Shapeways Frustrations


{Edit: They didn’t switch the order of the emails. It actually failed on the printer. D: ]

3D printing can be so frustrating.

I usually get an email from Shapeways many many days after my ordering, saying my model can’t be printed.

The latest episode was especially hair-tearing-inducing.

Previously, Shapeways only sent me the “your model is en route to the printer” only after manual checks have passed. I used to celebrate when I got this email, because it usually meant my models would actually be printed. Any failures after that would be due to failures during printing. However this time, I think Shapeways changed the order of the emails.

I believe Shapeways now automatically sends out the “en route” email, the day after an order has been placed, which makes that email kinda meaningless. I was so expecting my model, only to be let down a week and half later.

Also, this time, I know the model can be printed. I ordered it through Sculpteo a little while ago, but it broke during shipping. I was trying to test whether Shapeways had better packaging, not expecting it to fail manual tests.

Maybe Shapeways have less tolerances?

I don’t understand since they and Sculpteo use the same ZCorp printers.

end of rant

  1. Hi Jenny,

    I wanted to take a moment to respond to your passionate blog post, hopefully sharing some insight into the Shapeways production process. From a higher level view, it looks something like this:


    1) Model is uploaded and processed by automatic checking software.

    This looks for certain types of printability issues, manifold checks, size constraints, etc, that are some of the most basic issues that would cause production to fail.

    2) Model is available on site, and is ordered via the normal checkout process.

    Checkout will create a production order for x quantity of model Y (yours, in this case).

    3) Model production order is assigned to the specific manufacturer (for example, Shapeways has multiple production facilities both in NYC and Eindhoven, NL).

    4) Production planners manually check models for printability.

    Production planners inspect a model and try to determine if the model will print correctly, be post processed correctly, if it will break in post processing or shipping, etc.

    This step is prior to production happening.

    5) Model passes manual checks, goes into production.

    This is the step that triggers your “model is en route to the 3D printers” email. This is also the step that will lock out an order’s cancelation ability (if any of the order’s models hits this step).

    It’s possible that the model actually was not properly printable after all, and comes out with warping, issues, very likely to break in later stages, etc. Some models are attempted re-printed (the reason for delays in messaging in some cases) to be sure before a “model is not printable” process is started.

    6) Model comes out of production and is post processed.

    This step could potentially also trigger a ‘not printable’ email if it is discovered that the model breaks multiple times while attempted post processed.

    7) Model is shipped to you.


    With all of this said, we are constantly improving our processes in order to be better at handling all sorts of orders and requirements.

    I think you may be touching on an issue here though with incorrect expectations being set with the wording of that/those email(s). I’ll be sure to capture this feedback and bring it up with the team responsible for this part of the website’s software.

    I hope this helps clarify, even if just a little.

    Best regards,

    Christopher Carter
    Senior Product Manager, Shapeways

    • Jenny said:

      Wow. I didn’t expect a response. Thank so much for providing an insight into the process. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets disappointed when things don’t come through. Though, I probably complain the loudest.

      With that said, I still think Shapeways is a great service (otherwise I wouldn’t use it). It is definitely the most compatible for budding designers to start their business.

      Thanks also for providing a great community.

      • No problem!

        It makes me happy to hear that you enjoy our service and community. Shapeways consists of many teams that work diligently every day to make imagination become reality for people all around the world. I will pass along your compliments to the team; it’ll put a little smile on their faces for sure 🙂

        Additionally, please feel free to shoot me an email (included in my post data, minus the +nospam part) if you have any website feature/functionality/requirements feedback. I love having conversations with the creative minds that make my job a reality!



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