Author Archives: Eleanor

From prototype to product: Creating glowing jewelry with 3D printing

Christopher Boynton is a co-founder of Fire & Bone and a self-taught 3D modeler and designer with a passion for product design. He has been using Shapeways to prototype and create a new line of luminescent, 3D printed jewelry called L Ī T. I caught him about his design process, how he moves from inspiration to prototype to product, how 3D printing is powering the future of jewelry design and tips for running a succesful crowd funding campaign for your product. 


Tell me a little bit about your background – who are you and what do you make?

I’m one of three co-founders of a small company called Fire & Bone that makes miniature animal skull replicas, to wear or collect, using 3D scanning, 3D printing, and lost wax casting in silver and bronze. We launched our first collection in a very successful Kickstarter campaign last December. I’m also a product designer and the creator of L Ī T (I pronounce it “light” on account of the macron), which is a line of 3D printed luminescent (glow-in-the-dark) jewelry that I launched in late June 2014 on Kickstarter.

What inspired you to create luminescent jewelry?

As a kid, getting a glow-stick was always a special treat and I’ve always been fascinated by the quality and color of light they give off. But L Ī T really is a study in lighting design and that’s how I approached it. Shapeways strong and flexible nylong plastic has a wonderful way of interacting with light so it was the perfect material to work with and, 3D printing and modeling made it easy to play with different forms and different ways of manipulating that little bit of neon light. I’m working on several full-scale lighting design projects right now so don’t be surprised if you see a giant descendant of L Ī T with an LED tube instead of a glow-stick in the future.

How did you learn to 3D model?

I taught myself the basics in Sketchup and now I work primarily in Rhino with a little Zbrush thrown in.


How did you discover 3D printing for jewelry design?

Jason Bakutis, one of the co-founders of Fire & Bone, is a sculptor and jewelry designer and he was an early adopter of 3D printing for jewelry design. A few years ago, he showed me a few of his pieces that were produced using 3D printing and lights started going off in my head. The first piece of 3D printed jewelry I made was done in Shapeways sterling silver.

What is your design and iteration process like?

I usually use pencil sketches early on just to crack an idea and figure out how to approach it. However, I prefer to talk it out with Matt Kroner, who is a product designer and the third man behind Fire & Bone. We speak the same language when it comes to design so if I need to make one piece fit more Kentucky with another piece (look it up) and make the whole thing look more like that weird lego piece with the backwards studs he’ll let me know. Most of the heavy lifting is done in Rhino. I like to get a physical prototype as early on as possible so I have something to turn over in my hands and learn from.

Having a physical prototype can reveal solutions and open all kinds of possibilities that a virtual model can’t. 3D printing is great for that because I can make a prototype and see how well it fits with other parts, like how snugly a glow-stick fits, for example. Then, make a change to the model and have a finalized piece much more quickly than if I had to produce it any other way. I like to decide on an overall form quickly and then do several iterations, making subtle changes and adjusting tolerances and smaller details until it feels like it’s ready to be a Thing with a capital “T”.


Can you give an example of how you go from idea to finished product?

The ideas I get the most excited about tend to happen late at night and my favorite design solutions tend to get dropped on me just as I’m waking up. However, ideas and solutions rarely occur on consecutive nights and sometime not even in that order. The idea for L Ī T grew out of two other projects. One was a silver ring I was working on that had a hollow tube in it for keeping secret notes and the other project was trying to figure out a cheap way to prototype a full-scale LED light without having to worry about wires and soldering because I was living in a tiny apartment at the time. I was thinking about using glow-sticks, just for proof-of-concepting, as a possible alternative to LEDs and the hollow ring was sitting right there.

My first prototype ring was in Shapeways black strong and flexible nylon plastic so it masked the light and had Morse code. I printed one in white polished just out of curiosity and when I saw how it diffused the light I realized there was a lot more potential there. I started playing with different forms, testing just how far I could push and stretch that little bit of light. 3D modeling and Shapeways made it so fun and so easy to try different shapes that I got a little carried away. I’ve used Shapeways to make masters for mold making and prototypes before but L Ī T is the first time I’ve used it to manufacture the final product. I don’t think it could be made any other way.

You are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to support the production and expansion of your line. Do you have any advice to other creatives who are interested in launching a crowd funding campaign to support their product?

