Shapeways is doing for manufacturing, what the internet did for self-publishing, making it accessible to everyone, says Chris Dixon, the Andreessen Horowitz general partner who led the firm’s investment in the New York City-based company.
For a fee, Shapeways offers anyone access to very expensive industrial-grade 3-D printers that can crank out objects ranging from jewelry to figurines and other original inventions in stainless steel, ceramic and plastic among other materials. Unlike much cheaper desktop 3-D printers, Shapeways offers professional designers and hobbyists a more refined end product. In other words, something you might sell.
And indeed, the other engine behind Shapeways plans for growth is a marketplace where people can sell their designs. When someone pushes the “buy” button for that Minecraft figurine in bronze, Shapeways’ printers get to work producing the object, and then in a sort of Amazon-like way, handle everything for the seller – including payments and shipping.