Just a couple blocks from Shapeways HQ in Midtown Manhattan lies a relic from a time passed over. The Old Print Shop displays the works of artists that use printmaking as an expressive medium. Fitting that I should walk by on my way to the company that operates the "Factory of the Future."
Shapeways is a 3D printing marketplace and service bureau. Earlier this year, the company raised a $30 million Series C from an illustrious cohort of investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Lux Capital. The company operates dozens of 3D printers in Long Island, NY that create everything from gold cufflinks to nylon walking machines.
Theo Jansen's Strandbeest might be the coolest product in the Shapeways store. The walking mechanism is printed in one piece with no assembly required (the optional fan attachment easily snaps on). Around one hundred disparate pieces interlock together to form joints and working gears. With 3D printing, complexity comes free.
I met with Charlie Maddock and Duann Scott. We talked about the new Makerspace at Brown, expiring SLA/SLS patents, and the logistics of 3D supply chains. Many thanks to both of them for sharing their time and expertise.
With no receptionist and a startup atmosphere, Shapeways feels more Silicon Valley than manufacturer. The company's culture epitomizes Marc Andreessen's famous remark that software is eating the world