  • Make whatever you’re making because it’s fun challenging work.
  • Create a simple compelling story. This is harder and more elusive than most people think, which leads us to . . .
  • Get some talented and trusted friends to help you write, edit, shoot, revise, revise, revise, and review, your campaign. I’m lucky enough to know the folks behind who have helped put several successful campaigns, including Fire & Bone, together.
  • And, get your campaign in front of as many eyes as possible. For me, this is the most daunting and difficult step.

How do you think 3D printing will impact the future of jewelry design and production?

3D printing is a boon for all design and prototyping work. It opens up a whole new world of shapes and forms that would be cost-prohibitive or impossible to make using more traditional techniques. It also has the potential to make it much faster and cheaper to iterate. 3D printing blurs the lines between concepting, prototyping, and manufacturing so designers can start “sketching” in 3D objects. Having those physical iterations to examine and test so early in the process is changing the way designers work.


LaMetric: Using 3D printed prototypes for product development and crowdfunding

3D printing has already had a huge impact on the future of how products are conceptualized, designed and developed. Smart Atoms, a group of tech visionaries, designers and engineers, has created LaMetric, a standalone, customizable, hackable smart ticker that tracks key life and business metrics and displays them in real-time. Before launching their Kickstarter campaign, Smart Atoms prototyped LaMetric using Shapeways. Smart Atoms CEO Nazar Bilous discussed the process of developing LaMetric and how 3D printing is a key component of product, and hardware, development.

LaMetric - track what's important to you

LaMetric – track what’s important to you

What inspired you to create LaMetric?

Most of our team used to work in a digital agency before forming Smart Atoms. Every day each of us was curious about the most important digital product numbers including app’s ranking, downloads, website stats. It took a lot of time getting them from different slow loading sites and we decided to solve it by having a simple device that saves our time, tracks the key numbers autonomously and shows them fresh for the whole team.

Nike+ Fuelband was a huge inspiration at LaMetric concept stage. Its amazing screen made the highest impact. We wanted to get the screen that looks like it is a part of the black casing when the device is switched off and clearly projects the screen across a large physical space with bright, sharp, square pixels. Most people that saw the 3D model doubted it’s even possible. Which motivated us even stronger to reach it.

How did using Shapeways help you develop the LaMetric prototype?

In the course of several prototype iterations, we moved from an ugly brick-like box to a rounded bar, after which most of the early adopters wanted to put LaMetric at home or office. We now understand Apple’s passion for rounded corners, this works well in the 3D world, too. Initially, we created the casing using an average domestic 3D printer, but the quality was not good enough for us to get profound feedback from beta testers, especially “look and feel”. We discovered the Shapeways service that quickly transformed our model into high quality device parts.

LaMetric parts prototype: homeprinter left, Shapeways right

LaMetric parts prototype: homeprinter left, Shapeways right

What need will the product fulfill?

In the age of information overload it’s important to have personal information radiators or status panel to be more productive. Main indicators like weather warnings, amount of new emails, amount of daily tasks and how much you’ve already solved, money balance, time to meeting and others give you immediate understanding of where you are and what to do next.
LaMetric eliminates the need to check multiple apps or news sites for the information you need. Instead, you receive everything at a glance, all in one place, in real-time.

If you have a family or small business it’s twice important to track shared indicators and boost group productivity via getting communal experience and discovering something together. It can be tracking important dates(events, deadlines, anniversaries), profit numbers, product rankings, social metrics, leads amount, sales figures, visitors amount, youtube subscribers, mentions and others. In this day and age of personalised devices and individuals with their heads buried in their smartphone screens, people crave these shared experiences, a sense of belonging, a sense of greater purpose that make them more motivated and productive.

In a digital world, why develop hardware?

By developing hardware you can discover new tangible interactions and experiences. The digital world doesn’t give this.

Final LaMetric prototype

Final LaMetric prototype

How does having a well developed prototype help when launching a crowdfunding campaign dedicated to hardware?

We added photos of all our prototypes to the Kickstarter campaign page to show people our understanding of quality and where we’ve spent a year of hard work before launch. It builds relationships with your backers. It’s very important in crowdfunding, and it’s all about transparency.

How do you think that 3D printing will help the future of hardware design, iteration and development?

