Category Archives: Miniatures

Designer Spotlight: Gavin Rose – Sparkshot Custom Creations

Gavin Rose of Sparkshot Custom Creations has been interested in British outline railways since a very early age and has been making models since he was 12 years old. Almost 20 years later, he’s still at it, now with the help of 3D design and 3D printing. Gavin does a tremendous job of leveraging 3D printing to create model trains that are otherwise unavailable through mass-manufactured models.

How’d you get into 3D modeling of trains?

Prior to doing 3D modeling I used to (and still do) railway modeling the usual ways — build kits or ‘bash’ them — modifying them to represent a different version of an engine, either real or theoretical. Before this, I dabbled in military modeling, but the bug has always been for railways more than anything. Amongst a few other things, 3D printing creates the opportunity for me (and you!) to now own models of railway prototypes the mainstream firms haven’t created. You have to buy your own wheels, motors and bits for the printed model but once done, it’s great to see the engine you’ve always longed for pottering about on a layout.

You mention that models of railway prototypes you’re building aren’t available from mainstream firms. Tell us about that and what you’re focusing on.

Most of the mainstream Ready to Run (RTR) manufacturers concentrate on the latter British Railways (BR) period of railway history and I can only estimate this is because most of the people alive today remember that period, and not earlier. As such, nostalgia has its power well established in BR territory, which undoubtedly is the reason that the mainstream companies cater to BR models. This means that newcomers to the hobby end up with a choice that is predominantly BR so sales of those products increase, mainstream companies keep making them … and so the cycle continues.

There’s nothing wrong with BR, but the post-Grouping (and especially pre-Grouping) suffers dreadfully, and many locomotive classes aren’t given any attention while the popular ones are redone over and over and over. This is a shame, and along with it goes some of the history and knowledge of what our railways looked like, once upon a time. If more people were to model the earlier periods we could hopefully get back to some degree and accurate portrayal of what was once lost and my hope is that 3D printing will help to bring the past back to the present. Currently Sparkshot Custom Creations is concentrating on the earlier periods, so keep an eye out. :)

We love that you’re using modern-day manufacturing to bring back the past! Tell us more about how you design these unique models.

For customization, I have done a series of variants of most of the locomotive classes. Some are real variants, but a lot are freelance also to enable me and anyone who is inclined to model certain things in a more theoretical rather than factual way. Obvious detail variations are the most important such as the standard VS extended tank E2 and the various chimneys some engines ran with. The new-to-the-SCC range Furness J1 class has a separate pack of chimneys to order that allow the engine to take on different guises, the simple change in chimney can make all the difference.  People have asked me to make a few alterations here and there and I have done it; the creation of the Cambrian Class 61 was due to consultation to give the Furness K2 some alterations but the work became more elaborate than originally envisioned as research continued. It has however produced a new loco choice all together, so all good!

At the time of this interview, the next engine to be completed and released for sale will be the Furness Railway J1 Class. There is already a Furness Railway 21 Class that’s also known as the K2 available in several variants, so for the meantime, I’m concentrating on this particular railway company and then will move on to another.

Check out Gavin’s incredible model train designs in his shop here. He’s created some videos on post-processing his models here and here if you’re looking for a glance into his methods.

He’s also requested that if anyone has built, painted, and are running his creations on a model railway, to please send him photos or video. As Gavin says, “I’d very much like to see what people do with the kits, there’s something quite ‘happifying’ seeing your own designs all completed by another!”

Black High Definition Acrylate Now Open for Sale! + New Design Guidelines

Earlier this year, we launched Black High Definition Acrylate to our community. The material was such a success, we saw amazing scale model planes, miniature figurines and cool science fiction characters. Our makers were so enthusiastic that we had to rapidly expand capacity to meet demand.  Since then, we tested the material to the limits and learned how to make it better through feedback from the community. We are now ready to open B-HDA up for shop owners to make this material available to their customers.


Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA Shapeways Hereforge, Decapod, Max Grueter

Designers from From left to right: Hereforge, Decapod, Max Grueter

While we expand this material offering, we also wanted to share some changes to our design guidelines based on what we have learned is possible and what is more difficult to print consistently.  Updating the design guidelines was important in order to provide more reliable and higher quality prints to shop owner’s customers.

For B-HDA, the design guidelines are driven by the printing process.  B-HDA uses Direct Light Projection technology where light is projected through a liquid resin which solidifies each layer of a design on a build platform.  As the platform moves up, the next layer is cured by the projected light.  To secure your model to the build platform and support overhangs, intertwined toothpick-sized scaffolds are printed to reinforce your structure.  Since the support structures are the same as the material of the model, they are carefully removed by cutting and can make certain thin walls/wires or complex geometries more difficult to process.

