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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shapeways Raises $30 Million to Bring 3-D Printing Mainstream

Three-dimensional printing still largely feels like a novelty or hobbyist technology, best for creating quirky trinkets, fancy desk adornments and pieces of jewelry. The dream that the average person will be able to print out a steak knife, a replacement screw or a new chair at home, as easily as microwaving popcorn â€" still feels a bit far-fetched.

But Peter Weijmarshausen, the chief executive of Shapeways, a company that lets people design and order objects that are printed on high-end 3-D printers, says that such a vision of the future is coming and he hopes his company will help usher it in.

“We still have interesting technology challenges,” he said. “The key is really to let people manufacture whatever they want and have it be affordable. Then it will hit mainstream.”

On Tuesday, the company, which is based in New York, announced that it raised $30 million in a Series C round of venture financing, led by Andreessen Horowitz. Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures participated in the round, among others. Chris Dixon, who recently joined Andreessen Horowitz as a partner, led the investment in the company. Previously, the company raised a little over $17 million in capital.

Shapeways has a community of 300,000 members and three million products in its online catalog. “We also have 10,000 shops selling designs and items,” said Mr. Weijmarshausen. Each month, the company receives, prints and ships 60,000 orders to customers all over the world.

Mr. Weijmarshausen said that he planned to use the new money to expand the team and increase production at the factory.

Shapeways has been introducing new materials, like sophisticated plastics, metals and ceramics, to expand the possibilities of what can be made, and it recently opened a factory in Queens to help cut the costs of printing and shipping even further.

Three-D technology is “a technology that’s been around for 20 years,” Mr. Weijmarshausen said. “Its potential has not even begun to be tapped into.”