Setting up your own e-commerce business
may be daunting at first, and in more conventional settings, it could be
challenging to manufacture and market your new product if you don’t have a ton
of capital upfront. Luckily, 3D printing is centered around independence for
designers and allows you to launch a new product quickly and with very little

Here are four reasons why 3D printing can
help with your new business and perhaps even a new career path:

1. Get to market quickly

The transition from idea to public launch
could take many months if you are developing a product and looking for a traditional
manufacturer to make your product according to their full schedule of

With 3D printing, the transition from idea to public launch can be as short as 3 days. 

To launch your product, you’ll need:

  1. A 3D model that is designed to be 3D printed. Find out more about making your model print-ready in this helpful tutorial if you are just beginning.
  2. A successfully printed product. Print your 3D model before offering it for sale to make sure there are no surprises or problems that occurred during the initial process. If you are using one of our rapid prototyping materials like White Natural Versatile Plastic, the product should arrive to you in as quickly as three days for inspection.

3D printing allows you to react to market demand immediately. A prime example of this speed was demonstrated during the COVID-19 outbreak, as Shapeways was able to quickly iterate on a face shield design for essential workers—and provide necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) when the market saw a major shortage.

2. Hands-off Fulfillment

For e-commerce business users, one of the greatest benefits is the ability to have hands-off fulfillment through a Shapeways e-commerce integration. An order placed through the e-commerce integration is automatically sent to production at Shapeways, and will be manufactured and delivered directly to your customer. 

With Shapeways handling fulfillment:

  1. You don’t have to purchase or keep an inventory of packaging supplies. All packaging is handled by Shapeways and covered in the cost of the order.
  2. Forget about being on-call 24/7 for order fulfillment. The Shapeways team will automatically get your orders and fill them for you.

As your business grows, you may want to provide a more brand-focused customer experience. Shapeways can help with whitelabel shipping solutions, allowing you to customize the box and inserts that are sent with your orders.

No need for a large investment up front

When launching a new product or business,
you’re often confronted with the need to hold an inventory of products before
any customers have expressed interest. This can be risky if it turns out your
product is not popular. 

With 3D printing, place orders for your product as you need them, not in large quantities before you sell anything.

There are two main reasons you do not
need to hold inventory:

  1. Short lead times. Unlike more traditional manufacturing methods, products can be printed in a matter of days or weeks. For more information on lead times, visit the Shapeway Materials page for details by material.
  2. No minimums. There’s no need to reserve manufacturing equipment for a large run of products. You can print 1 or 100 orders of your product, completely on demand.

In working with a company like Shapeways,
you can take advantage of vast resources available to you online—or invest in
as much or as little hardware, software, and materials as you want to on your

4. Ready to scale

As you grow, you will be able to strategize
more clearly and scale your business to maintain pace with your orders. The
amount of effort you put in to get 1 order will be the same for 100 orders—or
even 1,000 orders. 

As you scale, it might be time to switch
to a new manufacturing process, and that’s great! You may also find that other
manufacturing is more affordable for larger quantities, which you can switch to
when you’re ready.

3D printing has a lot to offer. In addition to the reasons listed above, you can also enjoy the benefits of advanced technology and a wide range of materials for printing your creations with accuracy, complex geometries, and personalized details. Find out how Shapeways can help with your rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing processes needs.

Carolyn Dempsey is a Director of Product at Shapeways where she works to enable and scale digital manufacturing for over 1 million customers. She has a French Bulldog named Gus who did very little to assist in the writing of this blog.