amazon?  Not only advertising yourself there but also utilizing their social capabilities, reach and intel.  If you have already done it, how is it working out?  If not, why not? I am not advocating that you become FB’s or Amazon’s b*&%$ but to build a partnership with them.  Do you know if any of your competitors have done it?

          5. Brad Dickason

             We reached the reply threshold so I’ll reply here (hope this is kosher). I’m very interested in integrating with a major platform ala Facebook or Amazon. I think that there’s alot we can learn, but we need the right product before making that leap. Elsewhere in the comments, a viral product was suggested and I think we need to figure out what this product is and help enable it. I completely agree, however, that a nice integration could really blow the lid off of our site’s marketing and ability to reach people.Right now we’re relying on the cool designs on our site (i.e. different products) to spread via the Like button but I don’t think that’s realistic at this early stage. Something like a FB Birthday reminder that sends your friend a custom item on their bday, or the Etsy FB Recommender is absolutely something we can try to start really enabling discovery and creation on our site.

          6. leigh

            isn’t that that community/marketplace part?

          7. John Revay

            Intel inside

    2. awaldstein

      Every great crossover technology has a consumer promise that has nothing to do with how cool it is but how transformative it is for the person.My sense is that their is a promise here that is just waiting to found. 

      1. Trish Burgess-Curran

        I like the words ‘promise’ and ‘transformative’.  Absolutely agree.At the same time, I remember somebody saying (I think as response to one of Fred’s posts but I may be wrong) that in order for something to be successful in the mass market it would need to have two of the following three attributes:  cheap, fast and useful.  In this case, maybe cheaper, faster and more useful that ordering a pre-existing piece.  Then maybe the promise could start to take shape? 

        1. awaldstein

          Agree. I think this company already knows who they are and their value, they just aren’t using that as a connector to their potential markets. As yet. 

          1. Brad Dickason

            @awaldstein:disqus @Trish_Burgess_Curran:disqus I like the words ‘Promise’ and ‘Transformative’ as well. To be honest, we’re still trying to figure out how to market shapeways to the masses. To start, my nerdy tech friends in NYC don’t even know about Shapeways, or that we can print in a dozen materials like Silver and Stainless Steel.Blog posts like this one will help, but how can we spread that message to the REAL public (ala Yahoo, etc)? Is it a question of messaging? Or having the right viral product that everyone HAS to buy/customize?

          2. awaldstein

            What is Shapeway’s promise to the consumer? To me? Do you have a sense of why anyone should care enough to share that to their nets? Start there is my suggestion. Maybe this will spark some thoughts:

          3. LE

            “how can we spread that message to the REAL public “How much money are you able to spend on marketing? (you can answer in your above post because you can’t reply to this) Very hard to answer your question  w/o knowing a budget.   While there are always things you can do on a shoestring other things (like trade show booths and roadshows) take money. Off the top I would organize events at your location for teachers to come and learn about the process so they can spread the word to their students. And give them a discount on anything they want to do as well as free swag. You also need salespeople. People whose job it is to go out and identify prospects and do demos or bring people in for demos (for business use primarily of course). There are many things you can do but all depend on your resources that are in addition to whatever you can get out of social media and traditional media spreading the word.

          4. leigh

            i hate to go all crossing the chasm on you but if your nerdy friends don’t know about it, masses isn’t your market just yet.  I heard the CEO of Shopify talk about their success with their ecommerce storefronts (took them 3 yrs to figure out their early core target– you should go find some references –they got traction through the design community.  🙂

  15. panterosa,

    As for getting it to the masses, two ideas were mentioned – high schools and Kinko’s type places. My friend teaches wood/metal/shop in a high school. They got a laser cutter. 2 years ago. It hasn’t been set up. Because the tech crew can’t coordinate with the school. My friend is so disillusioned.I propose something more radical – why not take over the US Post Office? Big spaces, underused, and makes a great conversion statement about carbon footprint and shipping.Now if they could just get the machines to accept recycled plastics then you could also solve a waste problem.Instead of ordering some widget from 1000 miles away, take your old milk cartons or soda bottles to the PO, download the widget app for your widget, throw in your plastic bottles, and come back later for your 3D printed widget. Walk home. SO green.

