I was only a tiny bit surprised when I ran across an article on boingboing.net about a questionable model ordered from a 3D printing company. The model was for what looked to be a faceplate for an ATM skimmer, the purpose of which is to steal information from whoever slides their card in it assuming it's just part of the regular ATM. The company (i.materialise) refused to print the order thankfully, and made it public that there were attempts being made to make such objects.
I wanted to touch on this soon to be more prominent issue for a moment. I totally don't mean to be preachy, but it's one of those things that at least needs to be talked about for a sec. The idea of making money sounds pretty appealing in general, but not at the cost of your personal and professional ethics and reputation.
I consider all Shapies (aka Shapeways members, and customers too) to be a part of the 3D printing revolution that is slowly but surely taking place, and love to see all the crazy cool things people come up with, but the momentum will only keep going as well as it's going if 3D printing is kept in a good light and not tarnished by those not thinking of the community they may effect.
She may not be able to wear it to the mall, and it may chafe a little, but the fashion world keeps on popping up with new 3D printed designs. Though I'm sure a lot of you don't pay too much attention to the world of high end impractical fashion that struts its stuff down the runway time and again, it's definitely interesting to know the extents of what you could make, not to mention imagine how much people might pay for it.
Selling through Shapeways is becoming more fruitful as time goes on. With the media attention and the virtually constant website upgrades sometimes all you have to do is put up some nice photos of a creation to get sales flowing. However, there are many benefits to expanding your Shapeways products to other online markets. 3D printed creations are pretty new to online shopping venues, and there certainly is an appeal to be one of the first few to sell these sorts of things. It's like being on the ship that discovered the 3D printed Americas.
Here is a "treasury" I compiled of 3D printed creations that are currently on Etsy.com (I did shamelessly include one of mine on there , and no, it's not the home printed moustache hair clip):
Most designs on Shapeways are printed as one whole piece, but one thing to consider is that if you happen to want a big piece and be able to disassemble it for storage and then use on the go, or for an added artistic aspect, or for when you move and would like to not squish something that's hollow inside, or in order just to jump on the DIY bandwagon, where sometimes the novelty of Doing It Yourself (or at least assembling it yourself) is an added marketing bonus to a product.
At the moment Trimensional (a mobile device 3D Scanner) is only available on the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Gen. The main reason it's only currently on these two devices is because the way it works is that while the screen of the mobile device faces you it flashes some fancy lights at you while you stare unmoving at the front-facing camera in a dark room (try not to creep everyone out who lives with you, unless you want to).
I saw this 3D scanning application mentioned initially on my feed from the Smithsonian 3D Digitization page that I "like" on Facebook. It was only 99 cents, so I figured it wasn't a big monetary risk to try it out. It was pretty entertaining if not with wonderful accuracy (above is a less than flattering low-res 3D scan of me). But hey, it just came out and the creator himself said he's going to pimp it out a lot more as time goes by. I'm sure most of you reading this blog want to know how these 3D scans apply to 3D printing. There are export features in the works, go to the end of this blog for more info on my email exchange with the creator of this app.
Even if you don't love Valentines Day (I sure thought it was the most annoying holiday EVER while I was single, now it's mainly an excuse to suggest aka force my boyfriend to do romantic stuff) you still love 3D if you're on Shapeways.
Even if somehow you don't love your 3D I'm sure you love $$. Weather you like it or not, it's always nice to have around.
My point being: MAKE 3D CREATIONS FOR YOUR STORE FOR VALENTINES DAY! And you should probably start really really soon. I believe one of Duann's blog posts touched on this subject, but I want to drill it into you that if there's a holiday or themed season, start modeling at least two months ahead of time if you can, get your prototype, fix whatever needs to be fixed, then put it in your shop, preferably with pictures. The general consumer buys things a lot more easily if there is a real photo and not just a rendering.
You may be finding yourself this holiday trying to explain 3D printing to your 80 year old grandmother who only knows a mouse as a critter the cat chases. To us that use the latest technology on an everyday basis it may seem like a no brainer, but the truth is that though 3D printing is not an extremely new technology it's still practically a newborn to the public and retail realms.
According to Wikipedia "3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material." That is a pretty solid explanation, but not really one that flows conversationally.
You can always bring out the YouTube videos that show 3D printing in action. On my own website I embedded the following video, which is from the Museum of Modern Art's YouTube channel:
It's true that most of us will be in family mode during the coming holiday, but there's no reason to not keep an extra piece of our brains focused on cool things we could model (or if you're a customer, request an artist to model for you).
Every day life is a good inspiration, my best sellers were initially created for my own needs, I started modeling iPhone 4 cases a few weeks before I went to get mine, since I'm a bit clumsy and knew I would drop it at some point. I think my record at the moment is once a week, often on a hard surface and so far no cracks!
One other example of finding inspiration to make something is when I received a credit card reader in the mail. It's this little thing called a Square reader that you plug into your phone (it works on iPhones, the iPad and a few Android phones) and after downloading the app and doing a couple bank account verification things you can swipe credit cards with your phone. Right now it's only in the US, but I do believe they're trying to expand to a few other countries. Anyhow, it's really freaking small and I immediately thought that it was inevitable that I'd lose it. After a couple days my synapses fired and I realized, hey, I make stuff, I could make a case for this thing so I don't lose it. After I made one for myself with lovely 3D printed hinge action and took some pictures and a short video, then I started selling it to others.
Everything I can tell you about selling your own pieces to customers face to face is only what I've experienced in the past few months since I started to take my Shapeways art to various events. One key piece of advice I would give is to have a small spiel ready explaining as briefly as possible what 3D printing is, in layman's terms. Of course if you're not much of a talker you can bring your smart phone or laptop and have a nice explanatory YouTube video handy. You would be surprised how many people don't have the slightest clue about 3D printing despite all the cool media attention it's been getting lately.
I personally started off selling my creations (a few themed stainless steel and sandstone pieces) at a Japanese Animation convention in their "Artists Alley". More recently I also started selling at an Arts Market in downtown San Francisco and in March will have a go at my first big convention which is Steampunk themed. A good way to go when starting out is to share art space with friends, it brings down costs and lets you take a few breaks. Sometimes things will sell, and sometimes they won't. If you try a selling venue out make sure to bring something to pass the time. You'll know by the first event or two if selling your pieces in person is your niche, or if you want to go running back into your pajamas to make all of your sales online.