Dec.24, 2012 | By Marijke Rutten

As predicted, 3D printers remains a niche product in 2012, with purchases primarily made by early adopters. Nevertheless, many developments demonstrate the technology are becoming mature and is expected to experience considerable growth in the long run. Many countries in the world involve deeply in the 3D printing revolution, the Netherlands is one of them.


Shapeways' new factory in Long Island City, New York is almost ready to be used. It will be the world's largest 3D printing factory and able to produce three to five million products a year. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York declared at the opening ceremony that this new factory would be the Mecca of 3D printing.

Shapeways is a spin-out of the lifestyle incubator of Royal Philips Electronics in Holland. By 2012, Shapeways has 8,000 shops, members from over 130 countries registered on its website selling 1 million+ 3D printed products.

De Bijenkorf

Shapeways emerged in a time that 3D printers were really expensive, but that has been changed over time. In Autumn the American Cube 3D printer was on sale during 'The three Silly Days' of the Dutch luxury department store 'De Bijenkorf' for a reduced price of 1050 euro. It was arranged by company Freedom Of Creation (FOC) in Amsterdam which was purchased by 3D Systems, the manufacturer of Cube 3D printer last year. Bram De Zwart, Product manager of FOC had been giving a series of demonstrations on the media festival to kids and got a lot of attention there. He said, 'I am convinced that children can make their own toys in the future'. De Zwart studied 3D printing at the TU Delft and he thinks that we have passed the stage of only making prototypes with 3D printing. 3D printing can be used for printing functional bags, bikini, guitar and parts of headphones.

De Zwart sees a future in which production is no longer outsourced to countries with low wage. The biggest concern that CEO of Shapeways has is the long delivery time of its products. De Zwart believes his new 3D printing factory will be able to deliver products a lot faster than Shapeways. He is not afraid 3D printer will be in every home because "not everybody wants to print themselves and the technical possibilities of home 3D-printers are limited." Mass production will therefore still exist in the future.


Ultimaker, the 3D printer manufacturer in Netherlands was set up by three Dutch makers, Erik De Bruijn, Martijn Elserman and Siert Wijnia. Each of them had built open source RepRap 3D printers before their collaboration, and from there they improved the design and created their own version of RepRap - Ultimaker. Ultimaker has now thousands of clients from all over the world and De Bruijn thinks that his product that is meant for the professional market has the best quality.


Martijn Otten and Maarten Logtenberg set up the company in March 2012 and it has sold 1000 Creatr 3D printer worldwide in about 9 months. Leapfrog is planning to bring its professional 3D printer 'Xeed'(€5,460) to the market in February 2013. Otten says that they make hundred printers a month and that their sales doubles every two months.


Staples will start experimenting with on demand 3D printing called Staples Easy 3D in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg from January 2013. Customer could just upload their file to the Staples Office Center where the object will be printed in 3D. The object can then either be picked up at a nearby store or be delivered. Staples will use the €34,000 IRIS 3D printer or the €26,000 Matrix 300+ from Irish company Mcor to print the designs.


Hanneke van Pampus and Norman van Beek started 3DSVP, an online shop offering 3D printing service and their new 3D print shop is due to open in January 2013 in Haarlem. You can buy or make your own design, for example iPhone / iPad cases, jewelry or lamps, upload and wait for your 3D printed product to be delivery to you home. From next year you can also walk into the physical store and talk/work with staff.


TNO has been working for a long time developing Additive Manufacturing technology. They help improve the existing 3D printers such as getting higher accuracy, faster production and using more and more different materials.

One project TNO is working is Print Valley, the factory of the future. The Print Valley will be able to produce all unique products at one time, from different materials, or even use multiple materials. It can not only lower the costs but also make all kinds of new products. This technique enables companies to make products on site, able to order just-in-time when the products are needed.

(Credit: TNO)

TNO has also been working on 3D food printing for years. TNO scientist Kjeld van Bommel presented the 3D food printer on this year's Food Inspiration Days in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The 3D food printer lays down liquid versions of foods, layer by layer, to build up edible meals. Van Bommel believes that in five years, companies such as Unilever and Philips will come up with such a device and it might cost only a few hundred euros.

At the annual conference of the Dutch Association for jurisdiction 3D-printing was called the most important new field that requires attention. Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen, a writer in the Dutch newspaper 'The Volkskrant', stressed in this newspaper the importance of renewed regulation around 3D printing. According to him the government needs to start thinking about administrative, social, juridical and economic consequences of this industrial revolution. Grimmelikhuijsen thinks it is more attractive if the production facilities are close to home. He says: 'Can Holland become a forerunner in the field of this smart way of producing? Our policy should be aimed to stimulate companies'.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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Tat wrote at 12/27/2012 11:49:27 AM:

It needs to be mentioned: Shapeways has a big factory on Long Island, but it's not the biggest in the world since they got 'only' have 50 3D printers. For example: Materialise Belgium has more than 70 in house printers.

Anja wrote at 12/25/2012 9:17:14 AM:

Thank you. It is corrected.

Jim Colleran wrote at 12/24/2012 11:17:15 PM:

Minor issue. It is spelled 'Mecca'

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