    1. Trish Burgess-Curran

      You have a great idea – target the kids right where they are learning to use tools to build stuff.  Yes, that will help tremendously.  And they will bring the technology to their parents!

      1. fredwilson

        that’s how linux got into the commercial world

      2. panterosa,

        Yes schools would be great. But that public high school teacher who I mentioned is still struggling to get operational a cool, but less complicated machine to conceive of producing on.I wonder where the technology is going in terms of what a 3D printer costs today and what it will cost in 5 years.

        1. Brad Dickason

          That’s a real bummer. Not just for the kids, who are probably excited, but especially for the teacher who is just excited to teach something new that could inspire and enable tons of students for their future!Surely someone in the AVC community has a connection to get this teacher some help?!As for reaching out to students, many schools already have a Z-Corp printer which can print certain things in full color as well as a number of other materials. It’s not the Rolls Royce of 3d printers, but as Makerbot and 3D Systems and other consumer-facing companies roll out their low-cost printers, I suspect we’ll see a bunch more students jump on the bandwagon.We’re working with a few schools this year to give credits so they can build stuff for free on Shapeways and I think that this is a huge huge opportunity for the world at large. I turned to video games when I was in school and created levels, built models, coded addons, etc. It was a medium that I loved and gave me something ‘real world’ to do with my time instead of taking debate courses or playing sports. ‘US First’ was another huge program at my school, which allowed us to do robotics work.3D Printing has the potential to give kids a new outlet for their creative energy and the technology is there for it to exist at home as well.

          1. panterosa,

            Brad,The school teacher is at a high school which was featured in the film Waiting For Superman which angered and depressed so many of us. So philosophical readjustment would be necessary to bring them forward. If you have the money for the machine then make sure you have the means to run it too….My daughter’s school (private girls), here in NYC, has a robotics program. I’d love for them to get a Shapeways intro. You guys visit schools?I visited Shapeways in the spring with an Italian collaborator and met Peter. I’ve been playing with those white interlocking cubes ever since.As for my work, I am designing toys and games, and prototyping them currently. I was the wonk running on about wanting to print with corn polymers in the thread the other day.I would like to follow up with you offline. I’m at panterosa at nyc dot rr dot com.

        2. Nancy L

          Right now there are two classes of 3D printers, IMO. There’s the industrial class: the type that’s hard to set up, but produce smoother products–some even identical to the type of stuff you’d find in the stores! Then there’s the at-home set up: this is the Ultimaker, MakerBot, Rep Rap, and the list goes on. These are meant for the home–they are still complicated to set up for most people (myself included), but a lot simpler than the industrial grade beasts. I think for public high school teachers, the at-home set up will be more palatable. And I trust that the at-home set up will improve drastically in price and quality in the next 5 years. What will also be interesting to follow is how the industrial class printers and the at-home set up affects each other as these technologies develop. 

    2. Brad Dickason

      Post office! That’s a great idea (though I suspect that some evil corporation will gobble up the offices).The vision, as you describe it, is absolutely spot on. Take old materials, turn them into what you really want.

      1. panterosa,

        I am very much a silk purses from sow’s ear kind of girl.Your PO goes 3D via recycling, saving time, energy, waste, and unf**ks the PO mission problem of a future. Can you imagine if the even made money? Wow.

  16. Jan Schultink

    I think there is no one 3D printing market, but a number of vertical segments that will develop independently: Home/amateur artistic creations, architecture models, custom-made-medical-implants and many we have not thought about. Each have different cutters, different materials, and different price points.It is more a made-to-order manufacturing concept than a printing technology.

    1. ShanaC

      medical implants is already starting to happen when it comes to dental.  the technology/training isn’t quite cheap enough to make it really widely available (surgery is needed…)

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        @JanSchultink:disqus better yet, with the advancing of ‘growing’ organs for implant, the odds are increased, offsetting the non believers.With enough pathways, we can get past the lawyers…..

