3D printing marketplace Shapeways announced on Tuesday that it had raised $US30 million in funding from investors including Andreesen Horowitz, Lux Capital, INKEF Capital, and tech giant Hewlett-Packard.
Shapeways CEO and co-founder Peter Weijmarshausen says 3D printing is disrupting how companies are manufacturing products, and Shapeways is leading the charge.
Already the largest 3D printing company in the world, Shapeways is an Etsy-like e-commerce platform allowing its 620,000 users to create designs and submit them to the online marketplace. Founded in 2007, Shapeways says there are 3.6 million uniquely printed products on the site to date.
“If you can run a ‘factory’ based in New York, you can run a factory anywhere,” Weijmarshausen told Business Insider. “Everyone is engaging because we’re making it possible to create locally instead of in factory far away.”
Submitting a 3D product to Shapeways costs anywhere from $US1 to $US5 to cover the labour cost, which Shapeways says helps cover the cost of manually checking each submission for quality. Weijmarshausen contrasted this to high labour costs, racking up thousands in mass manufacturing.
“We’re fast. It can take one day to get a product to [Shapeways],” Weijmarshausen told Business Insider. “24 hours after Katy Perry performed during the Superbowl, left shark figurines were on the site for people to buy.”
This 3D printing technique can also print elaborate physical shapes using materials that people don’t realise are even possible, Weijmarshausen says, including products crafted out of stainless steel, silver, and bronze. He says the most popular items people create are jewellery, game pieces, and home decorations.
“All kinds of people are doing it,” Weijmarshausen said. “It’s a hobby, another way to make money, and to become an entrepreneur as you can run your own store. People are really engaged. They’re rarely unhappy with their products since the items are custom made.”
There is one roadblock: current 3D program can be tricky to navigate. Shapeways has a school under Skillshare, an online class platform, that teaches tutorials and crash courses. Weijmarshausen said some talented users take just one afternoon of messing around with the software to catch on to the basics.
Weijmarshausen says he isn’t worried about possible rivals in the 3D printing space, however.
“We are by far the leader in the marketplace community perspective, but competition is good. The more that both they and [Shapeways] can spread the word about 3D printing, the better.”
Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Business Insider.