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Got an idea for a 3-D design you’d like on your desk or dresser? Starting today, a company called Shapeways will let you hire people to design and build it.

The company takes a page from Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” marketplace, which allows developers and businesses to crowdsource tasks for a price. Shapeways‘ version is intended specifically for the creation of 3-D models.


For instance, let’s say you’ve been dreaming of a paperweight that looks like Master Chief from Halo but also holds pens. By visiting the Shapeways’ “Co-Creator” marketplace, you can look for a designer who will model the object in 3-D based on your specs and illustrations. Then, the model is uploaded for free to Shapeways’ Web site, where buyers can order the actual product.

The model creation concept launched in July, and today it will opens to the public, adding the crowdsourcing feature that allows inventors to find people with knowledge of 3-D modeling.

Shapeways, based in the Netherlands, delivers the molded models, which can be sculpted from plastic, nylon or metals, within 10 days. The creator pays no fees to sell the printed models, which generally cost between $50 and $150.

This is one of several ways people can create and purchase 3-D products through Shapeways. The website allows for the creation of specific items, such as styluses and cufflinks, and in March began offering a way to convert photos into 3-D artwork.

The do-it-yourself mentality is blowing up in the 3-D industry, with other Web sites and companies offering their own takes on product creation. Fabidoo and JuJups let users make crafts from set templates. Makerbot sells a home printer, and offers a community for sharing work. Shapeways’ Co-Creator is geared more towards commerce, with inventors paying designers to bring their ideas to life.

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