The 3D Printing Manufacturing Revolution

Written By Brianna Panzica

Posted October 24, 2012

3D printing has been compared to the advent of the Internet – surrounded by skepticism but soon to be a global phenomenon. It’s been called an innovation in manufacturing, medicine, and technology.

It’s been hailed as a way to bring manufacturing back to America. And now, it’s doing just that.

Shapeways is a 3D Printing online marketplace. Customers can buy custom products, design their own, and sell their designs.

The tech startup is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Seattle and the Netherlands.

And in New York City, it’s expanding the company.

Last week the company held the opening of a newly-purchased New York City factory. The 25,000-square-foot facility, in Long Island City, was opened in March and will be used as a manufacturing center for the company whose 2011 production level was 750,000.

At full force, this new facility will hold between 30 and 50 3D printers capable of producing up to 1,000 objects each day. Annual production levels could rise as high as 5 million.

Of course, the factory will take some work to get to that point. According to Fast Company’s Sarah Kessler, the facility resembled “an empty parking garage” at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

But CEO Peter Weijmarshausen and others from the company have called it the “Factory of the Future.” As Weijmarshausen told Fast Company:

“This room will look a little bit of a mix of steampunk and futuristic. You will have the machines, the floors will be white, you’ll have clean rooms and at the same time, you will have a lot of conveyor belts around, people walking.”

But even better than this edgy new factory’s design and production capacity is the fact that it will bring manufacturing jobs back to the city – a fact that brought five city officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to the opening ceremony.

The company currently has around 57 employees spread between all three of its offices. But this factory alone will add 50 more just in the city.

From Smart Planet:

The 3D printing plant will have more than 50 engineers, craftsmen, 3D printing specialists, and industrial designers “fine-tuning and tweaking a Willy Wonka-esque system, in which pixels go in the objects and come out,” [director of industrial engineers Kegan] Fisher adds. The factory will support Shapeways’ community of nearly 200,000 users.

Shapeways hopes to have the factory up and running as early as January 2013, and it will allow tours through the facility.

The company also plans to get involved in the New York’s Next Top Makers competition by designing a program for winners of the competition. Its 3D Printing Bootcamp will be a sort of training seminar on 3D printing in an effort to keep entrepreneurs and inventors informed on the latest technological innovations.

It will also provide $300 in printing to the top six teams.

Weijmarshausen expressed pride in the growth of the company and where the next step of the facility will take it. As he told the Sacramento Bee:

“It was only a few years ago that we started 3D Printing in the Netherlands with one machine. Now, we have over 7,000 Shapeways Shop Owners running their business on our platform, nearly 200,000 users making unique products come to life, and a team of 60 employees making this vision a reality. We’re excited to be able to open our doors to the public here in New York and show people the infinite possibilities 3D Printing enables.”

Other companies will begin to follow in its footsteps. MakerBot already has a 3D printing retail store on New York City’s Mulberry Street. The U.S. government is investing $30 million in an Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Ohio.

As these and other facilities spring up, manufacturing jobs will return to America. It will be a manufacturing revolution of a whole new era.

That’s all for now,

Brianna Panzica

follow basic@brianna_panzica on Twitter

Energy & Capital’s modern energy guru, Brianna digs deep into the industry with accurate and insightful updates into the biggest energy companies and events. She stays up to date with the latest market moves and industry finds, bringing readers a unique view of current energy trends.

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