Quick and cost effective custom parts for urban farm hydroponics system

Ultimaker 3D printers made it possible for Farmshelf to install and maintain functioning beta units of their automated hydroponics systems in public view at Grand Central Station (New York City)


“Professional desktop 3D printers are so cost effective now that you don’t need to look at the cost per part beyond the cost for filament. And it is affordable to build small production batch runs with printed parts, something that five years ago was impossible.”

Andrew Shearer, CEO / Co-Founder, Farmshelf

Farmshelf – Introduction

Locally grown food is better for our health and for the environment, though most of it travels over 1,500 miles between farm and consumption. To cut back on transportation time, the Farmshelf team is creating a way for individuals to grow their own food where they live, work and commune: a fully-autonomous, highly productive urban tech farming solution. Cultivating produce worthy of a farm-to-table restaurant—within a footprint the size of a freestanding bookcase—was achievable once they sought a solution to common production problems. Using Ultimaker 2+ professional desktop 3D printers, Farmshelf iterate designs and harvest entire sets of hundreds of functional custom parts, which would not have been easy or affordable to produce using any other fabrication technologies.



Traditional custom parts and low-quantity manufacturing methods require initial setup costs for each individual design. Materials and service costs for meeting production needs on new Farmshelf units, along with requirements to plan ahead and anticipate future supply demands, all required considerable upfront investment in parts. Additionally, common manufacturing solutions for producing sets of custom parts were not an option until product development was complete and full production scale had begun.


Ultimaker professional desktop 3D printers allowed Farmshelf to continue evolving custom part designs, while also meeting short-run production needs for early adopter units already installed in full public view. Incorporating Ultimaker into their processes provided a cost-friendly solution that streamlined the testing and prototyping stages of production.



The Farmshelf team were able to produce tough, functional prototypes suited to their long growing cycle tests, while enjoying a more affordable way to iterate custom parts. Ultimaker desktop 3D printers met their low-volume production needs as they continued to build and deploy more beta units to highly visible public sites. Without access to professional desktop 3D printing, the unique opportunities presented by this innovative product may never have seen the light of day