I was invited to visit our printing facility this week and as I'm quite a techno-freak that was an opportunity I couldn't miss! Armed with a videocamera and a head full of questions my colleague Michelle and I spent a good afternoon there (a video report will follow soon!).
It was fascinating to see how the objects materialized layer by layer although it was an agonizingly slow process - I'm sure it'll be even better to see the entire thing on video in fast-forward
For now, I'll share some pics of our printer and of a 'tray' with some finished models:
Our trusty Stratasys FDM 400mc
A tray full of designs
The brown stuff that looks like molten sugar is the 'support material'; it'll be washed away in a hot bath with solvent afterwards. Support material is needed because you can't print in the air, and fragile pieces would break off if you didn't use it.
The production room was immensely hot and noisy. We were both quite happy when we left the facility and walked into a snow-storm (a snow-storm by Dutch standards, that is)!
A new day, a new name: as of today we are all part of the Shapeways community. While now this is just a name, over the coming weeks and months we'll work hard to turn it into a likeable brand.
Something that will inspire and enable you to create something beyond what you thought was possible; something that is fun to interact with and that is something different to each of us. All of this will apply to the branding too as we'll invite you to create the brand with us. Just as we are passionate about bringing ideas to life, together.
More to follow!
[image by dro!d, released under a Creative Commons license]
Last week I received my first Shapeways design: a cube puzzle made out of seven parts. It was amazing to hold my 3D design in my hands and I was proud enough to make a little video showing it off and explaining a bit about the process.
Today we released a number of updates on the website. Some of them are 'behind the scenes' but there's also quite a bit of improvement in the frontend.
The fixes I'm most excited about are in the 3D backend: the import module has become a LOT more robust! Here are the best bits:
We now accept models with polygons; they will be automatically triangulated.
We now support NURBS models.
Files can now contain multiple separate objects - no need to join your meshes into one single object anymore.
We select better viewpoints for the model thumbnails if no camera information is provided.
This should make it a lot easier to upload your model - we should now be able to process any Collada file you throw at us! Of course, the usual modeling constraints still apply: make sure your object is a closed, manifold volume that doesn't have parts that are too thin to print. (More info on that here).
By the way, we're still looking for input on which file formats you'd like to see us support next - please pay a visit to the forum and leave your feedback there!
The 3D processing isn't the only part that was worked on - we also made quite a lot of fixes on the website itself. Most of them are usability improvements. Here's an overview of the best parts:
Added a 'Remember me' option to the login box.
Pressing <enter> will now submit the login information in Internet Explorer as well.
Higher quality thumbnails in 'you and your design' (the 'action shots' of printed objects).
Added a 'Welcome to U-Design' box with useful information for new users.
Added a tab navigation element for the homepage.
Tightened up the 'Last forum posts' and 'What's Hot' boxes on the homepage.
Model page / galleries
Galleries are now sorted by modification date by default (showing the most recent work first).
Removed the mouse-over information boxes from the gallery pages and cleaned up the model information.
Tags will now auto-suggest while typing.
On to the next release! If you have suggestions for improvements we'd love to hear them, of course.