We’re on Shapeways!

I almost called this post “The Price is Right,” then decided I wanted to talk about two things. The first is what I’m selling (and why) and the second is how I arrived at a price structure. I ultimately plan on listing several hundred items; I’ve listed a few so far and plan on listing more today, after I brew another cup of tea and finish this post. You can see them here.

I started 3D modelling in the first place, because I couldn’t find that I needed. In particular, I really disliked the available options for kitchen and bath fixtures, and for fireplaces. The few things I could find cost the earth and, well…I’m a perfectionist. They just weren’t up to my standards. A couple of years later, and I have more fireplaces (and pots, pans, and just about everything else) than I know what to do with–and I’m still making more! I will die of old age, before I complete enough dollhouses to actually use all of these designs. So why not share them? I figure at least some of you might share my initial problem.

Which is why I do, in fact, take commissions. Well, not commissions exactly but suggestions. If you want it, and I can create it, I’ll do so and then list it in my shop. That way, you don’t pay anything extra but I’m still fairly compensated. If you’d like to work with me, please contact me on Facebook. I like Facebook for this, because it’s so easy to attach pictures and pictures are really, really useful. I don’t absolutely need them, but us looking at them together insures that we’re on the same page and thus greatly increases the likelihood of my design being something you actually want.

Now let’s talk price.

Creating a listing works like this: I upload a model, and Shapeways automatically generates a price per model based on material selected. So, for example, the base price for printing my Ravenswood House Grand Fireplace in White Processed Versatile Plastic in 1:12 scale is 93.94 USD. The base price for printing this exact same piece in Smooth Detail Plastic is 199.37 and in Smoothest Detail Plastic is 260.39. I’m also offering all of my pieces in 1:24 scale; here the corresponding base prices are 16.30, 28.71, and 36.70 USD.

That’s expensive! But I wouldn’t be able to charge less if I were to set up shop at home. I’d have to, in my prices, factor in not only the cost of equipment but also materials and when it comes to materials us little guys just can’t compete. I can’t afford to buy in the kind of bulk I’d need to, to negotiate any kind of discount on everything from 3D printing filament to shipping materials. I’d also have to factor in more nebulous costs, like that of electricity. It wouldn’t be exact and, thus, in my opinion, it wouldn’t be fair. Happily, though, since Shapeways is taking care of all that for us all I need to charge you for is my design.

While there’s no across the board, fixed markup for all manufacturing the typical markup is 50%. Spoiler alert: this is NOT my markup. But what exactly is a markup, anyway? A markup is how a manufacturer earns money. It needs to be large enough to both a) recoup costs and b) turn a profit. For example, if I’m manufacturing widgets and each widget costs 50 USD to manufacture, a 50% markup means I’m selling each widget for 75 USD or 50% more than the cost of production.


Why do most manufacturers charge so much? Because they need to cover all the associated costs of production and many of those costs–like electricity–change all the time and thus are hard to pin down. Happily, though, I don’t need to worry about any of this as Shapeways is worrying for me. All I need to decide is what I think constitutes a fair price for my labour, which in this case is my design. Shapeways’ markup is built into Shapeways’ base price.

After initially trying different pricing strategies, I decided that any percentage-based pricing strategy was inherently unfair to both me and you. After all, I put in the same amount of work for the Ravenswood House Grand Fireplace, regardless of any choices you might make about scale, material, etc. But 10% of 260.39 USD is a lot higher than 10% of 93.94. I’d be profiting unreasonably, simply from your selection of more expensive material.

Ultimately, therefore, I decided on a fixed price strategy of adding between 2.50 and 20 USD to the base price of each model. That’s not a lot, but it’s more than sufficient compensation for noodling around on my tablet even if some designs do take hundreds of hours. This is my hobby! I mean, I’d do it, anyway! Modelling is not, and will never be, a path to riches; if I earn some money here and there, great, but my only real goal is to help fellow enthusiasts achieve a level of realism that can often feel unattainable.

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