3D printing helps quickly build iterative prototypes, test with your early adopters and get feedback on idea, form, size etc. It increases the speed of building hardware products and gives not expensive tool for everyone to create things. For us, prototypes built with Shapeways additionally allowed get feedback how LaMetric looks and feels. 3D printing will have a significant impact on IoT industry and bring a lot of new exciting devices in the near future.


New 3D Printing and Modeling Class for Kids

Kids are our future. And that’s why we at Shapeways strongly support enriching young minds with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math—otherwise known as STE(A)M. 

As part of the STE(A)M initiative, we’ve partnered with Youth Digital, a company who provides online technology classes for kids, to offer the 3D Printing & Modeling 1 class.

Through this class, kids will learn:

  • The basics of popular 3D modeling software Blender
  • How to create a robot from scratch and bring it to life through 3D printing

Learning to model robots is great way for kids to get the hang of 3D modeling. And since the course is just three parts (about 20 minutes each), they shouldn’t have a problem staying focused. 
The class is designed for kids ages 8 to 14, but really anyone can learn from it! So whether you want to keep the kids busy, enrich their minds, or even use this as a creative bonding experience while you learn alongside them, this is an awesome class to check out. 
You can get an introduction to this course with three lessons on our tutorials page and if you’re interested in the full 12-part course with Youth Digital, they’re offering Shapies a 30% discount through July. Just use code: Shapeways30 when you sign up here!


Shapeways shopowner Susan Taing of bhold design at the first ever White House Maker Faire

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On June 18 the White House hosted its first ever Maker Faire, as part of the first National Day of Making. Susan Taing, Shapeways shopowner and founder of bhold, was there as an Honored Maker and I caught up with her about her experience. She also shared more about her time at the White House on the bhold blog

What did it mean to you to be part of this event?

It’s immensely inspiring to see our government be so forward-thinking. It meant a great deal to me to see President Obama following through on his initial words spoken back in February 2013 during his State of the Union Address, by personally hosting the White House Maker Faire, declaring June 18th the National Day of Making and announcing programs to support all of us. I’ve believed in the potential of the maker movement and the 3D printing industry for a while now, but having the President himself deliver this message is something you usually only dream of. 

I was ecstatic to be invited as Honored Maker, out of 100 invited makers representing 25 states, and loved feeling the usual hyper-curious, positive and supportive Maker Faire vibe at the White House itself!

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NYC Meetup June 25 celebrating women in technology hosted by Shapeways and Codecademy

In honor of Made with Code, an initiative to inspire girls to experience the power of code, for our monthly New York City meetup Shapeways and Codecademy invite you to celebrate and connect with companies, organizations and individuals who are leading the way to empower, educate, and advocate for women and girls in the tech space.  

You are invited to join us on Wednesday, June 25th at Codecademy’s headquarters in Manhattan from 6:30 to 8:30 pm for an evening of networking and sharing of ideas and inspiration over light refreshments. 

The meetup will feature lightning talks focused on technology education and highlighting the career paths of women powering Shapeways and technology in New York City. Speakers will include designers The Laser Girls and Ashley Zelinskie; Jennfier Fredholm, Software Engineer Team Lead at Shapeways; and Ellie Roepken, Senior Consultant at NorthPoint. 

We’d love to see you there! You can find more details on our Meetup page. Space is limited, so please RSVP!


National Day of Making: 3D printing powers small businesses

In part three of our series celebrating a Nation of Makers today, we are highlighting how Shapeways is inspiring and empowering makers with tools to build their small, creative businesses. Shapeways entrepreneurs are different. They are creatives unsatisfied by other manufacturing and fabrication options on the market, elevated by their ability to 3D model, and their fueled by passion for their craft. 

Read on for more case studies on how Shapeways and 3D printing is liberating design from the constraints of traditional manufacturing, serving underserved markets, empowering 3D modelers to build businesses, and lowering the barrier to entry to start a creative business.  

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Shapeways Small Business Spotlight: Jeremy Burnich

In honor of Shapeways’ commitment to makers and empowering small business owners, this week we are featuring Shapeways shop owners on the blog discussing how they started, and are growing, their business with Shapeways. Jeremy Burnich is a based in Pittsburgh, PA and runs the Joy Complex shop, which focuses on jewelry and accessories. He has recently launched a new shop, 3D Race Tracks, focusing on his love of motorsport. Jeremy will be leading a class at Tech Shop Pittsburgh on how to open and run a successful Shapeways Shop on Sunday, June 22nd. If you are in the area you can sign up here

What prompted you to open your Shop on Shapeways?

