3D printed ceramicsTired of trekking to Ikea for funky tableware? Can’t find a mug that matches your iPhone? Consumer 3D printing shop Shapeways just took personalized manufacturing to a new level by being the first in the world to add glazed ceramic to its roster of materials. This means you can now design and print your own food-safe tableware like salt and pepper shakers, plates and mugs.

A 3D printer creates a three-dimensional object by laying down successive layers of material. A 3D design file defines a series of cross-sectional slices, which are then printed one on top of one other to create the 3D object. Objects can be printed in different materials from plastic to metals and in various sizes depending on the capacity of the printer. Anything from jewelry to furniture can be created in a 3D printer.

The ceramic material can also be used for home decor items like candle holders and soap dishes. Printing in this material is still pricey and your only color option is white. A mug costs $50-70, a fruit bowl $100-200 and a vase $40-400 depending on the surface area.

We have been touting 3D printing for quite a while as the future of manufacturing. Printing on demand means that products can be completely personalized. Designers can manufacture products with very short lead times and can test the market without manufacturing large volumes as in the mass production model.

CEO Peter Weijmarshausen told us last year that Shapeways also plans to bring local manufacturing close to user “hotspots”. Local production reduces cost and delivery times as well as being more environmentally sound. Weijmarshausen points out that the Shapeways model introduces a completely new type of supply chain, since only a few raw materials are needed to produce many types of product.

Shapeways was originally a spinoff from Philips Electronic’s Lifestyle Incubator program but last year received funding of $5 million from Union Square Ventures in New York and Index Ventures in London. The company was founded in 2007 and has offices in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and in New York.


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