Shapeways lets Internet users manufacture goods

SAN FRANCISCO, August 16, 2008 (AFP) – In a step toward the type of future pictured in the hit film “Iron Man,” a firm in the Netherlands is letting people fabricate items designed in three-dimensions on the Internet. Shapeways chief executive Peter Weijmarshausen depicts the “rapid manufacture” service launched online this week as a natural extension of a trend in which people make videos, music, and written works on the Internet.

“People are creative in their leisure time; uploading films to YouTube, making profiles at social networking websites and posting on blogs,” Shapeways executive Jochem de Boer told AFP in an interview this week.

“They like to turn ideas into reality.”

With the Shapeways service, instead of digital content people design items that are manufactured and shipped to their doors.

Software lets online designers flip, turn and tinker with virtual designs onscreen in a variation on how film character Tony Stark manipulated computer imagery while inventing his Iron Man suit.

Creations have included clocks and tools. A man making an anime film made a model of his lead character and a model train hobbyist in the Netherlands re-created his home town in miniature using th