Category Archives: Miniatures

Perfect Model Train Scale Buildings Inspired By New England

Upon visiting the Railroad Hobby Show in Massachusetts last week, I was blown away by the range of miniature trains and scenery. One vendor that stuck out of the herd due to the overall level of artistry was Atlantic Scale Modelers run by Hal Reynolds. The detail on his scenes is downright incredible, from the vegetation made from individual pieces of thread to weathered shingles.

See for yourself below:

Dog Bar Light cover

Bridge scale miniature

scale model lighthouse

Cabin railroad miniature

We love connecting with the model train community and learning more about what makes this community excited and motivated to design. With our materials and technology, there is so much these modelers can do to add to their collections and we’re excited to see more amazing scenes at shows throughout the year!

For more scale models you can check out the Shapeways Miniatures marketplace.

Hero Forge: Where Are They Now?

We are amazed with all the products that continue to come from designers’ imaginations and out of the printers. While 3D modeling takes some skill, we’ve seen a number of people take that mastery to the next level by creating apps that make 3D printing truly available to everyone. One of our favorite (and successful) examples we’ve seen is Hero Forge, a web-based app that lets you customize tabletop miniatures and statuettes.


Photo courtesy of Gnome Stew

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Announcing the winners of our 3D Printed Miniature Houses Contest

We are thrilled to finally announce the winners of our 3D Printed Miniature Houses contest! In conjunction with the fabulous blog Modern Mini Houses, we invited mini house fans to share the beautiful displays they’ve created that incorporate 3D printed furniture and accessories. Modern Mini Houses blogger Megan Hornbecker teamed up with Kacie Hultgren of Pretty Small Things and Carol Mitcheson of Mitchy Moo Miniatures to judge entries.

I do not envy their position, as all entries were really wonderful (and cute!). But they’ve narrowed it down to the four winners! And the awards go to…

Gold $125 Credit: Otterine

Silver $75 Credit: Alice Miniatures

Bronze $50 Credit: Paper Doll Miniatures

Shamrock Luck of the Draw $25 Credit: Mod Pod Miniatures

Thank you so much to all the participants and a big thanks to Megan, Kacie and Carol for their hard work and time on this. It’s so wonderful to see a community take so much pride in their work, while incorporating others’ products! Keep up the great work and congrats to all the winners! If you have ideas for more contest, let us know! We love to see all the creativity come to life thanks to 3D printing, but more importantly, thanks to you!

Mini houses, maximum inspiration: Meet our mini house contest judges

Miniature houses are big on Shapeways! To celebrate our miniature community, we’ve launched a contest in conjunction with the fabulous blog Modern Mini Houses to invite mini house fans to share the beautiful displays they’ve created that incorprate 3D printed furniture and accessories. You have until April 10th to share your mini house or display with us on Facebook for a chance to win Shapeways 3D printing credit. Visit the contest page for more information on how to enter and read on for more mini house inspiration and to meet the contest judges.

3D printed dollhouse mini house

Living room by Megan Hornbecker with 75 mm stag head by Dotsan

To kick off the mini house contest we wanted to highlight the work of the contest judges: Megan Hornbecker of Modern Mini Houses, Kacie Hultgren of Pretty Small Things, and Carol Mitcheson of Mitchy Moo Miniatures. I am constantly delighted by their attention to detail and the imaginative ways they incorporate 3D printing into their displays. When I look at these mini houses I want to move right in!

Megan Hornbecker chronicles her obsession with miniatures and dollhouses on her blog Modern Mini Houses and was recently featured in our Designer Spotlight. She also shared her process of creating a 3D printed miniature pendant light in a special “How I Made” tutorial.

3D printed dollhouse modern mini house living room

Living room by Megan Hornbecker

Modern mini house 3D printed dollhouse kitchen

Kitchen by Megan Hornbecker

Carol Mitcheson is a miniature maker and collector based in the UK and the author of the blog Mitchy Moo Miniatures. She also co-designed some mini accessories on Shapeways, including the mini tool box featured below.

3D printed dollhouse mini house shed toolbox

Shed by Carol Mitcheson

3D printed dollhouse mini house living room

Living room by Carol Mitcheson

Kacie Hultgren is a designer who uses Shapeways to create miniature furniture and accessories in her Pretty Small Things shop.  She also spoke about marketing and branding at the Shapeways Small Business Bootcamp.

