3 February 2023

Bringing 3-D Power to the People

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The first thing Duann Scott does when he arrives at the Shapeways factory in Long Island City, Queens, is check the bins. They are yellow and stacked in an all-white room that resembles the interior of a spaceship, and they contain the latest prints to come out of the machines, which can really stack up.

Shapeways, a 3-D printing service and online marketplace, has been described as the Amazon of 3-D printing for its on-demand model, if not its outsize volume: The machines spit out about 120,000 objects a month, a tidal flow of design that runs from the mundane to the astonishing.

On a recent day, a quick search through the bins revealed a pair of pliable black-frame eyeglasses, a scale model of a biplane, an intricately detailed brass ring, enough plastic train cars to form a miniature railroad and a figurine of two tiny purple women on tiny purple trapezes. To what use any of these things will be put, Mr. Scott usually has not a clue. But that doesn’t diminish the Christmas-morning grin he gets while he is fishing through them.

Mr. Scott, a tall, bearded man of 39 who was born in Australia, holds the title of designer evangelist at Shapeways. He judges 3-D design competitions, gives talks at schools and businesses, and attends events like South by Southwest Interactive, in Austin, Tex., where earlier this month he and his co-workers took a 3-D scanner to parties. (Willing guests were scanned and could order a figurine of themselves printed by Shapeways.)

Mr. Scott also spends a good portion of his day searching not just the bins, but all the designs uploaded to the Shapeways website, for the 3-D-modeled equivalent of a gold nugget. Impressed by a designer’s work, he will call and offer the use of company resources, or feature the designer on the Shapeways blog, or extend an invitation to a party — or, as he did with Bradley Rothenberg, a Manhattan-based architect and designer, recommend the person in question to brands with an interest in 3-D printing.

After seeing Mr. Rothenberg give a talk about a year ago, Mr. Scott suggested him to representatives from Victoria’s Secret. The designer modeled snowflake angel wings and other pieces based on sketches by the Victoria’s Secret design team, which were then worn by the models in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show late last year, garnering attention for Shapeways, which printed the nylon plastic pieces, and for Mr. Rothenberg.

“I keep my eye on talent,” Mr. Scott said. “I’ve always got this group of amazing designers in the back of my mind if someone needs to connect with them.”

Other 3-D printing services exist, including Sculpteo and Materialise, but most of them are based in Europe. Kraftwurx, a Houston company, provides on-demand printing and a venue for designers to sell their work, but it doesn’t yet have the robust public presence of Shapeways, which sponsors design contests, courts talented designers and partners with museums.

Click here for the full article in the New York Times.

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