Category Archives: How To

Five Tactics To Use On Instagram To Promote Your Shapeways Products

My favorite social media platform that I’ve been using in 2015 has been Instagram. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, the attention graph and organic reach of Instagram is the highest amongst all of the social media platforms out there. There are very few Ads, no ridiculous newsfeed algorithm, and it’s completely mobile.

Instagram has emerged as a leading platform for small businesses and niche communities to promote their products and generate visual awareness around their content. Instagram posts receive over 50% more engagement per follower (likes, comments) than Facebook and Twitter.  The engagement rate on average for brands is 4-5% on Instagram, much higher than the <1% we see on Facebook and Twitter per post.

In this post I want to highlight five specific tactics that I use on Instagram to promote my Shapeways shop and that you should be using as well.

1. Search Key hashtags and Engage

When promoting my products on Instagram I choose not to play defense and expect users to discover my Instagram account and content, instead I play offense and actively search potential customers and consumers who are sharing relevant posts. I do this by searching the specific hashtags that my product targets and begin liking, and commenting on their content making them aware I have a product that they might be interested in. For example I’ll search all the photos that have the hashtag #Tardigrade, filter through relevant photos of Tardigrades, read their photo descriptions and identify if they express interest in Tardigrades with keywords in their photos that say “I want one”, or “I love Tardigrades”. Then I’ll follow up with comments on their photo saying “You love Tardigrades? I have a 3D printed one on my page”.

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2. Link to your website on the location section of your post

Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links on post, no problem. Just add the link to your website on the location section by creating a “custom location” and just type the link to your website instead of an actual location. This will add visibility to your website for consumers. You can also direct users to the link on your bio which is clickable as an alternative. Either method works.

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3. Utilize Repost and Regram apps

Once I began selling a large quantity of my 3D printed products I began reusing customer photos that were shared on Instagram to promote them again with the Respost app. It essentially allows me to repost their photo, thank them for being a customer, and promote that product again. The respost app is essentially Instagram’s way for “retweeting” and “sharing” another users content on Instagram.

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4. Instagram Direct Messaging

Instagram launched photo direct messaging to users back in 2013. It’s a useful way to send direct photos to individual users and start a conversation. This feature has been very useful for getting in touch with influencers and other users who have a larger audience and reach than you. You can get in touch with them and ask them if they can cross promote your content. I would recommend the best course of action is to not go after big celebrities but instead go after relevant accounts. I first found success of this by DMing photos of my Thorgi figurine to niche Instagram users in the Corgi community. The reception was welcoming and I got quiet a few accounts to post and link back to my account and promote my product the lead to a increase in sales.

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5. Share Creative Video Content 

These are several content creation techniques and applications you can use to get creative with your content creation instead of just sharing static photos. Videos and short form micro content like slow-motion action videos, stop motion, slideshows, and Hyperlapse videos are a great way to get your audience hooked and wanting more.

 

Incorporate these tactics into your Instagram strategy and you’ll begin seeing better conversation and engagement. Are you currently promoting your Shapeways products on Instagram? If so be sure to incorporate #Shapeways in your photos so we can help discover and surface your work.

How To Make A 3D-Print Of Your Brain

A few weeks ago, I made a 3D model of my brain and sent it to Shapeways to get 3D printed. My little brain arrived a few days ago and I’m blown away by how good it turned out. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The whole process was relatively straight forward once I figured out the best program to use. I wrote a step-by-step tutorial of what I did below in case you want to print your brain too.

And if you want a brain on your desk and you don’t care whose it is, you can order a 3D model of my brain here.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 10.37.04 AM

 

INSPIRATION

I have a deep fascination of the human brain and I’ve wanted a 3D model of my brain for quite some time. I considered using a modeling software (like Blender) to create my own 3D brain model based on my MRI scans, but I quickly abandoned that idea when I imagined manually outlining the cortex one slice at a time.

A few months ago, one of my friends posted a link to a company that sells custom brain models that range from $165.00 (for half scale models) to $342.00 (for full scale models). I was tempted to order a model, but I finally decided that it was too expensive. I love brains, but not quite that much.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across this blog post that included do-it-yourself instructions for creating a 3D model of your brain for 3D printing. The neuroscientist and cheapskate in me rejoiced. My computer was being serviced so I bookmarked the page and waited until I got my laptop back.

When I finally sat down to follow the tutorial, I found that it left out some crucial steps and required a lot of manual editing. I spent a few hours looking at other tutorials, downloading software packages, and trying to create a halfway decent 3D model, but none of the models I created had anywhere near the level of detail I wanted.

