Shapeways to Expand 3D Printing Marketplace with $30M in Funding
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on April 19, 2018 |

Two months after taking on GE’s Gregory Kess as its new CEO, the 3D printing marketplace Shapeways has announced a $30 million Series E funding round led by Lux Capital, with participation from Union Square Ventures, INKEF Capital and Andreessen Horowitz—all early investors in the company. The funds will be used to speed up the company’s growth as it creates new services.

Originally spun out of Royal Philips Electronics in the Netherlands in 2007, Shapeways has become one of the leading 3D printing marketplaces. Now, the company receives 140,000 uploads per month, with designers selling models that are fabricated on demand in Shapeways’ facilities before being shipped to customers worldwide.

Design with Shapeways takes a project at various stages of completion and provides one-on-one assistance to help the customer see the project through to its completion. (Image courtesy of Shapeways.)
Design with Shapeways takes a project at various stages of completion and provides one-on-one assistance to help the customer see the project through to its completion. (Image courtesy of Shapeways.)
With the funding, Shapeways aims to expand its services “laterally and vertically,” with plans to tackle pain points for creators associated with the creative and business sides of working on Shapeways. This means making it easier for customers to model and prep files for fabrication, which the company hopes to address with a program called Design with Shapeways. This program provides personal support to those who are looking to create 3D models to sell on the site, whether they have just an idea or a complete model that needs to be prepped for 3D printing. 
Valve-inspired merchandise, 3D printed by Shapeways. (Image courtesy of Shapeways.)
Valve-inspired merchandise, 3D printed by Shapeways. (Image courtesy of Shapeways.)
Beyond helping those with little modeling know-how get their ideas made into merchandise that can be sold on Shapeways, the company will actually help scale those businesses on the site. This will include “brand development, website design, marketing support, customer service,” while using Shapeways for production. More information about this end-to-end service will be released in the near future.

To demonstrate the possibilities of Shapeways’ new tools, the company has launched a custom jewelry collection called Spring & Wonder. Like previous lines of 3D-printed jewelry, this collection enables buyers to customize the look, material and design of items they plan to purchase. The line is also meant to showcase just how the new 3D modeling tools can empower designers. Shapeways plans to launch other in-house brands in a number of product categories throughout the year.

3D printing marketplaces like Shapeways have always had enormous potential, with the ability to both empower would-be entrepreneurs much in the way that Esty has and utilize the benefits of 3D printing, which include customization, complex geometries and on-demand production. However, the previous hype of consumer 3D printing may have over inflated consumer expectations, ultimately leading to a lack of interest in the technology, as expectations met the technology’s capabilities.

What may have been missing all along were tools that could empower those without the proper modeling and business skills to launch a 3D printing-related business. With new funding, new management and new tools, we may see the concept of the 3D printing marketplace realized this time around.

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