today we launched our new look and feel of the website, of which we are all very proud. It is a nice moment, to share a little of the process with you.
In January this year we started the process to develop our own brand, including name, personality and look and feel. It was a fun process which we tried to do using as much input from people inspired by the Shapeways idea as possible. The first deliverable from the sessions was our new name: Shapeways. We also gave our brand a lot of thought and this all came together (being an internet service) in the look and feel of our portal, together with some new features.
The new look and feel was ready in April. Now our partner iBuildings had to implement it for us. This was a lot of work, as our new look also changed the functionality quite significantly. Look for instance at the new way the pictures of "you and your design" are displayed next to the 3D model. As I felt very passionate about the new look, I could not wait for it to be ready to launch.
Today we were able to release it and I really hope you all like our new look and website as much as we do and you have fun using our service and explore the exiting new possibilities that 3D printing offers to you.
As every marketer knows deep down, the truth is that a brand is owned by its customers: “user-generated branding is happening whether companies want it to or not”.
We have taken that thought a step further by developing a brand that allows co-creation with you and the 3D objects you create: in our logo your 3D objects are taking center stage. They will inspire all of us every time.
Obviously, we are very conscious of the fact that your models are your personal creative expression, so we will ensure that you remain in control of your 3D designs.
We really love what we are doing and we hope that you will become passionate about Shapeways and want to be an active part of our creative community.
If you have feedback, please tell us how you feel in the forum, or drop us an email. We will listen and work hard to exceed your expectations time and time again.
The request we received most often was to support the STL file format. Being the granddaddy of file formats in rapid manufacturing, almost every 3D design application can export STL. As of today, Shapeways also accepts these files.
This will make it MUCH easier to get your design on Shapeways as you'll no longer have to rely on a third-party application to convert the files.
When uploading STL files, please note that we're assuming a base unit of 1m. This is non-standard; most applications assume either 1 inch or 1 mm. We'll add an option for that later, but for now just take care that you scale your object down before exporting it.
While most 3d design applications support STL, some CAD apps don't. In this case I can recommend MeshLab, a free Open Source cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) tool that will do the job for you. To see if your application can export to STL, check our table of Supported Applications.
Does STL do the trick for you, or is there another file format that you would much rather work with?
Just to let you know that, yes, we are looking for new techniques and materials which might be interesting to offer to you. One of the new materials we are looking at, as you can see in the picture is indeed metal! Using a technique which is called Metal Laser Sintering, where a laser melts tiny particles of metal together to form the object. It is a bit like Selective Laser Sintering
(SLS), which is used with nylon. MLS uses a metal powder and technically it is a bit more complicated. The positioning of the object(s), for optimal support and heat transport, and finishing of the objects needs more knowledge/experience and treatments.
But then the photo shows that it is worth it.
We would really like to know what you think! Is metal cool? Also what would you make if we would offer metal? Please let us know.
A few weeks ago I wrote about TopMod3D, a 'topological mesh modeling' tool that allows you to create really far-out and intricate models. I gave it a try and quickly came up with a simple design that I had printed. It's a crazy little thing, but if you put it on the table during a meeting, everyone will be playing with it all the time
To give you an idea, the model only cost $26 to print because it's just a wireframe and doesn't contain a lot of material.
As my skills with this tool are obviously limited, I was wondering what someone with a bit more time and expertise would come up with.
So: I challenge you to come up with a fun and intriguing design using TopMod3D. I'll hand out a $50 coupon to the designer of the best entry to have it printed.
To participate, place the object in your Shapeways account and leave link in a comment below this post. We'll select the winner on Wednesday the 18th of June at 9am CEST (Amsterdam time). The winner will be announced later that day.
If you don't have an account yet, register as a beta user and enter 'TopMod3D' in the 'How did you hear about us?' field. We'll keep a close eye on the entries and invite you as soon as we can. Be sure to read 'How Does Shapeways Work' after logging in for the first time.
Every now and then you see a new idea that you just KNOW is going to change things. Here's one by BMW Design: a shape-shifting car covered with fabric. The shape of the car (the GINA - 'Geometry and functions In 'N' Adaptions') can be changed by a system of electric and hydraulic actuators, allowing the driver to, say, the size of the spoiler or the fenders.
By stepping away from the existing design restrictions, BMW could suddenly achieve amazing new possibilities like the changing shape, but also the use of transparent material for the taillights. Similarly, when using 3D printing techniques you'll also find that you can cast off your existing design restrictions (and gain a few new ones!), and design things that you couldn't produce otherwise. We're entering uncharted territory and I love it.
As we've stopped using our pre-beta discount today, I thought I should explain how our pricing works. I'll also give some samples of objects and their price and finish with a few hints on reducing printing costs.
Our price is completely based on the volume of your printed object. Apart from the material price, there are no other fees: no
shipping&handling, no additional taxes - nothing. There are no
hidden surprises once you start ordering something. We list them in dollars per cubic centimeter (1 cubic inch = 16.3 cubic centimeters):
Inside the European Union
Outside the European Union
(the price difference is the tax that we have to charge inside the European Union)
To cover our shipping&handling fee, we're now using a minimum order size of $25. You can still order small objects though: we've upgraded our shop so you can now print multiple objects in one order (of different materials, too!).
To get a sense of what this means for some real objects, check out these samples:
Cream Robust Size:6.4 x 6 x 5.2 cm
White Detail Size:6.4 x 6 x 5.2 cm
Cream Robust Size:4.5 x 4.5 x 4.5cm (hollow!)
Reducing printing cost
If you want to reduce the price of your object, you have two options:
Reduce the size. If you reduce the size by half, the volume (and therefore the price) will be only one eighth. Reducing the object's size is a great way to quickly reduce the price, but watch out : if you scale the objects too much you may loose the fine detail.
Make the object hollow. Using less material results in a lower price. In order for this to work, you must leave a few holes in your object so the support material can be washed out. Try making at least two holes of at least 4 mm.