Given the nature of my work, I try to keep an eye out for anything manufactured using additive manufacturing (AM). I have a friend that has a 3D printed camera stand, I’ve seen several iPod Nano wristband holders and a couple custom cell phone cases. Consumers are starting to catch on to the possibilities offered by AM.
More proof of consumer interest in AM came with a Wohlers Associates report that announced the top industry served by service bureaus is “consumer products/electronics.” Many of those are manufacturers, I’m sure, but the power to create, or at least modify, nearly any kind of product is exciting even to people without direct access to a 3D printer. Shapeways is one of a handful of service bureaus offering AM products to a mass consumer audience.
Based in New York City, Shapeways provides both AM services and acts as a clearinghouse for AM designs. Customers can log into the site, browse through hundreds of designs in categories such as art, games and jewelry, and place an order that will be created using AM. Prices range from a couple bucks to thousands of dollars, and business, apparently, is booming.
The company recently began construction on a 25,000 sq. ft. “Factory of the Future” in Long Island. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility, which Shapeways claims will have the capacity to 3D Print 3 to 5 million custom products a year.
“We’re doing something that’s never been done before. We are manufacturing, post-processing, cleaning, sorting, and shipping thousands of unique items on a daily basis right here in New York,” said Peter Weijmarshausen, Shapeways CEO and co-founder. “Why make things overseas and then ship them here? Let’s make things local again.”
Shapeways intends to have the new factory up and running by early 2013. Plans for the building also include a laboratory for, “research and development of new materials, post-production techniques, and community experimentation. “ The Factory of the Future will be open for tours as well, further driving interest in AM technology.
With the growing popularity among consumers for 3D printed goods, Shapeways is staying ahead of the curve with this new facility. Expect other companies to take notice. An article at e-commerce Times has suggested that Amazon is in a position to offer AM products to consumers, particularly with its new construction of a string of warehouses located throughout the U.S.
Below you’ll find a video about Shapeways.