Start-Ups

Shapeways: The New Etsy?

lego mini fig Shapeways: The New Etsy?You remember all those mainstream media stories about crafty people who make a living or a healthy second income selling on Etsy? Shapeways, the 3D printing company that sells raw and semi-finished customized materials in small batches, is seeing the same thing happen in its handmade goods marketplace, Shapeways Shops. “We are beginning to see more and more micro-businesses built upon Shapeways, using Shapeways to handle the financial transaction, production and distribution,” the company wrote on its blog today in a post about a user who has sold 4,000 miniature figurines through the site.

Users submit designs and Shapeways prints them using whichever plastic or metal material is appropriate. Designers use Shapeways as a source for parts or to create complete pieces of jewelry, vases, toys, etc.

“Woody designs a range of Lego Mini-figurine accessories inspired by historical items from the late 17th and 18th century with nearly 500 items in his Shapeways store,” Shapeways community manager Duann Scott said. The items range from $1.70 for a miniature sword to $31.70 for a pack of six cannons made from Shapeways’s “white, flexible and strong” material.

Shapeways users have made more than $100,000 in profit by selling through the site since 2008. That’s not an overwhelming number, but it’s significant considering Shapeways is still pretty underground–and also weird, and hard to explain. The marketplace is also in beta, and users often supplement their pages with Facebook or Flickr.

Shapeways is a Dutch start-up that emigrated to New York after an investment from Union Square Ventures.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com