Finally, I found this tutorial which describes how to create a 3D model using Freesurfer. I had been wanting to learn how to use Freesurfer for awhile, so it was a win/win. The tutorial is pretty thorough, but it didn’t explain the installation of Freesurfer, which ended up being somewhat complicated. In case you’re like me and haven’t used Freesurfer before, I added detailed information about how to download and install Freesurfer below. If you already use Freesurfer, you are in luck! You are only a few steps away to creating your own 3D brain model (you can skip to the “Create the 3D brain model” section).

GET YOUR BRAIN SCANNED

    1. First, you need to get a T1 anatomical scan of your brain with MRI. I understand that that’s easier said than done, but there’s no way around it.
    2. Add all of your DICOM files from the T1 anatomical scan into one folder. My folder is named “t1_mprage_DICOM.”

DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL FREESURFER
If you already have Freesurfer installed, skip to the next section. 

    1. Download Freesurfer here. I downloaded the freesurfer-Darwin-lion-stable-pub-v5.3.0.dmg file.
    2. If you don’t already have XQuartz installed, you’ll have to download and install it in order to use Freesurfer. Download the latest release here.
    3. Install Freesurfer by following the detailed instructions here. You should come to a screen that looks like this:

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 10.45.22 AM

 

In order to get everything set up correctly, you have to modify two files (the first time I tried to install Freesurfer I didn’t read this this page (oops), and I ran into trouble later on). Your computer may be set up differently, so these steps may not apply to you.

4. Create a .cshrc file in your root directory by typing the following commands into the terminal window:
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A new text file should pop up.  Copy the first two commands from the READ ME section of the install window, paste the text in the new text file, and save. Your file should look like this:
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5. Modify your .profile file by typing the following commands in the terminal window (I already have a .profile file that is named .bash_profile so I opened that file):
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Copy the second set of command lines from the install window and paste it at the bottom of the file that pops up. My file looks like this:
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6. Get an installation key by filling out the form here. You will receive an email containing information about your license. Copy the text in between the –CUT HERE– lines and paste them into a new TextEdit file. Convert the file into a plain text file by clicking Format –> Make plain text. Name the file ‘license.txt’ and save it in the Freesurfer folder.

CREATE THE 3D BRAIN MODEL

1. In your terminal window, type the following command to set up Freesurfer:

 

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2. We will use the function called recon-all to create the 3D brain model. Detailed information about the recon function is available here.
The function uses the following format:
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Replace the <DICOM file> part with the path to any one of your DICOM files (and not the folder that holds all the files). Replace <folder name> with the name you want to call the folder that will contain all of the output files. The folder will be added to the same directory that your DICOM folder is in. My function looked like this:
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Enter the command into terminal and press enter to start the analysis. The analysis takes a long time. The reconstruction took 8 hours on my computer, but others estimate that it can take between 10 and 20 hours. Make sure that you turn off your computer’s sleep mode so that it won’t go to sleep while the analysis running.
3. After the analysis is completed, all of the output files should be located in the folder you named. In the folder, you should have another folder called “surf” which contains the surface reconstructions. We need to transform these file formats into  a format that is used in 3D printing. To do so, navigate to the surf folder in the terminal and enter the following commands:
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3D PRINT YOUR MODEL

If you don’t have access to a 3D printer, you can get your brain 3D printed by a 3D printing service. I used Shapeways so I’ll show you how to order from them.

  1. Go to the Shapeways website.
2. Click “Design” in the top navigation menu. Then click the blue “upload” button underneath the Shapeways logo.

3. Sign in to your account or create a new one and click “UPLOAD” again. A box should appear that looks like this:

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.09.06 AM

 

4. Click “Select file” and load the “lh.pial.stl” file that you just made. The model units are in millimeters so keep that radio button checked. Click “UPLOAD.” The model should take a few minutes to upload. Once the model finishes uploading, you should see a screen like this:

 

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5. If you scroll down, you can see the prices for creating a 3D printed model in different materials. A full size brain replica costs about $250.00 per hemisphere. If you want to scale your brain down (and save a lot of money), click the “SCALE” button and change the SCALE % from 100 to 50. This will create a 3D printed replica of you brain that is 1/8 of the actual size.

6. At this point, you can decide what material you want to use to print your brain. I went with the strong & flexible material in polished white.