Need some more inspiration to design or discover the perfect piece for your mini house? Megan, Kacie and Carol have curated selections of their Shapeways favorites and they are featured on our miniature furniture page.

Want to make a 3D printed mini dream house and win Shapeways credit? Read more on the mini house contest page and share your creation with us!

Ultra exciting news for Frosted Ultra Detail

We’re happy to announce that, thanks to a recent machine upgrade, the Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) Plastic bounding box has increased its maximum to 284 x 184 x 203mm, from its previous maximum of 127x178x152mm; a 220% x 3% x 34% increase respectively. This train by our Shapie Customer Service expert Mitchell shows off the new bounding box quite well.


While most FUD products will still ship within six business days, please allow up to 10 for products that are over 70mm in each bounding box dimension.



So, what will you be printing in our new, bigger FUD?

Reality vs 3D Print in Miniature

Posted by in 3D Printed, Miniatures

We see thousands of miniature buildings emerge from the 3D printers at Shapeways, everything from architectural maquettes of proposed buildings to scale models for trains like the Honiton High Street in British N Scale (N Gauge – 1:148 Scale) by nosomosnada.

Comparing the 3D print of the miniature town with the actual street scene, the accuracy is amazing, we can not wait to see how it looks once he has finished painting in the details.

Check out the rest of nosomosnada’s miniature models all 3D printed in white Nylon (WSF) by Shapeways.

We see many people using our high detail acrylic 3D printing to get the finest possible detail in their miniature 3D prints but our Nylon can also capture remarkable detail, making it suitable for many miniature 3D prints at a far lower cost with the benefit of increased strength and durability.  

Special National Train Week Feature with Stony Smith

Posted by in Miniatures

In honor of National Train Day, we caught up with Stony Smith, one of the most prolific and talented train modelers on Shapeways. He’s been featured in Wired and has been a Shapie for years. Hop on the miniature rails and enjoy his story!

Late in 2007, my co-empty-nest wife suggested that I should “get a hobby”. Having done a bit of work with model trains over the years, I decided to try to make a complete model train layout. I had just attended the Fort Worth Model Train Show, where I had seen many options for Zscale trains. I was hooked.

Zscale is 1/220th the size of the real world items – the locomotives are about 3 inches long. In other words…. TINY! What I soon found was that Zscale allows me to pack a large amount of track and scenery into a small space, but, I also found that there was not a lot available in the category of 1:220 buildings. There are laser cut kits, etched brass kits, and I took several excursions into paper models, but all of those require a good bit of effort to construct. 

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The Incredible Nautilus Project

After an overwhelming response to the Nautilus project we featured last week, including a re-tweet by Wired’s Chris Anderson, we asked Alexander to share the whole story of how that incredible project came to be. This is an amazing example of a project that combines traditional hand craft and 3D printing to create something that couldn’t be made any other way…


The story of the Nautilus begins thusly: I was driving my 6 year old daughter to school one morning, about two or three months before her birthday, and I asked her what kind of toy she might like for her birthday. I usually start to ask her this question well in advance of her birthday because she very rarely says she wants anything. We had been previously watching the 1954 film “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” based on Jules Vern’s book, and my daughter had fallen in love with the main characters. I should say that she fell in love with some of the characters, because she absolutely loved Captain Nemo and hated Ned Land like poison. So when I asked her what she might want or her birthday, I was not completely surprised to hear her say, “I would like the Nautilus,” but nor did I take the request too seriously. After all there wasn’t really a toy Nautilus that would be very appropriate for a six year old, excepting some terrible small plastic models made by slave labor in China. So I told my daughter that although she might like a Nautilus submarine, there wasn’t one to own. She did not appreciate that answer.

But her request got me thinking. I have almost three decades of modeling experience (building tanks, aircraft, ships, and dioramas) as well as miniature painting experience, strictly as a hobby. And over the last eight years or so, that skill set developed further when I renovated our house. In particular I developed extensive wood working skills. And since my daughter’s birth I have also dabbled in making toys for her. So it occurred to me that I might be able to actually design and build a Nautilus from scratch. That is what I decided to do.