        1. ShanaC

          Lawyers.  Actually, I’m more concerned about the FDA.  I suspect last stages of getting organs printed is going to take a tone of ACT UP!  Cost will be high, even though they could make money on volume for cosmetic surgery.  FDA will be slow to approve, even though it will be a necessary Technology

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            My mentioning lawyers was meant more as an overall slap related to everything, including SOPA/PIPA.What will help regarding either path (print or Nanobio) is it is going to happen and moving thru the next 15 years will enable more R&D to end run throughout the world.  If the 1% want their stuff here and price it out of the 99%, more and more of the 99% will go elsewhere. What can they do?  Screen you at the airport coming back to the US?

        2. Jan Schultink

          Growing organs would be probably in a century from now. A non-growing custom-made heart would be fine for me for the moment 🙂

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            Since they’re already growing organs and testing hearts in pigs (UK) over thru livers and such means the growing of organs using the formula needed per user will happen much sooner.Yes, you’d be able to print a pacemaker moving into using material that works in the body and so on.My point was simply there being more than one pathway and a reminder on the Nanobiological side since we can already ‘grow’ on that level clusters that can create.As far as 100 years, there will be the option of not requiring the organs as we understand today.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            ONLY IF YOU FROM YEAR 1911.

          3. Dave W Baldwin


          4. Jan Schultink

            Just thinking what @FakeGrimlock:disqus could do with the medium 3D print in addition to poster paper and t-shirt cotton.

      2. Jan Schultink

        Cost should be a matter of time. The current process of fitting things, there must be a better way to do this

    2. Carine Carmy

      Really good point Jan!In our view (I’m at Shapeways), 3D printing has the potential to turn mass manufacturing on its head, so this is definitely going to impact a host of industries from aerospace to medical devices to consumer products. As you said, the materials and costs will definitely vary, even for the “mass market” when you think about home devices or platforms like ours.The common thread across all these industries, though, is that we’re no longer reliant on solving for the lowest common denominator — 3D printing enables design to solve individual, unique needs. In that sense, perhaps we should be thinking differently about “mass market”?

      1. Jan Schultink


      2. Mark Essel

        Design ThinkingCarine you may enjoy this TED talk by Tim Brown. It speaks to the power of customized solutions that are unique to communities, as well as a focus on delivered experiences instead of objects.Shapeways (and other 3D printing companies) will enable entirely new systems solutions to current problems. The speed with which a thought can take shape will continue to shrink, the only obstacle being available resources.

        1. Carine Carmy

          Thanks! I’ll definitely take a look.

          1. Mark Essel

            They’ll be a quiz so make sure :DSeriously, it’s a highly relevant 16 minute presentation that may influence the way you think about your company.Enjoy.

        2. abhic

          +100 “The speed with which a thought can take shape will continue to shrink, the only obstacle being available resources.”

  17. jason wright

    There needs to be a viral product, an object printed that can be sent to a friend or colleague that requires the recipient to have another part printed to form the fully functioning complete item – an ‘interlock’ process. It has to be something that encourages the recipient to then send on to another person, and so on……Bitcoins with unique encrypted security codes divided in two halves that spin out forever. You print your half of the coin, send it, the recipient needs to print out the other half to get the complete code (which becomes a virtual currency unit online), and they then send their half on to a friend et.c. et.c. So then everyone has a Bitcoin and then everyone knows about Bitcoins, and everyone has therefore received and sent a 3D printed item and knows about 3D printing.It needs a mathematician and cryptographer to work out the nitty gritty :-)I assume Bitcoins of different values can be ‘purchased’ (?)

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a great idea



        1. Brad Lindenberg

          You should make Fake Grimlock figurines on Shapeways. I’ll be your first customer 🙂

        2. jason wright

          More useful than a plastic dinosaur.

