Category Archives: How To

Facebook Groups For The 3D Printing Community

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If you are active on Facebook, joining a 3D printing or 3D modeling group would be a great way to show off your work on Shapeways, share ideas, or find inspiration through what others are doing.

Facebook is the largest social networking site on the planet and is a goliath platform for engaging and interacting with people who share the same interest and hobbies that you do. One of the very early features of Facebook prior to the fan page were Facebook groups. There are still millions active of Facebook groups out there which you can join and be part of to interact with people around the world who share common interests.

By doing a simple search on Facebook you can find a list of groups that best fit your interest. Before joining a group be sure to read the “about” section of the group to make sure you know the rules for posting and participating on the group.

Joining a 3D modeling group is a great way to show off your 3D designs and get feedback from the fellow members in the group. It’s a great way to see what people think of your work before you upload your work to Shapeways.

Think of Facebook groups as an open platform like our Shapeways forum where collaboration and discussion related to 3D printing is encouraged.

How are you currently showcasing your shop and 3D printed work on social media? Let us know! Feel free to email me at

Check this this video from Facebook about finding your niche because whatever you’re into, somewhere out there is a group for you.




More 3DP Resolutions: Make your first 3D model with TinkerCAD

Hard to believe we’re about halfway through January! So, how are those are #3DP2014 Resolutions coming along? If you still haven’t tried to design anything, it’s okay, we forgive you. But now’s a great time to step up your 3D print game. And with TinkerCAD, it couldn’t be easier.

Why TinkerCAD?

    •    It runs right through your browser—no need to download anything.
    •    It’s video game-esque…you embark on a series of quests to design cool stuff.
    •    You’ll learn about the software as you use it.
    •    It’s FREE! (Unless you upgrade to the paid option.)
    •    You get confetti when you complete a design.

To start designing, just select a Lesson.

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Create your own holiday gifts: Part 2

For the second installment in our three-part DIY 3D Print gifting series, we are rewriting the 12 Days of Christmas song: “…Seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, create your own gold-plated rings!”

Yes, Shapeways has an app for that: The Custom Ring Creator. Regardless of whether you’ve ever designed anything, you can make a unique ring in minutes.

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Create your own holiday gifts: Part 1

With the holidays approaching, now’s a better time than ever to design your very own 3D Printed gifts. Never designed anything before? Not to worry. We’re here to help. This is the first of our three-part series on our easy-to-use apps that’ll have you creating in no time. No tricky modeling skills required!

We’ve all gotten dad a mug, bought a tea set for grandma, or perhaps a vase for a friend. But have you actually designed a gift for them? With the Sake Set Creator app you can do just that. Your creation will be 3D Printed in Ceramics, our only food-safe material. Did we mention you won’t even have to get your hands dirty?!

The tool enables you to select a base design, then adjust shape, smoothness, and twist intensity. You can design everything from cups and saucers to tumblers and vases. Then choose from 5 different colored glazes to personalize even further.

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Learn Design for 3D Printing with Shapeways Using Maya with Ryan Kittleson

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3D modeler expert and all around creative genius Ryan Kittleson has just released a series of tutorials on to Learn 3D Printing on Shapeways Using Maya.

how to 3D print with Shapeways

Learn how to prepare your models in Maya and then send them for 3D printing on Shapeways.  Ryan shows how to hollow out models, define an object’s thickness to reduce cost, and work with texture maps for full-color prints. He shows you how to export the model, upload it to Shapeways, and view the finished result. Once you have mastered the basics, Ryan invites you to test your skills in a series of challenge videos.

Topics include:      

  • What is Shapeways?    
  • Setting up Maya for 3D printing    
  • Checking model scale    
  • Understanding why thickness matters    
  • Adding precise thickness    
  • Strengthening thin structures    
  • Fixing common mesh problems    
  • Exporting models with texture maps    
  • Making a wireframe model    
  • Publishing to Shapeways

 Check out the video on


3D Printing Masterclass with Mode Lab Brooklyn, NYC

Ronnie Parsons, co-founder of NYC based Mode Lab is running a 2 day, 3D Printing masterclass in their studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, September 12th and 16th 2013.

Learn about the fundamentals of 3D printing, the free tools available to get started, and the materials and processes used to bring your ideas out of the computer and into the world.  This hands-on class will introduce participants to the world of 3D printing, the available software for model preparation, and the various types of machines and cloud-based services available today. The last hour of the course will be reserved for a hands-on demo using our Makerbot Replicator2 and Formlabs Form1 3D printers. 

This class is ideal for designers of all backgrounds who are interested in learning more about 3D printing and how this disruptive technology is changing the future of design and manufacturing.

Take a look at the full details on their Skillshare class


How to Design Snap-Fit Ball Joints for 3D Printing with Shapeways

When designing an action figure to be 3D printed the best way to create articulated components that are pose-able is with snap-fit ball joints. 

3D PRinting ball joints Shapeways

 Civil War Ironclad USS Monitor Robot Action Figure by DSnow

Ball joints work as snap-fit components and cannot be 3D printed together as the friction required to make the parts pose-able would result in the parts being fused together.  When designing ball joints it is best to make them an ‘exact fit’ where the positive part (the ball) and the negative part (the socket) are the exact same circumference.  You need to ensure the socket component is not entirely enclosed, more like a C shape to allow the part to expand slightly to snap it into place.  

Shapeways laser sintered Nylon (WSF) is the best material for creating snap fit ball joints as the material is strong enough to withstand the stress of being snapped into place (our Acrylic might just snap).  The Nylon also has a slightly granular surface that also help to make the parts to grip together.  Also note that our polishing and dying process which has a smoother surface than the raw Nylon still grips together for a firm fit, you do not need to change the design to allow for change in surface finish or dimensional changes. 

