Shapeways Files for Bankruptcy: What This Means for the 3D Printing Community

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Shapeways is no more [Source: Fabbaloo]

Long time 3D print service Shapeways declared bankruptcy this week.

The company filed a Form 8-K with the US SEC on July 2 that stated:

“On July 2, 2024, after considering all strategic alternatives, Shapeways Holdings, Inc. (the “Company”) ceased operations and filed a voluntary petition for relief (the “Bankruptcy Filing”) under the provisions of Chapter 7 of Title 11 of the United States Code, 11 U.S.C. §101 et seq. (the “Bankruptcy Code”). The Bankruptcy Filing was filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (the “Bankruptcy Court”). Each of the Company’s subsidiaries also ceased operations and filed voluntary petitions for bankruptcy relief.
As a result of the Bankruptcy Filing, a Chapter 7 trustee will be appointed by the Bankruptcy Court and will administer the Company’s bankruptcy estate, including liquidating the assets of the Company in accordance with the Bankruptcy Code. Once a Chapter 7 trustee is appointed, an initial hearing for creditors will be scheduled, and the Notice of Bankruptcy Case Filing will be sent to known creditors.”

The company’s officers and board of directors have all resigned, and the company has ceased operating.

Why bankruptcy? One reason was stated in the filing:

“The Bankruptcy Filing triggered Events of Default under certain of the Company’s outstanding debt instruments, including the $669,500 secured promissory note dated June 10, 2024, entered into with 3DP Custom Manufacture, LLC as lender, which results in acceleration of the Company’s obligations under such instruments.”

But there are plenty more reasons for the company’s failure.

The company debuted back in 2007 as an offshoot of Royal Philips Electronics in Eindhoven, becoming the first recognized consumer-focused 3D print service. During that period, 3D printing was relatively new, and personal 3D printers were not common: the primary method to obtain a 3D print was to engage a company with large commercial equipment. At that time, “3D Printing” carried a certain allure in the market, and some enthusiastic customers were ready to pay a premium for 3D printed items considered as novelty. That has certainly changed now.

Shapeways facilitated this process by allowing designers to create online “stores” where they could sell their designs, which would be 3D printed on Shapeways’ equipment upon customer orders.

This business model was quite effective and attracted significant investment, until the landscape started to evolve. Affordable desktop 3D printers emerged, enabling many individuals to print objects themselves, bypassing the need for a 3D print service.

Companies like Shapeways and 3D Hubs had to pivot their business models to remain viable. Both companies shifted towards more industrial services, and this strategy worked for a period. While 3D Hubs was eventually acquired by Protolabs, Shapeways continued independently.

In 2021 Shapeways went public via a SPAC, as did several other 3D print companies at the time. The company was valued at a massive US$600+M, but consistently devalued month after month. In our leaderboard we’ve seen this incredible decline exceeding 95% of the original value.

The company has clearly been having financial challenges, with revenue consistently dropping with each financial report. While the industry elsewhere innovated at a record pace, Shapeways never seemed to be quite as active or innovative as some of their competitors.

Finally, a few weeks ago, it was announced that a major software tool developed by the company for manufacturers was sold off to company executives for use in another venture. To me, that was a strong signal that significant difficulties were occurring within Shapeways. The company’s stock price acted accordingly.

It’s my understanding that there were attempts by others to do something with Shapeways, such as a takeover, sale of assets, etc., but evidently nothing worked out and the management of Shapeways ultimately decided to declare bankruptcy. This is very curious, as one wonders why you’d decline a deal: any deal would be better than bankruptcy. There’s likely a lot more to the story than is being made public.

The declaration may not have been a surprise to industry watchers, but it certainly could be for Shapeways customers. I’ve seen reports of customers with outstanding orders that haven’t (and won’t) be processed by the company. Here are some examples, and there’s likely many more:

Many designers using the Shapeways Marketplace would have had files stored at Shapeways, which may now be no longer accessible. Hopefully there are original copies stored elsewhere, as it seems that Shapeways did not take care of their marketplace designers in the end.

Anyone doing regular business with Shapeways should review their orders, and quickly seek an alternative service for production.

One service that might be the right fit for former Shapeways customers is, part of the MyMiniFactory empire. MyMiniFactory acquired 3DC in 2022, gaining the capability of 3D printing 3D models as well as distributing them digitally. I’m told that if any designers have posted 3D models to MyMiniFactory, they can be moved over to at the touch of a button, which may be the case for some Shapeways customers.

There are plenty of other alternative services, and it’s up to designers to carefully select one that offers the required materials, services and care for customers.

For many, Shapeways was their first experience with 3D printing, and the company was one of the few that powered the technology forward into the mass market ten years ago.

That work is now done.

Via Shapeways (PDF)

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