    2. ShanaC

      expensive though

    3. Brad Dickason

      This is fascinating. What would a bitcoin even look like?! I love the idea of a viral real-world product that would be less about “here’s my personalized object” and more “here’s something that reminds me of my friend” or “here’s something special we can share in common.”

      1. jason wright

        …”here’s something that helps my friends, because my friends are people I want to help”.The code could also make the object of friendship theft proof.

      2. jason wright

        Having now spent another 48 hours convalescing from my Monday afternoon bicycle smash (%#@$*&^ four wheel beasts!) I’m ready to say some more.First, I don’t like the Shapeways name – sounds like a discount supermarket selling an inferior product. Sorry. You can do better than that. Second, forget about the technology. Think people, their creativity, their ‘obsessions’. Think Rubik Cube, think Lego, think Stone Age man (and woman) brain, think social network, think the unthinkable, the fourth dimension, the fifth dimension….This can become a global craze, like Easter Island, but more Earth Island…gone berzerk.Think the child within –…What would a bitcoin even look like? A coin of course, but not quite like you’ve seen before.

    4. Nancy L

      You are right on with the need for viral product! I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past month and especially thinking about the success of products like Nyan Cat and Minetoys on Shapeways. Though, in those cases it’s products based on viral products.. so not quite the same.One category of things I have also thought about is almost the opposite of viral product, but collectibles (think: Pandora bracelets, charms, Beanie Babies). Those items induce the same behavior as a viral product (buy! buy! buy!), but rather than outwards facing (inducing other people to buy) it’s more inward facing (inducing yourself to buy for you, or others to buy for you). 

  18. LIAD

    BBC article on 3D printing from earlier today –…I like @wmoug:disqus think the whole industry needs a serious rebrand. Whilst the technology and end results have the WOW factor, the name, industry vibe etc seems weak and uninspiring.

    1. Brad Dickason

      Absolutely agree. It’s also interesting that 3d printing isn’t the only technology that’s really innovative here. There are lots of rapid manufacturing techniques like Laser Cutting (which can cut wood!!) which are really exciting.However, the true interesting piece here is not the technology, but the creation it enables. Allowing anyone to build any object they can dream up (whether it be a spare part for a stroller or their engagement ring) without needing any knowledge of manufacturing or distribution, is really interesting! Especially if you can take the ‘without needing any knowledge’ further and make it a reality for people who don’t need to know anything about 3d modeling! That’s the gap we’re currently trying to bridge.How do you feel about the term ‘C-Commerce’ or ‘Creative Commerce?’ 

      1. leigh

        I’ll buy Creative commerce is you promise to not start using ‘creative intelligence’ cuz that one pisses me off.  

  19. Meir

    For a great story which draws on a great (if a bit spooky) vision of where the “maker” culture can get to, check out Charles Stross’ novel Rule 34

  20. testtest

    i’d create a facebook app. building on top of platforms is uber effective.

    1. Brad Dickason

      @chrishuntis:disqus what kind of stuff do you think people on Facebook would like to create? Should we leverage their photos? Or their friends’ connections? Or maybe birthdays?

      1. testtest

        – social jewellery making etc- creating virtual gifts that can be printed out.- gamify the creative process.the options are limited to what can be printed out — which is a heck of a lot!

  21. Tom Labus

    It’s not clear what their business model is from the site.There’s e-commerce, middle man and a few others that went by me.If this is consumer facing than they need to do some education for the average person.

    1. Brad Dickason

      @twitter-7759822:disqus I agree, we need to work on our consumer-facing message. We view Shapeways as a marketplace for rapidly manufactured objects, in which our ultimate goal is to enable people to create any object that they can dream up and then help them sell it and quit their day job.(That is not a ‘marketing’ message per se, but how I, after a few weeks here, view the value). To be more direct, we allow you to either upload a 3d model or use one of our ‘creators’ and we do processing on it to make sure it’s printable. We then make it available on the site for you to buy and can print/ship it to you, or allow you to sell it to others. The last part is what we think is really exciting, especially as people gravitate from using our in-house production to having their own 3d printers at home :)It’s clear that we need to improve our messaging and explanation of this. Mind acting as a guinea pig? How do you feel about the following:”Shapeways enables Personalized Production”or “Shapeways is a marketplace for relevant, custom products created on demand”