Test wires Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA

Test model for wires in Black High Definition Acrylate

We found that unsupported wires should be a minimum of 0.7 mm thick and supported wires should be a minimum of 0.8 mm thick for wires less than 35 mm in length.  This is determined by our ability to successfully break away support material and clean your model.  Wires that are too thin will break during post processing.  As wires get longer, they typically need to be thicker in order to maintain their strength.  We recommend making your wires 0.1 mm thicker for every additional 20 mm in length over 35 mm to ensure we can post process it without breakage.

Test Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA

Test model for wall thickness

We added similar guidelines for wall thickness.  Walls under 5 mm in length should be a minimum of 0.5 mm thick.  For every additional 20 mm in length over 5 mm, we recommend making supported walls 0.2 mm thicker and unsupported walls 0.25 mm thicker.  The minimum wall thickness is determined by our ability to successfully remove support material without breaking your model and prevent the model from warping.

Finally for hollow models we added a requirement of at least 2 escape holes with a minimum diameter of 6 mm each per interior cavity. Escape holes are important for us to be able to clean the inside of the model and remove any uncured resin.


Black High Definition Acrylate Hereforge Shapeways

Designs by Heroforge

Black High Definition Acrylate has been a smash hit material for scale models and prototypes because of its high detail and smooth surface.  It looks great right out of the printer, but also takes well to painting and post-processing.  It’s flexible and durable.  We have seen some incredible products in our factories and can’t wait to see what shop owners are going to make available for sale.

If you have questions or comments about BHDA please join the discussion in our BHDA Shopper material thread here. Do you have a product you are offering for sale here? Share your photos and products in our feature this forum here.

Designer Spotlight: Ellen Mueller #TinyTuesday

For this Tiny Tuesday, we’re highlighting Ellen Mueller because we’ve fallen in love with her tiny depictions of office life.

Ellen is an internationally exhibited interdisciplinary artist who explores the everyday challenge of living with hyperactive news media and corporate management systems. She creates experiences that engage with social and political issues through imagery, performance, and installation.

While Ellen’s Shapeways shop reminds us a bit of Office Space (particularly this little stapler in red), a number of her designs are part of a cheeky, in-progress 3D print-on-demand sculptural street art project, she’s called Synergism. Each cluster of office-related objects is designed to fit into corner-shaped spaces– and Ellen is encouraging participants to print these subtle sculptures, and install them on office buildings they feel could spontaneously start leaking bureaucracy (DMVs, corporate headquarters, office parks, etc). Note: we’re not endorsing that anyone glue something to anything that doesn’t belong to you. Each design is 3D modeled in SketchUp and is defaulted to print in matte bronze steel. Ellen chose this particular material because of its connotations with other large-scale recognizable public sculptures, whether life-size portraits of politicians or members of military on horseback.

She currently works as an Assistant Professor of Art at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and while the school doesn’t have its own 3D printer, she uses Shapeways to give 3D printing access to her students. Side note: if you haven’t noticed, we’re all about students using our services!

We’re also particularly loving that while Ellen’s creating some incredible miniatures, she has some ideas for bigger, better tiny things if 3D printing limitations weren’t an issue, saying, “I would print tiny houses that are really well insulated. I think it would save a lot of energy.”


Welcome South Park to the Shapeways Community!

ATTENTION South Park super fans, technophiles and collectible geeks – South Park Studios have joined the Shapeways community and has opened their very own South Park Shop!  For the first time you will be able to purchase some of your favorite South Park characters – in physical form.

South Park four boys and street sign

The collector-inspired character line is printed in full-color sandstone and the shop will feature year-round introductions of new and old characters. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have hand signed a limited number of Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman figurines which select fans, who purchase the full set, will have an opportunity to win in these first two weeks of the South Park shop opening here at Shapeways.  (contest rules below)

The South Park shop also includes fan favorites like Candidate Garrison, Terrance and Phillip, Tweek and many more.  Each month a new character will be added to the shop so make sure you follow the South Park shop so you are the first to know when new characters launch!

So what inspired South Park Studios to join the Shapeways community? To celebrate their 20th season of South Park of course!  Fans around the world have continued to connect with the virtual world of South Park for two decades and now digital manufacturing can bring South Park out of the screen and into our physical world in a unique and dynamic way episode after episode.

3D Printing can offer a wealth of benefits including real time customization for fans and direct interaction with the brand. The South Park shop on Shapeways is the inaugural partnership with Source 3, South Park Studios and White Clouds.

