Shapeways Makes 3-D Printing A 'Steel'

DN Staff

August 11, 2009

2 Min Read
Shapeways Makes 3-D Printing A 'Steel'

Shapeways, a spinoff from electronics giant Royal PhilipsElectronics, is shaking up the world of 3-D printing with a new offeringthat produces objects in stainless steel instead of the more traditionalpolymer materials used by competitive 3-D print offerings.

Shapeways, which bills itself as a 3-D co-creationcommunity, targets artists, enthusiasts and seasoned 3-D designers andengineers with do-it-yourself 3-D printing services that empower them tocustomize existing products and bring prototype designs to life in acost-effective fashion, according to CEO Peter Weijmarshausen. With its newservice, Shapeways is making stainless steel production accessible for anyoneover the Internet, Weijmarshausen says.

"While service bureaus offering polymer production are widespread,those offering stainless steel capabilities are hard to come by," he says."There's an endless list of things you can make in stainless steel that is notpossible with plastics." Specifically, Weijmarshausen cites examples such asmechanical parts for remote-control toys, components for robots and housing forcomputers as potential new opportunities for 3-D stainless steel printproduction that weren't possible with existing services.

For engineers, the new Shapeways service has a number of possibilities.For limited production runs, individuals could utilize the stainless steelservice to produce metal casings for electronics equipment or to createmechanical parts without having to invest in expensive CNC milling equipment.The service also has applicability for quick and cost-effective turnaround ofphysical metal component prototypes in addition to being a more economical andefficient way of dealing with the need for spare parts, Weijmarshausen says. "Instead of having to keep all kinds of spare parts around just incase something breaks, with Shapeways, you don't need to," he says. As long asthere is a 3-D model of the part, the engineer can ship the model to Shapewaysand order a replacement part without having to stock spare parts going forward.

Shapeways' technique deposits stainless steel powder in avery thin layer and glues it together with a binder. Printed objects are builtup using this process over layers, and when complete, the objects are infusedwith bronze and cured in an oven. After cooling, the objects can be left in theoriginal steel finish or be tumbled to get a polished effect.

To access the Shapeways service, engineers simply export aCAD file from any of the main packages to an STL format and upload it to the Shapewayssite. Pricing is based on the amount of material used, starting at $10 percubic centimeter.

Shapeways' unique 3-D printing service deposits stainless steel powder in a very thin layer, combining it with a binding material.

Shapeways Makes 3-D Printing A 'Steel' A

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