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        Thanks Brad for taking time to answer questions. This is what makes AVC such a great community.To answer your question, I think Shapeways as a marketplace is more exciting and a much larger potential market.I’ve been thinking a lot about your consumer-facing message. As things like 3-D printing become accessible to the masses, the line between B2C and B2B blurs. So how to you market to this in-between area? Is your customer an intermediary (business or designer) or the end user of the product?Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t see 3D designing ever being as accessible as a product like, say, online printing. Most people can drag and drop photos into an online bookmaking program and click to have it printed. The ability to design a 3D model yourself is exponentially more difficult.Personally, I’ve downloaded Google Sketch-Up several times and tried to build things but always gave up in frustration. I love the idea of designing 3D objects, but the learning curve is too high.Behind the scenes, you can work to find the right designers and partnerships to find content (the Minecraft partnership is a great). A marketplace for spare parts sorted by brand and part number would be fantastic (like Radio Shack of the future). Package your product as an educational experience and sell to schools like Lego did in the 1980s. A white label version I could use to start a rapid-prototyping business and market to all the artists in my neighborhood. These are just a few thoughts.

        1. Brad Dickason

          Happy to answer questions! I’ve been a long time member (usually a lurker but occasionally a commentator) on AVC, so it’s great to see this conversation taking place here 🙂 This community always amazes me with their positive and constructive discussions.I agree about the marketplace comment, especially as the tech becomes more available and cheaper.You’re right about the B2C/B2B. For example we’re doing some API integrations right now and creators with third party companies, and some people are using our service as a prototyping tool for their corporation. Really, I think our customer is the designer. IF we can attract the right designers to the site, they will create products that create consumer demand. However, as we explore the ‘platform’ model, there is a possibility for consumers (ala Minecraft) to be the designer. My gut tells me this last part is really the sweet spot (find places where people are already creating and enable them), but it’s a tough road to make that happen and a very tough message to explain to people.I completely agree with you at the 3d design problem. Even as we start doing things like Kinect 3D-enabled design (Cubify recently launched an app), it will never become simple. The closest thing you have is Minecraft, which is 3d design but doesn’t use the complex concepts that most people are used to like extruding, meshes, etc. You just use blocks!I agree that the products vs. spare parts marketplace is interesting. I’m wondering if these should be the same areas of the site or split out separately?

          1. Luke Chamberlin

            Are designers your customers or are they business partners?If you look at successful marketplaces (Etsy, Threadless, Kickstarter) they are consumer-oriented and work hard to market on behalf of their designers. “Are you a designer?” is a little link in the footer. You have “Are you a designer?” in your masthead.Not saying it’s a bad thing if this is your strategy, just pointing out the difference.

          2. Carine Carmy

            Thoughtful point, Luke. Our designers are our business partners in a lot of senses. I was actually speaking with one of them yesterday (GothamSmith –… and they astutely described us as both their manufacturer and retail partner, which is pretty game-changing…You’re also alluding to a really interesting question about what happens when we (or others) provide tools that make it easier for people to design — i.e., merging the creator and consumer. How we differentiate the experience for these various users is definitely a challenge we’re tackling.

          3. panterosa,

            I am a designer, and I am working to prototype some ideas. So I am a target customer.But I have some issues making the leap to the 3D model process, like many of your customers have, even though I have a 3D background.I went to RISD in Sculpture. However, I lost stereoscopic vision at 19 so RISD waived me from perspective drawing. I’ll never be able to do CAD, but I can see the way Picasso and Babe Ruth do.Making little waxes, clay, or paper models is more where I’m at. Having to render these into a program melts my brain. I had a huge leap to work out pattern making for sewing with the constant 2D to 3D conversions and back.So in a way I am a target person in your marketing – 3D savvy but tech/CAD unsavvy. Solve some of my issues and you will open your doors to more of us.And I like the comment from Carine saying that you have designer for whom Shapeways is manufacture and retail partner. I would be same.I would work with print on demand from Amazon or even iPhoto books as well. #D is the complement to that.