Nautilus front

After telling my daughter that I intended to build the Nautilus for her as her birthday present I got to work. Without going into detail here about all the various stages of the project and the endless challenges I faced – the challenges were many and multifaceted, and would easily require thirty pages to lay out – I brought the Nautilus to its first stage of conclusion on 17 December 2012, after six months and more than 500 hours of work. I gave up counting the actual monetary cost at a certain point since doing so was causing me, mentally, to avoid working on the project. I am sure the current cost – excluding all labor – is over $3000.00, but I would not be surprised if it were a lot more than that by the time it is finished. The second stage of work, in which I am currently involved, is the further decoration/renovation of the ship, which I fully expect will drastically change the look and feel of the dollhouse for the better. I see this stage as lasting another two years.

With respect to Glenn and 3D objects, the story is quite interesting. One of the first design challenges I had in building the Nautilus was what to do about the iconographic Bullaugen (large portholes) in the salon of the ship, the diving ring and the diving helmets. With regard to the former, at first I tried to find large size O rings from a variety of machine manufactures to serve as the Bullaugen, but I was unable to find anything suitable, since the size, the type of material and weight were factors: I needed something that was 6-8″ in diameter, light weight (so that it could be mounted and would not put too much stress on either the bonds holding it, or the deck of the ship under it), and capable of being decorated. But during my failed search for O rings, I came upon a site,, that introduced people working on projects to people that could help them with those projects. It was here that I met Glenn, who is also an active Shapeways community member.

I owe Glenn a great debt of thanks for his kind generosity, beautiful work and patience. Glenn agreed to design the two Bullaguen, which we would then send to Shapeways to be printed in 3D. He also agreed to design the diving ring in the dive room, and the helmets for the crew. With respect to these latter two projects, I decided in favor of 3d printing because there was simply no other objects that could be suitably modified or pressed into service that would provide the proper look and feel. No one is making dollhouse scale (1/12 scale) diving helmets, as you can imagine (“Tea anyone in the parlor? Don’t forget your certified to 1000 feet brass and copper diving helm!”) I did find, at one point, keychains with brass diving helm decorations, but the helms were too small for the dolls’ heads, and I wanted the dolls to be able to “get dressed” for diving and going through the diving ring.

For the 3D projects to work, I had to go through the film multiple times taking photos of the objects from various angles. Glenn then worked up the initial take and we went back and forth discussing the design as it developed. This process worked very smoothly with respect to the two Bullaugen and the diving ring. And I had to be very prudent in this process due to cost, since the objects themselves were not inexpensive to manufacture and Glenn had his costs for design.

Nautilus detail

Things almost came to a screeching halt, however, in the design and manufacturing of the helmets. Here we had a variety of issues that caused us many problems and drove the unit cost far beyond what either of us had envisioned. To make a long story short, in creating the helmets we experienced design snafus (things crept into the design that neither of us actually visually caught), miscommunication (especially visualizing differing measurements and proportions), and uncertainty (how would things really fit and look on one of the dolls). The result was that the first 3D helm we printed was expensive and unusable. It was, in fact, three times too large for the dolls, and would not fit through the diving ring. The second attempt at the same helm was stopped in production by Shapeways because of unworkable geometry (a sincere and heartfelt “thank you” to the team! Ed note: You’re welcome!), and had to be redesigned again. Only the third time did we finally get a product that we could use, and, by then, costs had exceeded the budget by a wide margin. Even then I had to modify Captain Nemo to be able to wear the helmet, though for the rest of the crew the helmet was a perfect fit. As a consequence of the costs I am still buying helmets one at a time!

Nautilus people

The ship itself is entirely handmade, handpainted and hand decorated by myself. So, for example, there are somewhere between 3000 and 4000 brass 1/8″ brads in the ship serving as “rivets,” all of which were put in by me by hand, and which constituted THE most repulsive decorating project in the Nautilus by a wide margin. The contents of the ship are either handmade by myself or handmade by someone else, and sometimes they are joinly made. For example, the bookshelves in the ship are partly made by me out of teakwood. I then enlisted a coppersmith I found on etsy and had him manufacture the copper “spirals” that mimic the style of the shelves in the movie. After receiving those, I glued the teak shelves together, stained them by hand, glued on the copper spirals and sprayed the entire shelving with lacquer. These were installed into one bedroom and the salon.

