Thursday, September 3, 2015

No, Shapeways, this is not how you public relations

As many of you are aware, one of the things I do on this blog is to run the occasional review of products I have encountered in my painting adventures. Given the area of modern wargaming remains a niche one, it is my hope that this serves to plug a few gaps and better inform my fellow consumers of what is available to them.
90% of the time the items I look at are my own purchases, although occasionally I will be contacted or contact a particular business and receive a few complementary models for review. In these cases I always try to disclose this fact, so as to address any potential conflict of interest.

A few days ago I was contacted by the company Shapeways with the following message:

I have had a little experience with Shapeways in the past. In 2013 I spent a considerable sum purchasing a BMP-3 design from them just to get a sense of the 3d printing area of wargaming. The result was a resounding 'meh.' The material used, being the most expensive, still had serious cleanup issues and the design itself was definitely spartan. The price was also astronomical and I walked away from the whole affair with a sense that Shapeways had a long way to go before it was going to become a serious contender in the modern wargaming market.

Given it had been a couple years, I decided "why not?" and sent Pat confirmation email and pointing to a variety of items I might be interested in taking a closer look at for review.

The response was....odd.

It took me a minute to fully comprehend this. It seemed Pat wanted me to give an overview of his product without actually being able to inspect it up close. It seems he wanted me to generate positive exposure for his products without the unpleasant business of  providing said products for actual critical inspection. In short, he wanted to use the blog as a platform for native advertising.

Rather than firing off a much deserving "are you kidding me?" I responded with a curt reply indicating that an intrinsic part an authentic review process requires the reviewer to actually be able to interact with the product. At that point Pat went silent and I heard nothing else.

What a peculiar and entitled ethos. A word of advice to Pat and Shapeways: you are entering a crowded marketplace full of talented producers with a mediocre and overpriced product, I wouldn't expect special treatment.


  1. Now that's really some odd behaviour there! I was thinking about getting my hands on some of the stuff their but not now anymore. Thanks.

  2. I particularly like their enthusiasm to highlight their dedicated model train section. Y'know, if you can work that in.

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  4. Not really odd. I have heard some good things about Shapeways, however overall it seems more like a vanity press. I have my own 3d printer and i design models for it. My machine has its limitations and I thought that Shapeways might be a way to get better prints and to make a little spending money.

    First is the price to any prospective users and customers. What costs me pennies to print on my machine is tens of dollars from Shapeways. I would get a better finish and could incorporate more detail, but even then the price would be significant - basically two 15mm SF APCs would cost me the same as one resin tank form Die Waffenkammer / JTFM enterprises and their stuff is gorgeous.

    Secondly, as a producer, to get a design listed as "confirmed" item, I have to order one myself fair enough but that is the vanity press model nd where i suspect they make most of their money.

    Thirdly, if I want to get more than one model, I can have them printed locally for about half the price - but I have to print a full plate.

    Finally, the consumer has no idea what they are getting. I am a pretty good designer but I am nowhere near some of the companies out there now. You are really rolling the dice until you see the finally product.

    Finally, finally Shapeways is for consumers at least, is the wrong way to utilize 3d printing. It is not a mass production process, but it is very good for making masters to be used in other process like resin casting.

  5. sounds very odd indeed, you had better still review our models then!

  6. Wow sorry - I shouldn't do this writing thing before caffeine. ;)

  7. My experience with Shapeways has been to deal directly with the individual vendors. They seem more on the ball than the people who run the company.

  8. A few years ago I ordered several sample printouts of my own 3D wargaming models from shapeways.
    The result was a failure. Granted one or two of the models needed the odd window relocated, but the problem is most of the printouts arrived damaged in one way or another, with the damage being done during the printer removal stage (each little bag had a red tag attached).
    This can happen but I expected that a notification email would have been sent with a short description of the damage before the package arrived in Europe after waiting weeks in a queue for the printer slot. In short massive disappointment as I could not use that batch at all.