10/29/2012 01:55 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2012

The Largest 3D Printing Facility in the World Opens

Shapeways is disrupting manufacturing, one Keanu at a time

It's remarkable what happens when you give creative people total control. Sometimes you get Citizen Kane. Sometimes you get Heaven's Gate.

For 3D printing service Shapeways, offering its network of designers the ability to create nearly anything has resulted in everything from a Sad Keanu Reeves figurine to otherworldly, walking, works of art.

Shapeways doesn't make printers -- instead, designers upload their models to the marketplace, which they can then sell to consumers. Shapeways prints the items on-demand (and ships to the buyer), which means there's never any surplus inventory or major manufacturing costs.

In 2010 the company moved HQ to New York from the Netherlands, and it's clear they're here to stay. This past Thursday, Shapeways and Mayor Bloomberg cut the ribbon on a new factory space in Long Island City (with a pair of scissors hot off the 3D press). When completed (2013), it will be the largest 3D-printing facility in the world, housing up to 50 printers.

"It's been a dream of ours to have a factory nearby," Carine Carmy, Shapeways' Director of Marketing told us. "We can show people the machinery, and demonstrate how the product travels from the machine to your hands."

Now go forth (and get creative).

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