The map cabinet in the Navigation room, as yet another example, was made entirely my myself out of mahogany that I carefully cut, shaped, drilled, stained and painted. I then bought 7mm copper o rings and glued them onto the front of each map hole in the cabient. Finally, I manufactured fifteen sea charts for it. The strange clocklike mechanisms in the Nautilus are also made by myself by hand – they were a huge and physically painful project (bending copper on a micro scale bites into the fingertips terribly). But most of the furniture and some decoration pieces are made either by individual craftspersons (books, looking glass, porcelain, rugs by L DeLaney and evminatures, to name but two of my favorites), or high end dollhouse miniature companies (especially Bespaq, and Reutters porcelain).

So here we are. They Nautilus is now in phase two, decoration and renovation. I am adding additional shelving, rugs, furniture, curiosities, books, maps, fishing nets and more over the next two years. The bottom level of the Nautilus will come in for special attention in terms of its redecoration. In my view it much be much more spectacular, given how difficult it is to see. There will be hidden treasure (ballast, as Nemo tells Ned Land), an entirely redesigned and decorated kitchen and more. And more 3D helmets are coming as well; I eventually want to have four or five for the entire crew!

Nautilus port side

I will now spend the next two years or so adding additional levels of detail…


What an incredible project! Congratulations Alexander, and I’m sure your daughter feels like the luckiest girl in the world!

Amazing Hand Painted, 3D Printed Miniatures

Check out these amazing hand painted 3D printed miniatures by TurtleWorks.

Each miniature is 3D printed with Shapeways white Nylon (WSF) than laboriously hand painted with an amazing level of detail.

Shapeways 3D Printed Miniature Hand Painted

Shapeways 3D Printed Miniature Hand Painted

Shapeways 3D Printed Miniature Hand Painted

Take a look at TurtleWorks shop on Shapeways that does not contain any turtles, but does contain many more 3D printed miniatures that you can order in the material of your choice then customize by hand painting for yourself.  We also have an entire gallery of 3D printed miniatures on Shapeways, if any of your models are suitable to be included in this category, be surte to assign them in your product page.

Urban Planning with 3D Printing in Louisville, Kentucky

This is urban planning for people who thought the best part of Monopoly was playing with the little houses and hotels. At Louisville, Kentucky’s Ideas festival, community members got the chance to rearrange the city and try out new ideas for future development, all with the help of 1/1000 scale 3D printed models of existing city buildings.

The buildings were printed out live at the event by local hackerspace LVL1, who had collaborated with University of Kentucky architecture students to develop the models. Attendees were not only able to move the 3D printed buildings around the huge map of the city, but the building’s designs could be modified via Google SketchUp and printed live on one of the five 3D printers that LVL1 provided. Sort of a real-life D&D tabletop game, although with no dice or goblins, and more discussions of traffic patterns and zoning designations.

3D printed model buildings from Vision Louisville at Ideas Festival in Louisville, Kentucky

The interactive event was used to kick-off Vision Louisville, a planning initiative to shape the next 25 years of the city’s development. The city plans to hold on to the 3D printed building models and record the ideas that were developed on the map for future use. Louisville is not the first city to get the 3D printing treatment, Chicago was rendered in 3D in 2009 as part of an exhibit by the Chicago Architectural Foundation.

Sound like a lot of fun (maybe even more than Monopoly), and if you want to get going on arranging your own city, maybe check out these sweet buildings from Shapeways’ own pfeiffer stylez.

Via The Atlantic Cities Image Geoff Oliver Bugbee via Flickr

Three Very Small 3D Printed Bicycles

These three 3D Printed bicycles by Original Train & Rail are in HO scale 1/87 come in a very handy frame to make sure the tiny models are delivered safely and the bases make it easier for you to hand paint the models.Not quite as small as David Sun’s Micro Car, These military bikes are very common everywhere in Switzerland. Civilian use of these bicycles is very popular because they are very tough (perhaps the miniatures are not quite as tough, but still very cool).

Shapeways 3D Printing HO 1/87 old bicycles

Shapeways 3D Printing HO 1/87 old bicycles

Shapeways 3D Printing HO 1/87 old bicycles

Shapeways new 3D printer driving quality to NYC!

Bad puns aside, check out this TINY CAR designed by David Sun….look closely and you’ll see it has SHAPEWAYS on its roof!

This amazing level of detail is possible printing in Frosted Ultra Detail…with our brand new 3D Systems ProJet printer located right here in New York!

3d printed tiny car

3d printed tiny car

This car was created for us, but you can get your own tiny car in David’s Shapeways Shop!

Stay tuned for more updates as the Factory of the Future takes shape…