As a kid growing up with cartoons, and comics, Batman was always my favorite. He might not have had any real super powers, but his gadgets more than compensated for anything he was lacking in that department. I always wished that I could have a Lucius Fox (the character played by Morgan Freeman in the recent films) steadily supplying me with an array of amazing crime fighting tools….or maybe just something cool to show off to my friends.
Fast forward a few years, and technology has given us 3D printing. The ability for each and every one of us to become our own manufacturers, creating just about anything with the push of a button. Of course, behind any new market built on innovation there are an array of startups bringing that technology one step closer to home.
Introducing Shapeways, a Dutch company now based out of New York, which is allowing its customers to design, and create their own gadgets more efficiently than ever.
Led by founder and CEO Peter Weijmarshausen, Shapeways allows its clients to buy ready made 3D printed products, design their own for personal use, or sell their creations globally through the webpage.
While the market for providers is growing at a staggering pace, Shapeways is doing well for itself in a number of ways.
As with any startup though, one of the prime concerns is funding. As impressive as the product might be, there needs to be a steady stream of capital allowing the firm to grow. It seems that Shapeways might be sitting on fat pockets for the foreseeable future, having bagged a $30 million investment last year. If anything, such a hefty sum being allocated company operating in what is still an obscure market is indicative of future trends.
Why I Love It
One of the central premises of the company is its ability to individualize creation on two levels.
The first is for those looking to simply design products for personal use. An individual is able to upload their own designs for various household (and not only) goods, customize them to an almost limitless extent, and have them sent to their home upon manufacturing. From the company’s end, the fact that the printing is done in bulk implements economies of scale into the procedure, cutting production cost, and offering consumers their products at relatively low prices.
For the aspiring businessperson, the company allows its clients to create an array of products for sale on the site, connecting them with the global market, and offering a previously unreachable source of income. There’s also the option of hiring your own designer to create whatever it is you want, with customer input shaping every new innovation.
It’s a strong, diversified business plan, set on optimizing growth through a series of services.
The sky seems to be the limit. As a concept, allowing individuals to create their own products has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. The variety in terms of production capabilities, ranging from household appliances to rocket engine parts for NASA gives the impression that 3D printing is only going to become an evermore substantial part of how we produce the goods we need.
Where does Shapeways fit in? It’s still early going, but based on the seemingly steady flow of investment, an experienced, dedicated staff, and an increasing consumer base, the firm looks to be on course to continue its rise to the top of the market.
For anyone looking to become more acquainted with Shapeways, and the 3D printing industry, I’d highly recommend the ‘Small Empires’ segment on the company: here