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BusinessI’m Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways, 3D Printing service and community, AMA!

Aug 2nd 2017 by shapewayspete • 20 Questions • 60 Points

Hello Reddit! It’s been three years since I did my last AMA and in that time, the 3D printing world has significantly changed so I'm excited to answer your latest questions about it. As many of you know, Shapeways is a 3D printing service and marketplace. We now have over 625,000 active community members (many of whom are on Reddit) with interests spanning from tabletop gaming, R/C cars, miniatures to jewelry and prototyping, with everything in between. We’re now printing in over 60 different materials and finishes.

Been meaning to snag something from Shapeways? For the next 24 hours, use the code reddit2017 for 10% off your order. We're always sharing cool stuff on Twitter and Facebook, if that's something you're into.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/gnb1xr4x9sbz.jpg

thank you Reddit Leave other questions below, I may answer them later.

Q:

What is the full potential of 3D printing? Where are we headed with this technology?

A:

That's a good question! I think we are in the very early days of 3D printing as a technology and also from it's adoption point of view. I'm really excited about the new stuff on the horizon: full color plastic printing, multiple material printing etc.


Q:

What's the weirdest thing your company has 3D printed?

A:

components for a DIY nuclear fusion reactor by a designer from Brooklyn!


Q:

Do you think there is a possibility that 3D printing might fade away into obscurity like smartwatches have? What sets 3D printing apart from other fads?

A:

I think 3D printing is here to stay... the reason is that it enables designers and makers to do things that were not possible before. New geometries, new products, etc. It enables new business models creating new opportunities for many people -- like opening a store on Shapeways :) -- but most importantly it really is digital manufacturing and it cannot be stopped that manufacturing will go digital in the future. The future is digital.


Q:

Would you recommend a 13 year old today learn 3D printing, to have a well-paid reliable career like a welder or mechanic? What would that career look like in 10 years? What prep should they start doing?

A:

The best career advice ever: Do what you like most in life and find someone else to pay you for it. So if 3D printing, to you, is the most fun, then go for it!!


Q:

When can I download a car?

A:

Plenty of those on our site :)


Q:

Where do you see the biggest need for improvement 3D printing before it is done commonly at home?
How far along for the prosumer are:
- 3D scanners
- design software
- the variety of inexpensive and available materials to print with

A:

3D scanners have been around for a while. The software needs to be improved so that anyone can scan and get a printable file.

And yes we need many more materials!! We are working with several companies to make that happen.


Q:

Have you looked at making multiple material prints? What are the limitations for your company to adopt this technology?

A:

Yes of course! We will offer this at some point. Hardest challenge to overcome is the file format. STL was (and still is) great for single material prints, not so good for multi material. The next gen file format: 3MF is going to solve that.


Q:

I would have thought it was an issue with printing multiple materials reliably and fusing then together. Is that not the case? So essentially cost.

A:

There are several brands of printers offering multiple materials. Stratasys for one. Also some desktop printers can print in 2 materials. It will really get exciting if we can add conductive, semi-conductive and isolating materials enabling electronics.


Q:

As an Electromechanical Engineer, that is my dream come true. I am glad you are looking at it.

A:

Yep! The HP printer could do conductive pathways pretty soon :)


Q:

I love your porcelain ceramic technology particularly because it is food safe. Are you pursuing other food safe materials? Have you considered adding a coating to other materials to get them to qualify?

A:

Great you love our porcelain! I think it's awesome too. Making other materials food safe is currently not our focus.


Q:

Do you intent for Shapeways' marketplace be a powerhouse for individuals finding unique gifts (specifically in jewelry)? If so, is this a priority and what are some of the marketing plans down the line to help promote the SW community against your competitors i.e etsy?

A:

Yes, absolutely, we want it to be a great place for people to find unique gifts and make amazing products! That is our top priority. You will see how we do it :)


Q:

:D, can't wait to see all the new plans, if I can make a suggestion, please make gold plated silver available, so many people have reactions to brass/bronze.

A:

Ah! That is an interesting suggestion. Silver is quite expensive tho.. so you get plated at the price of silver and a little more.. I'll have the team look into it.


Q:

Have you heard the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?

A:

It's not a story the Jedi would tell you. It's a Sith legend. :-)


Q:

Uh huh.. typical CEOs dodging the tough questions.

A:

exactly - you're on to me!


Q:

What advise would you have for someone who wants to start producing his own designs with 3D printers? Unfortunately we do not have access to your services, so we have to roll our sleeves up and do it our self.

A:

He?? Why don't you have access to Shapeways?


Q:

That said, now that I think about it, it would be pretty cool if users could interactively "custom paint" their model before ordering it. I would totally make my stuff available for that option.

A:

maybe we can do that with ShapeJS at some point ....


Q:

Yeah I misspoke with the API. I have been using Meshmixer myself. A simple way for normal people would be great.

A:

Agree!


Q:

Howdy there!
My uncle is looking to open a shop operating a CNC Machine!
Any advice for him?

A:

Does he already have customers? If so --> go for it!


Q:

What do you think separates Shapeways from it's competitors like Sculpteo, Kraftwerks, iMaterialise, Ponoko and Voodoo Manufacturing?

A:

I leave that to our customers to answer :)


Q:

Who's your favorite designer on the site? Choose carefully.

A:

that is definitely not a question I can answer. I don't have singular favorites. :))