Kudos to Viacom and South Park Studios for embracing 3D technology by setting an example in the industry and forging a stronger relationships with their fans.

tweek front small

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Rev Up Your Engines for Collector Car Appreciation Day

You’re zooming down the Hutchinson River Parkway doing twice the posted speed limit because the road’s been closed for your driving pleasure. You’re pushing every S-curve and cutting every apex, being sure to avoid the (inevitable) potholes that line this otherwise fast-paced road in upstate New York. Until….
You’re snapped out of your daydream, you glance over at the model of your classic 911 on your desk, just itching for the weekend.

Today’s your day; Collector Car Appreciation Day (Or, if you’re on Twitter, #CollectorCarAppreciationDay). Here’s a few ways to remember the sleek lines and impeccable engineering that went into your favorites.

It’s no doubt that the Porsche 911 is one of the most iconic shapes in history. So many people think “german engineered sports car” and immediately picture the once-air-cooled, rear-engined masterpiece. Remind yourself what it looks like under a delicate sheet in your garage, with this model by MakeAndModel


Maybe you FINALLY got around to upgrading your turbo in your newly imported Skyline. While these turbo cufflinks by Leander won’t help compress your waist to look thinner, you’ll be reminded why you spent those nights and weekends working on your R33 while out on the town.


The E30 M3 is, and will continue to be a near perfectly balanced sports car that remains a classic piece of BMW history. You deserve to constantly remind yourself of the hard work you put in not only finding your near one-of-a-kind legend, but also be able to show what you own with this keychain.

But this isn’t all we’ve got for Collector Car Appreciation day, dive deeper in clicking the button below and search our site for your favorite automotive masterpiece.

More Classics HERE

Step into a Miniature World

Someday scientists will truly understand what it is about elegant objects at a tiny scale that makes us so happy. Until that mystery is solved let’s just enjoy this beautiful set of 1:48 scale furniture, hand-selected to perfectly decorate your 1:48 scale living room in time for that 1:48 scale cocktail party you’ve been planning.

Let’s stage the room with this incredible set of Queen Anne furniture. Imagine they’re wedding gifts from your rich 1:48th scale aunt.

There is no better way to entertain your 1:48th scale party guests than to serenade them on this beautiful grand piano.

Of course you can’t set your 1:48th scale old fashioned cocktail on that antique piano, so you’ll need this nice little stand to put it on while you perform.

Finally, while you play you can sit your little 1:48th scale tail on this matching piano bench. Bravo! Bravo!

Ready to keep fleshing out your 1:48th scale world? Explore our miniature marketplace.

Top Scale Trains so far in 2016

Shapeways is home to many types of products, from Jewelry to Drones to accessories for wearable tech, but we’ve become a very special place for a particular community; scale model railroads. From Z to O scale, Shapeways is host to an ever expanding universe of charmingly miniature user created trains and scenery for railroad layouts.

Railroad modellers use 3D printed parts to embellish elaborate and realistic worlds at a particular scale. Once the parts are printed, they often assemble and paint them like the example below.

IMG_2855 (1)

Here is a list of the best selling parts for model railroads so far in 2016








Kagoshima Streetcar Connects People Between Countries

One of our favorite things about 3D printing is the way that it connects people. Greg King, a model train maker from Australia was so impressed by his visit to the Japanese streetcar manufacturer Kagoshima that he used Shapeways to help make him a replica of one of their historic cars.

“I just got back from Japan. I had made a model of a Kagoshima streetcar for the manager of the streetcar operation there. He had shown me a great time, and accorded me a great honour, so when I got home I built a model from scratch.”



“When finished, I could not trust it to the mail service, so it was an excuse to go back (we had frequent flyer points to pay for the flight), see some more of that wonderful country and measure some streetcars for future 3D work.”


“My friend made an appointment with the manager (who knew nothing about the model but was just happy to see me again) and we met at their new car house and head office complex. We went into a room that they have made into a museum collection of parts, history and photos with a small N scale diorama of the old car house.”



“I then presented the model to him. He was amazed to say the least, BUT he thought I had made it for the museum until he read the plaque I had put on it; he almost cried and just about snapped in half with the bowing. Shortly after I was allowed to run one of their streetcars!”



We love to hear stories about how the Shapeways Community uses 3D printing to brighten another’s day. Have you given the gift of 3D printing? Let us know in the comments below. For more model train parts check out our marketplace here.



Legendary HO Scale work : The Franklin & South Manchester Railroad

Not knowing what to expect, I was absolutely floored when I walked up the narrow staircase and through the door covered in railroad signs. The HO scale railroad doesn’t take up much space square-footage wise, but the level of detail is staggering. Every inch of the diorama, set in a depression era New England, drips with attention to detail.