To see some really good examples of snap-fit ball joints designed for 3D printing, check out the ModiBot shop by Kid Mechano which has many really good examples of ball joints in action.


Learn Foundations of 3D Printing and Introduction to 3D Modeling

Learn the foundations of 3D Printing with an introduction to 3D Modeling with design for 3D printing expert Aaron Trocola.

This class has evolved greatly over the past year and a half. This is an extended version that is essentially two classes: Foundations of 3D Printing, and Introduction to 3D Modeling. The goal of the class is to give a complete primer on printing processes and software, then show how you can apply that knowledge to create your own designs and manufacture them at home or from a service bureau like Shapeways. You will also learn about selling items from your Shapeways shop, custom object co-creation, and the logistics of re-selling printed items through other venues like Etsy and Ebay. 


How To 3D Print at Home with an iPhone and a Magnifying Glass (VIDEO)

UPDATE: It seems like our experiment worked for one day only, Happy April Fools Day.

While looking for a way to recycle our excess Nylon powder we found a way for anyone to 3D print at home with an iPhone and a magnifying glass.

how to 3D print at home with iPhone thanks Shapeways

At Shapeways we recycle most of the Nylon powder from our industrial 3D printing process but sometimes the powder does not meet the standard required for use in our 3D printers.  We were looking at the testing process when we made a really exciting discovery, with a tightly focused beam of light you can solidify the Nylon powder into a solid.  

We did some experiments and discovered a way that anyone can 3D print at home using an iPhone and a magnifying glass with our Nylon powder.  Take a look at the simple video below and email and we can send you (for the cost of shipping) some of our excess Nylon for you to try at home.

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Repairing Appliances with Shapeways 3D Printed Ceramic Parts (VIDEO)

How to extend the life of a kitchen appliance using Shapeways 3D printed ceramic parts.

When a small part for Shapeways community member Mitagaki’s Panasonic Bread maker broke he looked everywhere for a replacement part.  The manufacturer no longer supported the model so what was a $5 replacement part became unobtainable and the $200 appliance was rendered worthless. 

Rather than throwing the entire appliance away, Mitagaki 3D modeled a copy of the broken ceramic part and then 3D printed it in ceramics with Shapeways. 

After successfully testing the 3D printed ceramic component he made a minor adjustment to the design and has now made the Panasonic SD-YD250 breadmaker replacement bobbin available for others to repair their appliance using Shapeways.


Shapeways Ask an Engineer #2: Strength and Structure (VIDEO)

In the second episode of Shapeways Ask an Engineer, we demonstrate how slight modifications to your models can double their strength.

With the help of good old Diet Coke, we see how many cans we can stack on two different cube structures before they break. The first is a basic cube composed of squares, while the second is a little more complicated and composed of triangles. Our test reveals that the addition of a few more lines allows a structure to withstand two Diet Coke cans before snapping, while the basic cube snaps almost immediately after a can is placed on top of it. The difference in price between the two models is only fifteen cents — definitely worth the extra money!

What would you like us to break next time? If you have any 3D printing questions you would like answered by our
3D printing engineer Matthew Hagan please email

For more information on Shapeways 3D printed materials visit our materials hub and and more design tips take a look at our Design for 3D Printing 101


Learn to Design for 3D Printing in NYC

If you want to learn how to get started designing for 3D printing we are running an introductory class in New York City on Thursday the 14th of February, 2013.  The class is suitable for anyone, of any age who is interested in getting started 3D printing.

@worldofnat teaching how to design a ring in @tinkercad

The Intro to Design for 3D Printing class will cover the basic principles behind design for 3D printing, the free tools available to get started and the materials and processes used to make your ideas real.  Bring your Mac or PC laptop your charger, and an external mouse and create an account on Shapeways prior to the event and download free 3D modeling software 123D Design from Autodesk prior to the class so we can run through some of the basic tools, and maybe even design a little something. 

Sign up via Skillshare and be sure to bring your laptop and mouse. 


Copyright 101: What do you want to know?

As the field of 3D printing grows, we’re starting to see more and more cases of copyright infringement, creative sharing, collaboration, and general discussion happening around what is “allowed”, what is possible, and what is protected.

To address this, we want to put together a 3D Printing Copyrights 101 guide in the next few weeks, with the help of Public Knowledge’s Michael Weinberg who wrote the awesome whitepaper “It will be awesome if they don’t screw it up”.

3D Printing and copyright

We’ve done a few blog posts covering the debate over the last two years, and now we want to consolidate new information and answer your questions.

The list so far includes: 

  • 101 to copyrights law: the difference between copyright, patents, trademarks and creative commons
  • What’s the DMCA? 
  • Common cases in 3D printing
  • Creative innovation

What else do you want to know?

List your questions here and we’ll incorporate them into the guide!


Feature Your Favorites on Shapeways

If you are like me, with impeccable (cough) taste and want to share your refined aesthetic and eye for the coolest designs, be sure to add them to your favorites.  We will start using your favorites to curate the homepage on Shapeways and we will also feature your selection on the Shapeways blog.  You can include your own designs in your favorites but if yours are chosen, we will only feature one of your items along side other designs that you love.

To add an item to your favorites is easy, simply hit the heart to the side of an item on it’s product page. 

If you think you have an awesome selection already in your favorites, comment on the blog with you Shapeways user name.  If you do not have any favorites yet, why not browse through the Shapeways site, favorite a few that you like and enter your user name here too.  We could be featuring your favorites next…