You may recall the incredibly easy-to-use web-based 3D modeling tool TinkerCAD? It permitted those not trained in the big 3D tools to create useful designs at basically no cost. Once done you could export your model and print it either on your own 3D printer or send it to a 3D print service for production.
You can still do that. But now there's more. TinkerCAD has teamed up with 3D print service i.Materialise to include features within TinkerCAD that permit you to directly send your TinkerCAD model to i.Materialise for production.
The TinkerCAD printing interface is very slick. There's a "Print 3D" button in the corner of the screen, showing two options: download the STL for personal printing or send the model to i.Materialise. We chose i.Materialise to see how it works, and were almost instantly shown an order form from i.Materialise that offered a choice of materials, number of copies, etc. Very easy to use!
Is this arrangement be exclusive to i.Materialise, or will Shapeways be able to get in on the action? We don't know. But we'd bet other web-based 3D modeling services will be making similar deals.