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How 3D Printing Is Changing Etsy

3D printing shops

Shapeways: The Etsy of 3D Printing

Hsu isn't the only artist using the Shapeways-to-Etsy business model. In fact, she said she was inspired to run her business on both sites after learning about Nervous System, a design studio specializing in 3D-printed jewelry and home decor that also has shops on both Etsy and Shapeways.

Shapeways lets users open their own virtual stores, where their 3D-printable creations can be purchased by anyone, anywhere in the world. Currently, the site has more than 10,000 shops and does a bustling business in 3D-printed gadgets, replacement parts and baubles. 

Etsy boasts more than a million sellers globally, and although the site does feature several thousand 3D-printed objects, its biggest sellers are more traditional handmade items and vintage clothing. 

MORE: 10 Amazing 3D Printing Startups

Despite their differences, Etsy and Shapeways have some important similarities. For example, both sites offer a wide array of customizable. 

"[Customization] showcases the collaborative community that makes up our marketplace," said Elisa Richardson, a spokeswoman for Shapeways. "Our users have the ability to add their own input into the items they're purchasing."

The same can be said of Etsy and other popular online marketplaces, including some of the most popular 3D-printing sites, like i.materialise and Kraftwurx. 

Most of these sites enable buyers and sellers to communicate via direct messaging, which functions as a site-wide email system. When buyers want to place a custom order, they simply message the shop owner to present their ideas.

"The personal marketplace is the best part about selling on Shapeways and Etsy," Hsu said. "You can actually talk to the consumer, and know what they need and who they are."