Dutch startup Shapeways, which lets you design and print your own 3D objects, now lets you print in glass. Previously Shapeways offered printing in steel, plastic and a high performance composite (a powdery, sand-like substance) that hardens like a cement to produce full-color objects as we reported in January.
The glass material, called Milky White Matte glass, is produced from recycled plate and bottle glass. Jewelery made from glass costs $15-40 depending on the design, while a more intricate palm-size home decor item can be produced for $100-200. The maximum size glass object you can print is 75mm x 75mm x 75mm (equivalent to 3x3x3 inches). The video below shows the glass printing process.
3D printing in glass is two or three times as expensive as making the same objects in plastic but half the price of stainless steel. While the price is still too high for making everyday objects, this does raise the intriguing possibility of designing and printing your own glassware or other household items in the future. Is this another milestone on the road to mass customization in manufacturing?
Shapeways is aimed both at users who are familiar with 3D modeling tools like Solidworks and general consumers. The latter can buy objects generated from ready-made models or use the Shapeways co-creation platform to customise an object created by a designer. The company launched in July 2008 and has a community of 30,000 users, of which 40% are located in the US. The company is currently funded by Philips Electronics as a spin-off from its Lifestyle Incubator program.