          4. leigh

            Would agree.  Start with the design community (have you guys connected to the 3D programs at all?  Sheridan College in Toronto has a great one and i bet the students would go gaga for this )– the rest of the ‘creative class’ will follow.  

          5. fredwilson

            i agree that focusing on the designer is critical. certainly in the early stages of building this marketplace of printable designs.

      2. Tom Labus

        Would like to follow your company’s evolution.The second is better but make it sound like a normal person.Your first paragraph (above) should be on the site on be seen as soon as you land there.  It gives some clarity and reason for exploring the site.

      3. Alexander Close

        For me, the word “marketplace” sparked my imagination.  It made me think of a huge ecosystem with plenty of fresh ideas (from everyone) coming in from around the globe. I liked that.  The parallel it brought to mind was airbnb’s “marketplace for spaces” (you mean I can rent a boat/castle/bus!?) Personalized production is good, and something I would purchase.  But what got my mind sparking was the opportunity to explore/share the possibilities and uses of 3D printing with others.2 cents, hope it helps.

        1. Ana

          “For me, the word “marketplace” sparked my imagination. It made me think of a huge ecosystem with plenty of fresh ideas (from everyone) coming in from around the globe.”So, in other words, you’re inspired by the potential to discover, share, and create value via the interchange between lots and lots of people?I can definitely understand that!What about the financial aspects of a marketplace? The idea of people using Shapeways to scratch their entrepreneurial itch?

          1. Alexander Close

            Totally.  That’s what gets the brain going.  That’s the why.Financial aspects too, once there is larger adoption the entrepreneurial possibilities are unlimited.

          2. Ana

            Definitely helpful, thanks!

      4. leigh

        i actually thought your consumer messaging was practically perfect at this stage (the about section is really well done).  🙂  

  22. MartinEdic

    So, Prezi does not even appear on iOS? Just a big white space…

    1. Brad Dickason

      I had the same problem 🙁

      1. MartinEdic

        I guess they develop on Flash which explains why Prezi is too buggy to use in important presentations. I saw it used twice at a publishing conference for keynotes and both presenters had to give up on Prezis they had put a lot of time into. But that was awhile ago. I certainly hope they don’t rely on an app to work on iOS. I find myself annoyed when a web service goes the app route instead of developing for the iOS browser.

        1. panterosa,

          Thanks for the heads up – – – was just about to build a prezi for something where I might need to pivot to something else.

  23. sprugman

    Prezi really needs an HTML5 viewer. I usually read AVC on my iPad. In order to watch what was essentially a static slideshow with about ten slides, I had to:1. Copy the link (which was embedded as plain text, not a link).2. Download an app.3. Sign up for a service!4. Go to the link in Safari (I couldn’t paste it into the app).5. Log into the app.6. Wait for something to download.Not a good experience!

    1. fredwilson


    2. baba12

      I read this on  a $99 hp touchpad running webox, I xid nothing of thzt sort, just viewed it and enlarged the screen. lets hope when webos is open sourced android is able to absorb webos smoothness and quality.

      1. jason wright

        I thought I read somewhere that Mozilla is trying to take WebOS and turn it into a Firefox model for mobile, and that it would be truly open, unlike Android.

        1. baba12

          well with Marc Andreesen on HP’s board I would suspect that is possible. I think Android is really bad and it amazes me that people seem to accept it, Webos is a bit ahead of it’s time, but in time HTML5 and javascript will be the platform for all mobile apps with the heavy lifting left for objective C and Java on the backend.But things like ios devices being unable to view a prezi is a function of Flash being a resource hog. Even on the Touchpad I had to overclock it to get it to work smoothly.

  24. sprugman

    (Here’s an HTML5 site that is similar to prezi, so it can be done. It’s not even that difficult.

