Borough hails 3-D printing

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (c.) cuts the ribbon for Shapeways, a 3-D printing factory to open in Long Island City. Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen (second from r.), COO Maureen Vogelaar (fifth from l.) and elected officials join him. Photo by Rebecca Henely
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Manufacturing industries have become increasingly scarce in Queens and the city, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city Economic Development Corp. are hoping that Dutch 3-D printing company Shapeways’ recent move to Long Island City will usher in a new era.

“Technology like this is going to allow us to bring a lot of manufacturing back to the country,” said EDC President Seth Pinsky.

Working from a digital model, a 3-D printer can produce a variety of different objects, from figurines to coffee cups to car parts. Shapeways, which began in the Netherlands in 2007, held a ribbon-cutting at its new factory, at 30-02 48th Ave. in Long Island City, Friday with Bloomberg, the EDC, Borough President Helen Marshall and elected officials.

The company’s 25,000-square-foot factory will house 30 to 50 3-D printers and will have the capacity to print 3 million to 5 million products a year.

Shapeways is expected to create up to 50 manufacturing jobs.

“We will be hiring the best people in engineering, in technology and in design,” said Maureen Vogelaar, chief operating officer of Shapeways.

While Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen said his company is retooling traditional manufacturing models, Pinsky said the United States has lost a lot of industry due to cheaper labor costs overseas.

“Technology like this is going to allow us to bring a lot of manufacturing back to the country,” Pinsky said.

Bloomberg used the Shapeways ribbon-cutting ceremony as an opportunity to announce a new competition run by the city to support design and manufacturing: “New York’s Next Top Makers.”

The contest will run from mid-November to September 2013 and contestants will be asked to pitch a product. From that group, six will be chosen — five by the city and one by the public — to take part in a design studio to further develop the product, and the winner will be picked in September 2013.

Shapeways will provide equipment and mentorship, as will do-it-yourself electronics company Adafruit Industries, technology and robotics company Honeybee Robotics and NYDesigns, an economic development program at LaGuardia Community College. NYDesigns is also sponsoring and offering studio space for the contest.

“Not only is Shapeways itself an innovative company, but it is enabling innovation,” said Rachel Hoat, the city’s chief digital officer.

Bloomberg said it was important for the city to foster new manufacturing innovations such as 3-D printing.

“They are building the cities of tomorrow and cities that don’t do this just don’t have a future,” he said.

Marshall said Shapeways is doing wonderful futuristic work and emphasized that Queens has space for a lot more industries.

“This is a very important thing that’s happening now,” she said. “I’m glad you came to this country.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 12:00 am, October 26, 2012
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