I wanted to make a Valentine’s Day present for my wife.  The present I made – a pendant, modeled from a recording of my voice saying “I Love You, printed in silver – became a taking point for people at her work.  So I thought, why not make it and similar designs available for everyone? 
How has having a Shop on Shapeways affected your life?

I finally enjoy waking up in the morning and “going to work.”  I hope to earn enough to quit my day job.  I definitely know, for the first time, that I love doing what I’m doing now.  This realization wouldn’t have happened were it not for Shapeways and I’m grateful for it. 

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Shapeways Small Business Spotlight: Dennis C. Roffe

In honor of Shapeways’ commitment to makers and empowering small business owners, this week we are featuring Shapeways shop owners on the blog discussing how they started, and are growing, their business with Shapeways. In his DreamTree Imagination Studio shop Dennis C. Roffe, based in South Carolina, designs products under the motto “Life is hard… Design it better.”

What prompted you to open your Shop on Shapeways?

I opened my shop in order to bring the designs hidden in my brain and scribbled in my sketchbook to reality.  Shapeways offered me a way to prototype my designs at a decent price and offer my designs for sale.
Since 1984 I’ve been working as a product designer in the automotive, HVAC and medical industries.  I started technical, 3d modeling with ProEngineer in 1987 and recently started free form modeling using Blender and Sculptris.
The focus of my shop is to create fun and useful products with unique designs.  I plan to put more of a branding focus on my Guitar Gear products.
How has having a Shop on Shapeways affected your life?

It has helped me to bring my designs to reality. I never pursued any of my designs in the past because I knew what prototype parts cost. Now I can upload my designs and have them made at a reasonable price.  Also, the money I make from sales helps me to pay for new designs and prototypes that I am working on.

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Shapeways Small Business Spotlight: Corinne Hansen

In honor of Shapeways’ commitment to makers and empowering small business owners, this week we are featuring Shapeways shop owners on the blog discussing how they started, and are growing, their business with Shapeways. In her Sorhain shop, Corinne Hansen designs 3D props, jewelry and more.

What prompted you to open your Shop on Shapeways?

After graduating from college last year, I wanted to put my 3D modeling skills to use right away. I started designing, and opened my shop soon after. Most of my current products are designed to be costume props and accessories. This stems from my love of anime, video games, film and media that I have been passionate about since childhood. I also offer a few artistic jewelry and sculptural designs that I focused on in college. In addition I create original designs based on customer specifications.
How has having a Shop on Shapeways affected your life?
My small business is continuing to grow each month, though right now all earnings go back into my business to purchase 3D prints and fund new products. It is a part time job for me, but maybe one day it will grow to my full time job. In college, I learned to work with metals, ceramics and many other materials. However, to work with these materials, it is important to have safe facilities and equipment. I hope to acquire this space for my small business in the future, so I can expand the products I can offer. It is my plan to continue offering costume accessories but also to further develop my line of jewelry and artistic designs. 

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How to find inspiration for your 3D printed designs

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by Aviva Fort

From Eleanor: Aviva Fort is a Shapeways Crew member and designer who runs the SKAZMdesign shop on Shapeways.

Every maker knows how it goes. The creative well runs dry. Nary a drip of inspiration leaks into your parched skull. Try as you may, you just can’t think of anything to help you make that “wow” product; something you’ll love to see made into 3D printed reality. You’re just plain stuck. 

From my perspective as a maker and designer, I’m going to give you a few doorways in your life and mind that you can open up to find inspiration. Hopefully they will serve as the first steps towards designing and producing an awesome item that you’ll love to build and boast about. Three ways that help me create new designs are: looking into nature, finding a small detail on an architectural or cultural piece, and listening to good old heavy metal music.

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Joshua Harker creates 3D printed skull trophies for the Nike Risk Everything World Cup competition

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In honor of the start of the World Cup, we wanted to share these custom 3D printed, metal skull trophies artist and Shapeways designer Joshua Harker created for the winners of Nike’s “Risk Everything” competitions that they are holding at their “Phenom House” (or “Casa Fenomenal“) in Rio de Janeiro.

To create the skulls, Shapeways worked together with Joshua over the course of two months to ensure printability and structural integrity, and then sent the final models to Nike.