  25. Miljenko Hatlak

    I’m really glad to see how technology of 3D printing emerges from exotic to everyday use, and possibilities for its use are endless. While I was reading blog post on Shapeways, I’ve realized how 3D printing is one output medium that instantly fits to technology I’m working on.

    1. Brad Dickason

      What tech are you working on Milijenko? I’m always surprised when a new group of people picks up on Shapeways because we see the technology used in totally different ways than we expected!

      1. Miljenko Hatlak

        Before answering your question I jumped onto your site to see how you are actually working since I haven’t tried it yet. As I could see you are using simple canvas based model creators, models created through 3D software like 3DS Max, Maya and likes, and by simple image extrusion.What I’m working on is a 2D/2.5D “tiny server” web graphics cross-browser application as a cornerstone for further cloud based services. At the moment I’m in a phase of building up my team and prototype development, that if everything goes according to the plan will be fully operational till the end of this year.

  26. ShanaC

    I really want to see more rapid prototyping for SMB.  It is an underused technique for everything involving to SMB branding.And I agree with every comment here about Kinkos.  We need to make this like kinkos.  Which means giving people a reason to print (if I am not mistaken, most of Kinkos business is working with SMB)

  27. Dave Pinsen

    Impressive. Another step closer to The Diamond Age.

  28. Mark

    3D printing is going to have an impact on the world on par with the personal computer. It’s going to free us from aesthetics founded in large scale production, and it is going to decimate current IP and copyright laws.Its world-changing stuff.

    1. jason wright

      Sounds like another round of SOPA-style politics in the offing.They’ll just use technology and rewrite the laws.

    2. tgodin

      Do you foresee that the printers themselves will be “in every home and on every workbench” or just that the impact of the devices will be world-changing?I like the bold statement.

    3. fredwilson

      from your mouth to god’s ears!

      1. Mark

        🙂 I was lucky enough to have George Hart show me the first 3D printed objects I’ve encountered this last fall.George is head of content at the first North American math museum, which is opening in Manhattan this year: is a big 3D-printing enthusiast. Actually, maybe it would be worth while for Shapeways to get in touch with him.

        1. Ana

          I actually met George in person a few months ago at our NYC office. He’s been a friend of Shapeways for awhile now. 🙂

          1. Mark

            That’s awesome to hear. He’s a fascinating guy. His daughter Vi is crazy creative too.Take care! 🙂

  29. Peter Sullivan

    so weird I thought you guys were in Makerbot too for some reason…

    1. fredwilson

      that is marketing fail

  30. baba12

    for 3d printing to grow and become common, huge strides have to be made in material sciences. Just as we have made significant strides in semiconductors you will see a large number of things come to support 3d printing. I wonder would USV invest in those companies in material sciences.There is a lot of supporting casts that need to fall in place but I believe we will get there for sure, remember the 8086 processor and now you have 16 core processors that are a commodity product.I would like to hear Mr.Wilson thoughts on investments in say 3d printers are you privvy to what is in the pipeline in the material sciences allowing USV to invest in the “shapeway’s” of the world

    1. fredwilson

      that’s not what we do. our success to date has largely been related to our narrow focus. we are going to keep it that way.

  31. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam engineeringtechnologymarketing.3D printing is 20 yrs (14 as far i know … i know very little) years old.

  32. LE

    The “what if you could make a part to replace a broken part” is not going to be a large consumer market need. This isn’t the 1950’s where things are expensive.  And people don’t have things breaking often enough to invest the time and knowledge required to replace something (which will be a different thing also). They won’t hit the tipping point of knowledge or use.  Of course some hobbyists will do this.Of course the local handyman or service professional would have a need. As well as the facilities management department of a medium size or large company or property manager.  

