Shapeways 3D printing by Internet: 500 free beta signups

Philips has spun out a new company called Shapeways that does cheap remote 3D printing -- send them a design in 3D and they'll fabricate it out of a variety of materials and send it back to you. It's still in beta, but they've sent me 500 free signups for BB readers -- first come, first served:
Beta users can sign up via
BetaCode: BoingBoing


  1. Should be “first come, first served”.
    You’re being served, you’re not doing the serving.

  2. Unless they’re doing the fabrications for free, BB is passing out 500 brochures for this service (and one huge advertisement that didn’t cost them a penny).

  3. I’m signed up and yes, the actual 3D print is not free. Do the Boingers have something they’d like printed?

  4. Looks like all 500 are used, I tried to sign up and got ‘thanks for your interest, we’re inviting new people every week!’

  5. Great video Jochem! They really were smart to use the cube puzzle to illustrate the printer’s capabilities, and their own design expertise. The close fit of the assembled cube demonstrates how tight the tolerances are that they are holding; and the layed-out form in which it was printed (as separate pieces) was clever too – the tallest point that the printer had to reach was two cubes high. This saves a lot of time on a machine that quickly draws in the flat x and y axes, but only slowly steps upward, and this illustrates a design principle for people making 3D parts – if you can keep it flat, then assemble it tall, you can make your parts less expensively because you use less machine time.
    I used a 3D printing firm two years ago to print aerodynamic shapes that we (our company) couldn’t visualize well using our design software. Much more expensive two years ago than today!

  6. @Noen:

    I have stuff that I would like to get printed. Hopefully they’ll allow more people in soon.

  7. I signed in and surfed around in there…looks pretty decent, I’d let my friends know about it if they needed something convenient. But they have the same 3D printer at TechShop, and I can get models for $25 per cubic inch (1/2 to 5/6 the price, depending on material) with no setup fee and a couple days turnaround. So ShapeWays doesn’t make sense for me, but for most people I think it’s a good setup.

  8. Since it is associated with Philips, I was hoping for some new rapid prototyping technology. Instead it is ObJet, Dimension, and SLS machines. That is a good blend of machines/technologies, but it’s nothing new.

  9. Alpha prototypes offers a similar service starting at about at $50 per cubic inche. ($149 per 3 cubic inches.) As MACEGR noted there are even cheaper ones. I would suggest to shop around. The processes and materials vary as well.

  10. In the same vein there’s another service called emachineshop, where you can design parts using a simplified CAD tool they provide and they machine them for you. They do CNC milling, laser cutting etc.

  11. Looks like an FDM (fused deposition modelling) machine. Possibly Dimension.

    Why would Philips be offering the services of someone else’s hardware? Push their own SW? Get a feel for the market? Use up spare cycles on the machines they’ve already bought?

    Admittedly, there are many 3D printing houses out there and given the cost of some of the machines, the need to be big companies, but Philips?

  12. “Please note: STL file units are interpreted as meters. This is non-standard, and we’re working on a solution for this.”

    Er, yes, you better!

  13. Since they charge per unit volume, but shapes can be as complex as desired, there’s an incentive of making funcitonal parts lightweight and strong, i.e. (made of connected struts, like an eiffel tower)

  14. oh my this would be so cool to get into! I wanna print so many models I’ve made now! did anyone sign up for it and not plan on using it much? I’d love to get into it!

  15. What’s our compensation for beta testing this for them? A discount in price or what?

    Udderwise, I don’t see the point of using them over anyone else. Someone please fill me in (pun intended).

  16. There is no discount that I can tell. Fairly small pieces cost around 60-70 bucks. But that might not be too bad for my very own Quintrino, and a hell of a lot cheaper too.

  17. “We found some problems in your model ‘***’ that we may be able to fix for you. Depending on the complexity of the design, this extra correction can take up to a few hours. When we’re done, you will receive another email notification.” That was two days ago. There is no telephone number on their site, so I couldn’t call them; there isn’t even a contact e-mail for delays. (And, Shapeways, if you’re reading, I went with a different vendor, so please don’t follow up.)

    BTW, for people interested in these technologies, I highly recommend Castle Island’s excellent page

  18. Randwolf,

    I’m so sorry to hear that your experience with Shapeways did not live up to your expectations. From your story I can see that it also did not live up to the expectations and standards that we have set for ourselves.

    I know you asked us not to follow up, but we are anxious to improve the site wherever we can so if you could just send me an email confirming your Shapeways user name, then we could look deeper into what could have gone wrong and improve Shapeways for other designers. My email address is joris (at) shapeways (dot) com.

    We’re especially puzzled that the email you quoted did not have Bart’s(a colleague’s) email address at the bottom of it. In response to your post we have manually checked all our automated email templates and the logs of the emails that went out in order to resolve the issue.

    Thank you for telling us that our contact information is hard to find on the site. We’ve added this to the list of site improvements that we will make in the post-private-beta version of the site.

    The original bug that affected you was a temporary error that occurred when the servers of our processing queue were under strain from a lot of simultaneous uploads of models. We have since corrected the issue and will be making our architecture more robust in the future. You should have received a timely notification about this problem from us. Our sincere apologies.

    I hope that you accept my apology on behalf of our team and that in time you might once again try out Shapeways.


Comments are closed.