Hold on to your 3D lovin’ hats people. Shapeways is about to change how you feel about 3D Printing… and also how you go about doing it.

The issue is getting a quality 3D Print of your design fast and cheap. ShapeWays is aiming it’s 3D hearted plastic extruders right at that market and plans to take it layer by plasticy layer, so to speak. What’s really cool though is the ability to export a model and have it printed in less time than it takes to wonder if you should try it.

I’ll go through the process after the jump, but check this out. They’re in Private Beta, but there are 200 invites for SolidSmack readers. Just enter Beta Code – “SolidSmack”

How they do it
ShapeWays uses Stratysys FDM 400mc, Dimension sst 768 and Dimension Elite and Objet Eden 500 3D printers. They’re banking on offering lower prices by having a large community built around the service. It’s a smart idea and one that is working for other creative services.

The process used is called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) which use a “print-head” to extrude Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or Polycarbonate (PC) layer by layer.

Going through the process
I thought it would harder, but it was incredibly easy. I exported a prototype door handle part out of SolidWorks as an .stl, uploaded it, hit Order and what material I wanted to use. That’s it. In 10 days I should have a prototype of my door handle arrive in the mail.

The only thing I wasn’t expecting and what you’ll want to watch for is the how much it can cost for large, complex models. They have some resources to help with this, but just be aware that the larger it is, the more it’s gonna cost. Hopefully as they gain exposure, the prices will drop.

The Race for quick 3D prints
Some think this is a general competitor with the flat-pack, laser-cut, DIY design outfit Ponoko, but it’s actually a closer competitor with companies like Quickparts. I’d like to see an actual product comparison of what both produce, because right now, Shapeways is nearly 1/3rd the price of Quickparts for the test I ran with similar materials.

Pricing and Material information can be found here.

Watch the Video – 3D Printing in 4 Simple Steps


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.