Shapeways CEO and Founder Peter Weijmarshausen: How 3D Printing will change the world

Shapeways CEO and Founder Peter Weijmarshausen spoke on the future of digital at Mashable Connect. He focused on how 3D printing will change the world.


Peter Weijmarshausen: I’d like to take a few minutes to talk to you about indeed, the future of making stuff. And we’re using 3D printers for that. So before we dig in, you know I want to just keep a question in mind. Why is this so relevant? What is this going to happen? When we give the ability to everybody to make whatever they want, that’s really the magnitude that this is going to, you know, impact it.

So, before we do that, let’s think a little bit about what people do and why 3D printing might be relevant there. I mean, look around us, all the things that we have are mass-produced. You know, I see a bunch of laptops here in the audience and pretty much they look all alike, same with cars. Mass-production has given us products that we really care about that are very very complicated at reasonable prices. But they have a downside, they all look the same. So what people do is they start customizing right? I mean, they start to build their own custom cars. There is a problem with that though. Um, they make these cars on their lap-tops. But there is a problem with that.

The problem is that, custom is very expensive. If you think about the custom car or anything really, it’s manual work and a lot of work and it’s not very efficient. And it really doesn’t get us what we want. So, how do you make those items we really care about in an efficient way? Well we used to know how to do that.

In the past, before the age of mass-production everything was handmade. My grandfather was a carpenter and he made the kitchen for my grandma. He built it by hand, exactly to my grandma’s liking and it was in their house until they moved out many many many years later.

So, handmade stuff, as I said is expensive. So how do we bring together the benefits of making things by hand exactly to our liking and mass-production? Mass-production being so efficient and handmade stuff being exactly what we want. Well there is technology out there, and this is how we get to 3D printing.

There is technology that makes it possible to make basically anything we want directly from a digital description. So if you can model it in 3D, if you can get a description in 3D, you can make it very efficiently using 3D printers. And that’s really what we’re doing at Shapeways.

Shapeways is the place on the web where anyone can make whatever they want using 3D printing. You can make something for yourself. You can customize existing things, or you can buy stuff that someone else has designed. And this enables us to get really producs we care about. It’s no longer, you know I love coffee so I had to put this in. Every morning in the office I drink a espresso from a 3D printed coffee cup that I designed. We’ll get into that a bit later.

So 3D printing really enables us to make things just like mass-production but then with our own personal touch. So how does it work? Well, if you’re a product designer you’re lucky. Because then most of the product designers know how to use 3D so you can upload your own designs to our website and we will build it in any material you want ranging from plastics to silver to ceramic, stainless steel, whatever you want. You can also, I want to see this slide it’s a little bit [unintelligible]. You can also as a designer open a shop and then anyone who is visiting our website can buy those crazy beautiful interesting concepts. And we print them. If you’re creative however, you’re oops, I don’t know what’s going on with the slides, I’m a little unlucky today. But if you’re creative, you can work with the product designers, let’s see how we can make that work, and you can get anything you want really.

I mean, on the co-creation platform that is on Shapeways you can connect with a designer and you can indicate using very simple means what you want, how you want the product to be customized and then you get it. We have custom cufflinks like that, we have you know, pendants, lots of stuff. And so, I brought a little item that we made. This is a vase, it’s made in ceramic. and I hope we can switch over to the demo. I don’t know where we are. Ok here we are. So this is on our webiste. This is made in web gl just to show what is possible. And you can customize basic shapes that are indicated to the right. You can. It’s very simple and when you’re done and you’re happy, you can save it and then you can have it printed in different materials, amongst which ceramic.

This is how I made my own coffee cup because i don’t know how to model. I had to rely on this really cool tool. And you know just an example on how simple it can be to make your own stuff. I hope we can switch back to the slides. Thank you. So what does that mean? Because the second part you know, we now can get what we want. What is the impact of that? Well I alluded to that a little bit in the title of the talk. We think it gives rise to a creative commerce.

What does that mean? Well to understand that, let’s look into a few aspects of this new thing happening. When you can print stuff directly from digital descriptions, the time to go to market for a new product, is going to virtually going to go to zero. This is an Ipad cover made by a Finnish designer.And I can still remember the Ipad launched on Friday in 2010 in April. And on Monday, so 4 days later, this Ipad cover was on our site for sale to the whole world. This guy wasn’t working with Apple, this guy wasn’t you know, in the know. He just bought an Ipad on Friday, modeled through the weekend, and on Monday he launched his own product. Which I think is amazing, you can do that.

The second thing that will happen is that because you are not making masses. You are not mass-producing products anymore, you can get feedback from your customers and use that feedback immediately to improve your product. In this way, for instance, this beautfiul Iphone cover has been, you know, morphing into exactly what people want. To over by now 12 generations within a year.

So you can see that products evolve much much quicker. It’s a little bit like open source software where you know, everybody can collaborate really and because of that, products will get better quicker. Because you don’t have stock that you have to sell before you can do version 2. You can do version 2 tomorrow, you can do version 7 in a few weeks. And in that way we will get products that are much more relevant to us. And the last thing that will bring this revolution even further is that there is virtually no risk.

You know, if you mass produce stuff you have to figure out, ok i have a product. Who is going to make it for me? Who is my manufacturer? I need to pay the manufacturer up front so I need to get a loan, then i have to manufacturer it, find some retail channels. Maybe on the web, ok that makes it easier, but you still have to find retail channels. And then you have to sell it and hope for success. Well you don’t anymore. You just put it out and when people buy it, it’s produced. And that will bring the risk, the monetary risk of bringing your products to market way down.

And the good thing about that is we get more choice. We can really get what we want again. And we strongly believe at Shapeways that this is going to change how we think about commerce. It will bring creative commerce. Because everybody can try it. It’s not just the big companies that can make beautiful products. That can make relevant products. But you can.

So what are people making? Well this is a beautiful bracelet. Or I spoke about it already, you can make your own coffee cups. Or yes hobby rockets, I am passionate about this. Or I’m not sure whether anyone has heard about Theo Jansen. He gave a Ted Talk. This is a miniature of his Strandbeest, which is basically a moving sculpture which powered by wind, can walk. And the coolest thing about it as you can see from one of the pictures on the slides is that it was printed in one shot. These are 70 moving parts. There’s no assembly required. It’s designed in the computer. Print. And it works.

So talking about compact products. So on Shapeways there is a huge community that is very very creative and I think many many more people are creative than just on our website and they start making all kinds of amazing things. Last year we made over 750,000 products already and we expect that this will be many many more, many times more this year, millions. And that is it. But I’m happy to take questions from you. I think that pretty soon, everybody will be printing their own products.

  • Soukaina

    Thank you for this video, I really had no clue about wht 3d printing means, and it seems so clear to me thanks again!

  • Chris Norman

    To me, 3D printing is much more than anything that Peter has ever talked about..much more. We had the chance to meet at Rapid 2012. Didn’t talk much but at least we agree that we share the vision for a Digital Future.