Wired Magazine's GeekDad blog reviewed the Shapeways 3D printing service. We've covered them before, and found Shapeways to have very interesting characteristics, ranging from their business model to their extremely easy-to-use friendly interface.
By and large Wired agrees, but they did identify three key disadvantages of Shapeways (or similar services):
- It's expensive. The cost per cubic centimeter of material and associated printing is more than you'd expect to pay for a similar plastic item at Wal-Mart, but far less than you'd pay a traditional manufacturer to produce a custom piece.
- You need a design. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that many people simply don't have the skills to produce interesting, useful and practical 3D models suitable for printing. Even in Wired's trial, "Shapeways kindly created a design for me".
- It's Toxic! More correctly, the print medium is Not certified as Non-Toxic, so it may or may not be toxic. Probably not what you'd want to hand out to children.
However, in the end Wired (and us) like Shapeways a lot.