Shapeways lands $5 million for 3D printing

Dutch startup Shapeways, which lets you design and print your own 3D objects, just raised $5 million. The company will also move its headquarters to New York from its current home base of Eindhoven in The Netherlands. The majority of Shapeways users are currently in the U.S.

Shapeways offers 3D printing in glass, steel, plastic and a high performance composite (a powdery, sand-like substance) that hardens like a cement to produce full-color objects. The company targets both users who are familiar with 3-D modeling tools such as Solidworks and general consumers. The latter can buy objects generated from ready-made models or use the Shapeways co-creation platform to customize an object created by a designer.

3D printing is done in a printing machine where a digital file is converted into a physical object by building up the object layer by layer.

Shapeways is at the vanguard of a group of companies democratizing physical production in the same way that new technology has allowed millions of people to create and share digital content like videos or podcasts. Other examples include Ponoko and 100K garages.

The current funding comes from Union Square Ventures in New York and Index Ventures in London.

Shapeways CEO, Peter Weijmarshausen, says the company will use the money to make the co-creation platform more powerful, enrich the feature set of the shops and make uploading your own designs even easier than it is today. The company also plans to add new printing materials and reduce manufacturing lead times.

Shapeways was originally funded by Philips Electronics as a spin-off from its Lifestyle Incubator program and, until the current round, has not received any external funding since its foundation in 2007. The company has 10 employees.

DB2010Getting content noticed is a challenge for everyone making apps. We’ll cover the topic at DiscoveryBeat 2010. Startups and big companies alike are encouraged to submit their discovery tactics to our Needle in the Haystack competition. Early bird discounts are available until September 22. Sponsors can contact us at sponsors@venturebeat.com. To buy tickets, click here.