Shapeways vs. Thingiverse
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Shapeways vs. Thingiverse

on Jul 7 2014 , 09:49:21

If you’re a 3D printing hobbyist or fan, chances are you know a thing or two about Shapeways and Thingiverse. But many people still don’t understand the core qualities that separate the two. To help you get a better understanding, here’s a simple comparison.


Shapewaysis a marketplace and community that “enables anyone to make, buy and sell products with 3D printing.” It creates custom, made-to-order products with no inventory and no waste.

All of the products available on Shapeways are designed by Shapeways community members, and anyone with an idea for a product can have it designed by a member. Technically, Shapeways states it does not offer design services, but it also mentions in its FAQ that you can hire one of its registered designers if you have an idea you would like to see brought to life. You can also check out its 3D modelers for hire forum, where hundreds of designers and modelers frequently advertise their services. Shapeways specifies:

Think of Shapeways as a dating design service, not a design chaperone. We are here to help you find the help you need, but do not in any way engage in the design process, financial agreements or communications between you and your designer.

If you can get your sketch or idea converted into a ready-to-be-printed 3D file yourself, you can upload your file to Shapeways and have it made for you. In fact, Shapeways has a number of design apps you can use such as their 2D to 3D app we wrote about last week that help you turn a sketch into a printable 3D file. So essentially, if you have a basic idea in your head, you can have it made at Shapeways. Once you upload your model, you’ll receive an instant pricing estimate according to sizes and materials you want.

Shapeways also lets members create their own shops. Check out the Terrainator shop, which lets you choose a geographical area in the world and have an accurate scaled model of it printed, and the Mineways shop we also wrote about, which lets Minecraft users print their game creations.

Shapeways states that it uses industrial size 3D printers to make products in its two production facilities in Long Island, NY and Eindhoven, Netherlands. Shapeways says it also partners with “best-in-class” manufacturers around the world.


Thingiverse is also technically a marketplace, however unlike Shapeways it is not a marketplace to find and buy tangible products. Thingiverse is a marketplace for 3D model files.

Thingiverse, or MakerBot Thingiverse as it is officially named, is a platform for anyone to upload a file they have made for others to share and print. Likewise, anyone with access to a 3D printer (which could be anyone worldwide with the help of 3D printing networks like 3D Hubs) can browse through the thousands of open-source models and files on the site and freely print them. Thingiverse is known for its quirky printable files, such as this Super Mario shaped bong we wrote about in our article 5 of the Weirdest Things Ever Made with a 3D Printer.

Thingiverse also lets users tweak and customize previously uploaded designs before downloading them, which it refers to as remixing. It has a Thingiverse Customizer app where you can customize certain aspects of any file you want to print.


Shapeways and Thingiverse are both useful tools to the world of 3D printing. Shapeways lets people with no knowledge or experience in printing or designing choose custom 3D items to purchase while also letting users partner with designers to have their own ideas printed. Thingiverse, on the other hand, seems to be for more experienced modelers, designers, or printers who want a marketplace of more customizable files ready to be printed.

Both are very popular, with hundreds of thousands of things available to buy, customize, or print. Which do you like best?

Shanie Phillips is a originally from the UK, but has spent many years in Singapore, the US and now Israel. In addition to writing for Inside3DP she writes for several news and innovation sites.

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