Shapeways Adds $30M to Push “Mass Personalization” Via 3D Printing

Xconomy New York — 

Shapeways, a New York-based 3D printing company, has raised $30 million in new funding to help expand its services for product designers aspiring to build successful small businesses.

Shapeways, which has raised more than $100 million to date, operates an online marketplace where designers and others with product ideas can sell their 3D-printed wares, such as jewelry, board game pieces, toys, and camera accessories. The company handles the 3D printing and shipping. It also offers product development and design services.

But the 11-year-old company is moving into new territory, as it attempts to become a one-stop shop for product creators. In a press release announcing the new $30 million Series E funding round led by Lux Capital, Shapeways said it will soon help customers with things like brand development, website design, marketing, merchandising, and customer service. Initial users of the new services include clients creating bike and camping accessories, Shapeways CEO Greg Kress said in an e-mailed statement to Xconomy.

“Being able to offer these [additional services] will enable entrepreneurial creators to further scale their creativity into viable small businesses,” Kress wrote. “For many creators, they’re designing incredible products but don’t have the technical know-how in areas like web design or marketing and/or the budget to reach out to companies with niche expertise [in those areas]. Our team will give creators a one-stop service for an affordable, bundled price.”

Shapeways says it’s also adding more sophisticated software tools enabling clients to tweak their product designs.

Although the vision of putting a 3D printer in every home hasn’t materialized, companies like Shapeways have helped consumers access the fruits of the technology through online marketplaces of 3D-printed products, and enabled designers to produce their ideas without having to purchase their own printers. Shapeways’ competitors include Kraftwurx and Materialise, both of which offer 3D printing and shipping services, and also help creators set up online shops. Consumers can also purchase 3D-printed products on websites like Etsy.

One of the broader goals being pursued by the 3D printing industry is the idea of “mass customization”—churning out large quantities of bespoke objects. Developers of 3D printers, like Somerville, MA-based Formlabs, say that vision is advancing as the material properties of 3D-printed goods improve and printing costs come down.

But boosting the technological capabilities of 3D printing is only one piece of the puzzle.

“We believe that the future of mass personalization is in the hands of independent creators, and if we’re able to help them with design, manufacturing, … packaging, marketing, and customer service logistics, they’ll be able to bring their products to interested audiences,” Kress said. “3D printing is simply the production technology that drives this possibility.”

It’s hard to tell how big the market is for selling 3D-printed products directly to consumers. Shapeways, for its part, says it has printed more than 10 million products to date, and creators upload more than 140,000 product designs per month to the company’s website.

Kress joined Shapeways earlier this year, taking over for interim CEO Tom Finn. Finn took that role last August, after Shapeways co-founder Peter Weijmarshausen stepped down as chief executive. Weijmarshausen remains on the board. Kress was previously the president of Open English, which offers online English courses. Before that, he worked at Office Depot and General Electric, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Shapeways was developed at an incubator in the Netherlands funded by Philips Electronics. The startup later established its headquarters in New York, and it has weathered the ups and downs in the 3D printing industry over the past decade.

Now, 3D printing seems to be picking up momentum again, as more businesses are integrating the machines into their design and manufacturing processes—and more venture capital is pouring in. Other 3D printing firms that have recently raised funding rounds include Redwood City, CA-based Carbon, which raked in $200 million in December; Burlington, MA-based Desktop Metal, which last month announced a $65 million investment round led by Ford; Watertown, MA-based Markforged, which grabbed a $30 million round in November and said its business was profitable; and Formlabs, which disclosed in a recent SEC filing that it raised another $30 million from investors.

Shapeways’ latest funding round brings its total venture capital haul to $107.5 million, Kress said. In addition to return backer Lux Capital, other investors in the Series E round include previous Shapeways investors Union Square Ventures, INKEF Capital, and Andreessen Horowitz, according to the press release.

[Top photo of a line of 3D printers in a Shapeways lab is published with permission.]