I was told to go check out the Franklin & South Manchester Railroad in nearby Peabody, Massachusetts, when giving a clinic on 3D printing at the Fine Scale Model Train Expo last week (more about that here). Created by George Sellios, this HO scale railroad has been a work in progress for over 30 years.


The well weathered, HO scale kits have remarkable realism. Every figure–and there must be thousands of them–is busy engaging in their lives, working, playing or relaxing. They appear to be interacting and as I looked closer, I started to find wonderful little narratives. The more time I spent wandering the layout, the more I noticed clever little details, humorous characters and Easter eggs (yes, dyed Easter eggs). George has artistic touches sprinkled throughout his railroad, some for fun and some deeply personal.

IMG_2868 IMG_2877


After seeing the Franklin & South Manchester Railroad, I completely feel the passion that our community has for model railroading. This work is a lifetime achievement. Check out the video below for a short interview with George Sellios and a look at the full railroad set-up.



Great Learning at the Fine Scale Model Train Expo

Railroad modelers have a long tradition of learning from each other in order to turn ideas into physical 3D objects at scale. A hobby that goes back for generations, they have wonderful organizations that regularly get together to share their passion of scale modeling. They are exemplary both in their ingenuity and in their willingness to share new techniques.

Last weekend, I got to meet with these modelers at the Fine Scale Model Train Expo in Danvers, Massachusetts and to give a clinic on using 3D printing with Shapeways. I also got to show off our newest material: Black High Definition Acrylate. The response was incredible and we’re already starting to see this new, high-detail material take off. Folks in the clinic asked awesome questions about how they can start modeling, how our materials work and gave thoughtful suggestions on what they’d like to see from Shapeways in the future.

After the talk, folks gather around to get a closer look at Shapeways materials:


Walking around the expo I was blown away by the detail I saw in the scale models, particularly in the contests. The Expo centered around O and HO scale models (with some G as well) and the vendors who produce kits for these sizes. The level of craftsmanship in these kits was simply incredible. Everyone I spoke to was was incredibly excited for 3D printing and many had already adopted it into their toolkit.

HO scale kit by FOS Scale Models:



I garnered some great insights about the hobby as well. The focus on HO scale and all the elements that go into making a layout helped me better understand how 3D printing fits into the equation. I saw real wooden scale lumber, remarkably accurate greenery, laser cut architectural motifs and white metal/pewter cast figurines. The HO (or other scales) ecosystem relies on materials that mimic the properties and look of a larger object and I’m constantly impressed by the ingenuity of model makers to find the perfect solution to scale-based issues.

HO Scale module:



This is what makes 3D printing so useful to modelers. With so many materials to choose from, they can make nearly unlimited forms and have access to thousands of models for purchase that like-minded designers have already made. However specific or obscure the inspiration, 3D printing and your fellow modelers can get you there.

Andrew Thomas (Shapeways Community Manager) with Expo organizer Hal Reynolds:

IMG_2809 (1)


Below is a short interview with Shapeways community member David Yale from the floor of the expo about his products that were included in some incredible custom kits.


Bonus: The diorama above has an incredible series of videos showing how it was made on youtube. 

Documenting a the creation of a Hawaiian coach trollycar

Creating a scale model is often an dedicated act of love. Take Shapeways community member rkapuaala. For over ten years, he’s been working on a model of a coach 64 trolley car and sharing the process in our forums. We’ve loved being along for the ride and learning from his method of combining 3D printing with railroad modeling techniques to solve challenging problems at scale.

Like this design challenge he shared in the forum: “This is as far as I’ve gotten to date with this wooden model. Everything on this version is scratch built using combinations of wood, brass, resin and polystyrene. That includes the trucks. I stalled on this project mainly because of the ornate railing.”


This is the railing, as seen on the original trolley car:


Due to the complexity of the design, he decided to 3D print the railings in Strong and Flexible plastic and paint them afterwards.


“As you can see from the render above,” he wrote in the forum, “I did them in 3D which allows me to work in 1:1 scale and explode details to microscopic levels if I want. Not to mention that I can make repetitive parts and copy them over and over again.”

When the 3D printed rails from Shapeways arrived, they fit well with the trolley:




“I spent a lot of time cleaning up the railing detail and was rewarded. The detail emerged beneath the white powder that caked the print. This is the first coat of paint. I’m not going to use primer because I do not want to loose any detail on the railing. Now I’m confident my more detailed 7/8ths scale model will print out.”

We can’t wait to see what he challenge he posts, and solves, next. You can find this thread (and more) here. Also check out rkpuaala’s work in his shop and follow him him here. For more scale model trains keep an eye out the blog and social media. I’ll be at the Fine Scale Model Train Expo in Danvers Massachusetts this weekend.