  33. SubstrateUndertow

    Lockdown (by Cory Doctorow)The coming war on general-purpose computing…he uses as one of his lockdown motivation examples -“And while 3D printing will give rise to plenty of trivial complaints, there will be judges in the American South and mullahs in Iran who will lose their minds over people in their jurisdictions printing out sex toys. The trajectory of 3D printing will raise real grievances, from solid-state meth labs to ceramic knives.”filed under – amusingly off topic



  34. ValentinTsatskin

    test comment

    1. ValentinTsatskin

      test reply

  35. nkneuper

    I think 3D printing is fascinating, especially when you consider the “counterfeit/p2p sharing” implications that come along with it. With SOPA being a hot topic, i’m sure you all can see the similarities.Let’s look at this hypothetical situation:I purchase a “Lincs Large T-Shirt, Pattern #242” pattern to run on my 3D Printer.Can I print more than one T-Shirt? What prevents me from doing such?Can I “share” the pattern with my friends? What prevents me from doing such?We all know that the material cost of goods are very cheap. A shirt you buy for $80 probably cost $5-10 to make. I’m assuming 3D printers would work similar to normal printers and you would have “cartridges” of different materials. Could 3D printers be the catalyst that creates the first BitTorrent of the material world?It’s very interesting to think about!-Nick KneuperCEO, Drip Feed Blasts

  36. Duann Scott

    Exactly,We are working to help educate educators about the potential, process and power of Shapeways. Not only the actual fabrication, but the power of sharing and or selling creations.We are at the very ground level of setting up this educational program so any input is appreciated.…We will be working on empowering through information rather than swag as it scales better.

  37. jason wright

    Sounds like the idea has some legs then 🙂 Good news and worth waiting for…maybe.I know the bartender at this watering hole sells Android over iOS, but from everything I hear and read it sounds like a dog of a proposition…for users and developers and handset manufacturers. Google wasn’t sincere in developing and releasing Android, but when has it ever been?

  38. NadraAngerman

    The thing is, the term “3D printing” is the lesser of two evils. It’s actually the lesser of several evils. It’s intended to be a vessel for specific technologies such as:+ Fused Deposition Modeling+ Polyjetting or Multi-Jet Modeling+ Selective Laser Sintering+ Selective Laser Melting+ StereolithographyThe list goes on an on in the “Additive Manufacturing” area. Given that mouthful, the term “3D printing” is a lot more attractive. Don’t you think?

    1. William Mougayar

      Well, it ain’t 3D and it ain’t printing.Do you say that you get into your 3D car & live in a 3D home?It’s about real objects & it’s about fabricating them.



    1. Duann Scott

      3d printing giant robot dinosaur fully articulated with circuitry straight out of the machine means FAKE GRIMLOCK becomes REAL GRIMLOCK



  40. Brad Lindenberg

    What about self replicating 3D printers?Print a 3D printer!

    1. Duann Scott

      The RepRap already exists, it can produce around 50% of itself….Totally open source, they are multiplying kinda fast.

  41. Jacob Evans

    Its cool and awesome stuff, have seen it.Jacob Evans,

  42. BrianErvin

    I сan’t bеlieve….Мy bеst friеnd’s mоm mаkes $ 78 аn hоur оn thе сomputer. Shе hаs bеen оut оf јob fоr 9 mоnths but lаst mоnth hеr сheck wаs $ 5489 јust wоrking оn thе сomputer fоr а fеw hоurs. Rеad аbout it hеre…..

  43. Hotelswala

    3D printing has an enormous prospect in future….It will be a major competitor for the computer and internet….Hope people will like the concept of 3D newspaper..

  44. Brad Dickason

    Also not an expert and still understanding how things work. The primary cost right now is the powder needed to create. If you look at the new Cube printer, for example, it costs $50 for a reel of powder which can create about 5 things (I think this is what I read). On Shapeways, you can create in some of the cheap materials for a similar cost (plus $6.50 shipping), but if you want to work with a ‘real’ material (ala Silver or Ceramic), the cost becomes prohibitively expensive quite quickly.

  45. LE

    “Before high school kids will play around with it in their free time”Interesting article in the WSJ yesterday about teen interest in autos declining.  “Instead they are staying home, using social networks to connect with friends, and moving to big cities where mass transit makes car ownership optional.”…2010 article about same thing: