3D Printing Shapes Factory of the Future

Beth Stackpole

October 25, 2012

2 Min Read
3D Printing Shapes Factory of the Future

Using a pair of 3D-printed scissors, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut the ribbon last week on Shapeways' Factory of the Future, a 3D printing facility being built by in Long Island City, Queens.

Shapeways, a marketplace and community that encourages the making and sharing of 3D-printed designs, plans to extend its reach with a physical facility stocked with industrial-sized printers. Its aim is to give small businesses, entrepreneurs, inventors, and DIY enthusiasts an easy and accessible way to turn design concepts into physical products.


The 25,000-square-foot space will house 30-50 high-definition, industrial-sized 3D printers. The goal is to print 3 million to 5 million objects annually, making it the world's largest consumer-facing 3D printing manufacturing facility. The factory will deliver manufacturing, post-processing, cleaning, and sorting services. There will also be a Shapeways Lab dedicated to research and development of materials, post-production techniques, and community experimentation.

Set to open in January, the factory will be equipped with a variety of state-of-the-art 3D printers, including equipment from EOS, Project UV, and 3D Systems. Plans call for Shapeways to add full-color sandstone printing and other techniques as it refines and builds its production capabilities.

According to a Shapeways blog post on the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the company wants to redefine the concept of the factory and to foster local innovation and production.

Historically, the word factory brought up connotations of assembly lines and jump suits and iron and cement. It reminded us of the factory Henry Ford created and has been replicated time and time again...
We are giving the word factory new meaning. One that replaces mass manufacturing with mass customization. One that empowers the independent business, the craftsperson, the hobbyist, and the entrepreneur. We are building a factory that gives everyone the ability to create, where the only barrier to entry is imagination.

We are seeing more 3D printing companies take steps to introduce the technology to a wider audience. We've reported on Makerbot, one of the pioneers in consumer 3D printing kits, which recently announced a flagship retail location in Manhattan, to introduce the general public to 3D printing and to sell 3D-printed goods. We've also reported on Deezmaker, a California 3D printer and goods store started by Diego Porqueras, the maker of the Bukobot open-source 3D printer.

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