Don’t call it 3D printing. Shapeways does on-order production of computer-generated 3D shapes in plastic, silver and other materials, which CEO Peter Weijmarshausen hopes will become the antidote to mass production. Customers submit designs and Shapeways creates objects out of them, and maybe paints or glazes them. The objects can be toys, furniture parts, pieces of art, or useful household items like the best-selling plastic iPad stand. Customers can also sell their designs in Shapeways marketplace. “I like to call it personalized production,” he said. “You only produce when someone buys. It’s evolutionary design. It’s not like mass production where if you find a mistake, you have to sell all the rest before you improve it.”
Shapeways is a Dutch company that spun off of an initiative by the electronics giant Philips; they moved to New York City because it’s the design capital of the world and their investors, Union Square Ventures, are here. (Some of its $5 million in funding came from Index Ventures, in London, and Philips is still a major shareholder.)
Having been here for three months, Shapeways is now a team of nine in New York with two more hires are on the way. A team of sixteen employees handle customer service in The Netherlands and sixteen printers scattered around Europe are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, churning out customers’ orders for custom parts. Last month, they printed 13,000 products.
The company just moved into an office on Park Avenue South in Flatiron, not far from
UnionSilicon Square, where they hosted a small gathering last Thursday to show off their shapes.