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Inside the World's Biggest Consumer 3D Printing Factory 105

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Much has been made of consumer 3D printers like Makerbot's Replicator and the open-source RepRap. But for those not yet willing to shell out thousands of dollars for their own machine, Shapeways offers 3D printing as a mail-order service. And its new Queens, NY factory is now the biggest production facility for consumer 3D printing in the world. Just one of Shapeways' industrial 3D printers, which use lasers to fuse nylon dust, can print a thousand objects in a day, with far higher resolution than a consumer machine as well as intricate features like interlocking and nested parts. The company hopes to have more than fifty of those printers up and running within a year. And it also offers printing in materials that aren't attainable at home, like gold, silver, ceramic, sandstone and steel."
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Inside the World's Biggest Consumer 3D Printing Factory

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  • by poity ( 465672 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @11:06PM (#42256739)

    The most important part is getting people to know you exist (and getting them to trust you). Now that Shapeways has an article on Forbes, everyone else, including you, is miles behind.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @11:25PM (#42256835) Journal
    In a banjs new industry, it's all about marketing, getting market share. Profits come later, after the market stabilizes and you are the market leader. So plan to spend a lot more on marketing than machines at first. Also, three months later, better machines will come out. Buy smart and plan to replace often. Better processes will also be developed, so budget big for research and development so that your process is better than the other guy's.
  • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @11:39PM (#42256915) Homepage Journal

    One barrier to entry could conceivably be (of course!) patents. The first company to do large-scale 3D printing I'm aware of was Align Technology, Inc., maker of Invisalign plastic braces (I'm a former employee). They've been printing positive molds for the aligners using stereolithography for over a dozen years, and have a lot of patents in the "mass customization" industry. When you start printing tens of thousands of unique objects a day like they've been doing for years there are certain methods that give you economies of scale despite each piece being different. It's not applicable to low-volume home printing, but when you get to a warehouse of 3D printers things could get interesting. There are probably other companies out there with additional work in this space that will crop up if it gets lucrative enough. (And hey, many aren't even software patents.)

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