Codename Colossus : Crazy WWII themed robot that lives up to its name

We see a lot of cool projects here at Shapeways but we’ve never seen anything quite like this. Codename Colossus is a massively impressive undertaking. The Gifs below speak for themselves.  Built from scratch with over 435 parts, this massive WWII themed robot was designed by Michael Sng founder of Machination Studio. Inspired by a diverse selection of sources, ranging from toys to military experience, these parts were printed in White Strong and Flexible plastic and then laboriously painted and finished to look like a weather worn battle-bot from an alternative timeline of Europe.

We spoke with Michael to learn a little more about his inspiration and why he came to Shapeways to print.


The Colossus is an incredible work of scale miniature art. Can you tell us a little about where you got your Inspiration?

I did my University in the UK and was exposed to miniatures wargaming and model railways there. But being from Singapore, I also grew up watching Japanese anime, Hollywood movies, Hong Kong kung-fu flicks and British comedies. Our house had Playmobil and Legos, Tamiya model kits, and Star Wars action figures. In the 70s and 80s, each culture made very different types of toys and shied away from certain genres. In Singapore, we got them all, roughly in equal measure. So my toy is a combination of all the things I loved as a child merged into one.



I was a conscript in the Singapore Armed Forces, and for two years and four months, I was a mechanic. I fixed Land Rovers and Mercedes Benz and IVECO trucks. My grandfather was a mechanic in the Royal Air Force during World War II while Singapore was still under British Colonial rule. He had to invent the tools needed to open and repair the hydraulic landing gears of the Buffalo bombers because the UK was too tied up in the war to send replacement parts. This all definitely informed my aesthetics.



I guess it’s not a surprise for an Asian to want to make a giant robot, and not being American, I do not live in the shadow of gun violence. I also do not live with the legacy of World War II the way Europeans do, so it is in a completely different context that I designed a toy full of guns.



Why did you choose Shapeways for your manufacturing?

I wanted a high resolution surface finish on my toy, and FDM printers are not quite there yet, so the options were SLA, SLS or PolyJet/MultiJet. I had known about Shapeways for a while, a former colleague of mine sells his toy product through the Shapeways store, so naturally I turned to Shapeways first. What ultimately made me use Shapeways was the fact that I can upload a group of parts at one time to the web application.



My design has 435 parts. I tried another 3D printing service for a price comparison, but immediately realized that with them, I would have to upload each part file individually. The time it would take to upload each file, wait for the automated print checks, find the errors, fix the errors, re-upload the part again, for 435 parts, was a non-starter. With Shapeways, I think my entire toy’s exterior was 5-6 separate uploads each with ten parts. It still took quite a lot of time, but it was manageable. Ideally, I would love to be able to send all my files over in one go and be able to talk to a human being about which parts need changes, but I know that would make a cost impact.


The rough texture of the unpolished prints is easy to paint, although it meant I couldn’t use some techniques like inking. The 11-18 days international turnaround time was also a factor in my decision. This is from the Netherlands to Singapore. Typical air mail would take a week or more alone, so I was very impressed with Shapeway’s speed.



Michael is an incredible scale model maker in the Shapeways community. To learn more and see the Colossus in action check him out on this episode of LinusTechTips. He builds these and other projects on commission, so check out his website if you’re interested.


photo credit to Michael, gifs made via giphy

Taking Detail to the Next Level: Edward Traxler’s Scale Models

Shop owner Edward Traxler of eTraxx has created some true masterpieces in HO and O scale for model train sets. A retired engineer and veteran, Edward has been creating some truly outstanding, fully-painted layouts utilizing 3D printed components from Shapeways materials. He designs his products in Sketchup to be printed in FUD or WSF. After he prints with Shapeways, he uses a gray spray-based primer (Mr Surfacer) and then hand paints using Vallejo and Reaper paints. He uses these hand-painted, 3D printed parts to add design flourishes to pre-made kits, embellishing his scenery’s realism without breaking the bank.

As Edward says, “You can take something cheap and make it look good. You just have to put some effort into it.”

HO scale Shed

HO scale hydrant shed

HO scale tools

HO scale hydrant door after being painted, with a penny for scale

Priming the door

Hydrant doors primed

Ho scale beer bottles

Beer bottles and crate

HO scale bottles

Detail of beer bottles and crates on layout

HO beer bottles

Detail of hand-painted beer bottles and crate with penny for scale

We’re blown away by Edward’s attention to detail, modeling and painting skills. You can follow him here for more incredible scale models.

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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