For more photos of the custom 3D printed custom skulls, check out the Casa Fenomenal Facbeook page and visit Joshua’s website for more examples of his work. Who else in the Shapeways community is excited about the World Cup? 


Getting more from less: using negative space in your 3D designs

by Richy Swalberg

From Eleanor: Richy Swalberg is a Shapeways Crew member and a mechanical engineer based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was recently featured on our Designer Spotlight and runs the Stinger shop on Shapeways.

I’m sure anyone who has uploaded their own design for the first time on shapeways has experienced the realization that using more volume of material can really add up the cost. This can be disappointing after working hard to design a new model that, in the end, is not very cost effective. But, you don’t have to throw out that great idea that was too expensive to have printed. One skill that Shapeways designers can use to their advantage to save money on their designs, and give a unique look, is the use of negative space.

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How to convert 2D images into 3D models with our 2d to 3D app

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If want to get started creating models for 3D printing quickly and easily, our 2D to 3D app easily enables you to convert a 2D image or drawing to a 3D design. In our latest video tutorial, Laurie from our Customer Service team walks you through how to use our 2D to 3D app, complete with expert tips and tricks. 

In this tutorial, you will learn:

  • What images work best for 2D to 3D app
  • How to create depth in your design with grayscale
  • How to extrude and scale your design in 3D
  • How to review your model’s printability

Looking for more inspiration for 2D to 3D design? Check out Aimee’s video on how she made her personalized #icant necklace!  


Empowering blind and visually impaired people with 3D printing and design

By Paul Dunne

From Eleanor: Paul Dunne is a Shapeways Crew member and the C3PO (Chief 3D Printing Officer) of Blindesign, a company based in Ireland that works to empower blind and visually impaired people through 3D design and printing. He is a recent graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and has an exhibition of his work on view there from June 13 through 20. We first met Paul at a meetup we held in Dublin back in April! 

Blindesign embraces change in how we develop and acquire 3D printed products. It also enables a social benefit to blind and visually impaired people by carrying out creative workshops with the blind to create forms and drawings of how they see the world. These creations are then scanned and developed into 3D printed products and jewelry that are available to buy in a wide range of materials on Shapeways. The finished designs are the tangible aspects of the empowering experience from the workshops.

Through Blindesign I am committed to changing perspectives of what it means to have vision. Many thought the idea of collaborating with someone who is visually impaired or blind in the creation of designs was too crazy and couldn’t be done.

However, there is a motto among the visually impaired and blind at National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), a charitable organization that provides services and support for people with sightloss. It starts by them asking a newbie, like I was at one time, “Do you know what VIP stands for?”. To which I answered, “Very important person.” They replied, “Yes, but also visually impaired people.” I was very struck by how powerful a comment it was. I could feel the pride and energy in the room when the connection was made. 

I wanted this project to emphasis that although the participants who I work with throughout this project are visually impaired or blind, they and their creations are the very important parts. I did this by making VIP spaces to keep the ‘Very Important Pieces’ that were made by hand and then to have the ‘Very Important Prints’ made with Shapeways. 

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Design competition for students and emerging professionals

We are excited that Duann Scott, Design Evangelist at Shapeways, will be a guest juror for the Pinup 2014 Design Competition. This competition invites students and young professionals to submit a collection of their studio, 3d printed or un-built work comprised of up to three digital images. The competition is free to enter and the deadline is June 9th. 

The proliferation of device culture, social networking, and cloud technology are changing the way we create, and connect on a daily basis. For design, this means that technology is not only transforming the process of production, but also the processes through which we share, critique, and organize ourselves around the work we do.

The Competition poses the following questions: What are the aspirations by which we evaluate design today? In an increasingly networked culture, what makes a project capable of cutting through the virtual noise, and starting a new conversation? How do evolving forms of media affect the way in which your message reaches its destination? What is your message? 

You can find all the details, including how to enter and prizes, here.

Pinup 2014 was assembled by designers, professors and students as a means to publically promote the research, exploration and investigation currently happening in academia and amongst today’s emerging talent. The competition is supported by ArchDaily, Shapeways, the AIAS, IIDA, ADC, AIGA and is hosted by The Morpholio Project. The guest jury includes participants from FastCompany, ArchDaily, Design Milk, Interior Design Magazine, Core77 and Columbia GSAPP.