Enter, Shapeways, a new startup molded by Philips Incubator Project and currently tagged as a private beta service.
The promise of Shapeways is to enable consumers to make stuff, virtually anything of reasonable size and detail, and have it in hand in 10 days or less for an average cost of $50-150.
Users are asked to import files from 3D modeling software in STL, Collada, or X3D formats. At that point, one is able to specify material and size. Shapeways describes current options as “White Strong & Flexible (SLS), Cream Robust (FDM), White Detail and Transparent Detail (Object). Additional choices will come soon.
Interested? Mashable have a limited number of invites to the closed-beta, so get over there quickly and grab one!
This won’t be for everybody. You’ll have to do the hard design work, in a 3D program that outputs their preferred formats, so I really don’t expect this to be the Next Big Web 2.0 extravaganza. Make an app that will convert Second Life (or other Metaverse environment) objects into fully-qualified X3D files, and we’ll talk. I’m just fascinated by how fast this market evolves.