Shapeways Gets $30M More, Investing in R&D for 3D Printing Materials

The ramping up of the 3D printing sector continued Tuesday as New York-based Shapeways announced it raised $30 million in a round led by INKEF Capital, with Andreessen Horowitz, Lux Capital, Union Square Ventures, and Index Ventures participating.

Corporate venture capitalists Hewlett Packard Ventures and Presidio Ventures, part of Sumitomo Corp., also invested in this funding round.

The deal obviously will give CEO and co-founder Peter Weijmarshausen more fuel for his stated ambition of seeing 3D printing (and his company) disrupt manufacturing. Shapeways lets independent designers sell 3D-printed items through an online marketplace, with production completed by the company.

A variety of materials can already be printed through Shapeways—such as platinum, sterling silver, steel, and gold. The company said some of the new funding will go towards developing new materials for that roster.

Rather than having one specific material in the works, the company said it has been testing the waters with a variety that includes porcelain, aluminum, and multicolor plastic. Shapeways said it will also use the new funding for enhancing production and adding new features for designers who use its services.

There has been increased attention across the industry on bringing new materials to 3D printing, which in the past tended to produce monochromatic and brittle objects. Last week, Formlabs, based in Somerville, MA, introduced its Tough Resin, which is more durable than some previously available printing materials.

And early this year, MakerBot Industries in Brooklyn unveiled composites that can mimic the look and feel of wood, stone, and other materials.

Developing new materials makes sense for Shapeways as the 3D printing industry matures and collaborates with bigger companies—who likely want to capture attention from the mainstream and not just hobbyists. For example, HP and Shapeways entered into a partnership last year to develop new 3D printers. MakerBot users can print up at home tableware designed by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Even office supply retailer Staples got into 3D printing a couple of years ago, and now offers a service to produce people’s designs in stores. Staples also sells desktop 3D printers from MakerBot and Cube.

Despite the buzz surrounding the industry, as MakerBot has seen, 3D printing still faces some growing pains as it tries to gain mainstream appeal.

The latest round brings Shapeways to more than $77 million in total funding.

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