7. Click the “View 3D tools” link under the name of the material you want to use.

 

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8. Shapeways 3D tools will analyze your model and identify potential problems with printing. For one of my models, I had a wall that was too thin. To fix thin walls, click on the “Wall Thickness” menu item on the left of the page, then click the red button that says “FIX THIN WALLS.” Shapeways will automatically adjust your model for you.
9. Go back to the model editing page and add your desired model to your shopping cart. Now repeat these steps for your right hemisphere model. Check out when you’re ready and your little brain will be on its way! I got my brain in less than two weeks.
Here’s what my model looks like in Shapeways:
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And here are more images of my final 3D printed brain:
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Learn 3D CAD the easy way with this Kickstarter: 20+ Hours of Meshmixer online training by HoneyPoint3D

Kickstarter Postcard v2 -FRONT

We’re always looking for new ways to educate people about 3D printing and CAD modeling. From the basics of how it’s done to how anyone can create amazing designs themselves, we want to educate as many as possible on how to get started in the 3D printing process. Whether it’s through tutorials, online videos, free apps, etc., we know there are a lot of channels through which people can learn.

We’ve been telling you a lot about various Kickstarter campaigns happening right now that Shapeways has some involvement with. In the spirit of education, today we want to tell you about a new campaign from HoneyPoint3D that is offering to help more people learn 3D CAD modeling through their online courses.

HoneyPoint3D is a company that aims to innovate in the 3D printing market by offering easy-to-follow online classes at a variety of skill levels. They have already taught 5,000 students and are writing MAKE magazine’s next “Getting Started on 3D Printing” book, releasing January 2016. All in an effort to help people with their 3D models from concept to finished product.

Kickstarter Postcard v2 -BACK

Their Kickstarter is raising money for a full online course that will teach beginners how to create and advanced modelers how to enhance and fix 3D CAD files. HoneyPoint3D has partnered with our friends over at Autodesk to teach the course using their free 3D Sculpting software, Meshmixer. Taking the course will save designers time and money. If the Kickstarter reaches its goal of $8,118, the course will be launched starting at just $20 (compared to $149)!

Make sure to check out this campaign for more information, and stay tuned for more educational content from us!

New Solution for Shop Owners to Manage Images

Yesterday we made an improvement to how you can manage an important aspect of your Shapeways Shop: Images! We are aware that there have been some discrepancies with product images for the past few months, and this fix should address some of those issues. For the last few months, we’ve been getting feedback from the community that you’d like to be able to set the order of the images on your product page. We’ve listened to that feedback and are excited to share that today you’ll have full control over how images are prioritized on your product pages, product box and carousel.

Our new image management interface for Shop Owners to have greater control over how their images are displayed on the product page.
View from Model Edit page: Images prioritized as 1, 2 and 3.

product-pg

View from Product Page: Default image 1 is first image, and images labeled 2 and 3 are second and third in carousel. 

Currently, you have the ability to set a default image for your default material of your product.  With our new release, you can not only set the default image for your default material, but also order the photos in your carousel in the product page. Additionally, if you have multiple images for a product in a particular material whether or not it’s your default material, you can now prioritize which image we show when a customer is looking at that specific material. Here’s how:

The first thing to know about the new image table is that the order of the photos in this table will be the order of the photos in your product’s image carousel on your product page. To move an image up or down in priority, simply change the priority number to the desired rank, and your photo will move up or down in the table. This means your #1 priority image is going to be the first image in the image carousel on the product page. Your #2 priority image is going to be the second image shown in the image carousel and so on and so forth.

Second, you now have control over not only the default image of your default material, but also the default image for all other materials.

TBD
View from Model Edit page: Control the default image for your default material and non-default material alike while setting the order of the images displayed in the image carousel on your product page.

blue-product-pg-shot
View from Product Page: Image labeled 2 is Blue Strong & Flexible (non-default material) but is default photo when Blue Strong & Flexible material swatch is chosen (as opposed to image labeled 4 above).

The default image for your default material is the most important image of your product, as it is the photo shoppers will see while browsing the marketplace and when landing on your product page unless they have selected a specific material while browsing. So how do you set the default image for your default material? It will be the highest priority image in the image table tagged with your default material. So that you always know what your default material is when looking at your image table, we’ve labeled all images tagged with your default material with a ‘Default Material’ label. We’ve also labeled your highest priority image tagged with the default material as ‘Default Material – Default Image’ so it is always clear what your default image for your default material is.

So what happens when a customer searches for your product in a specific material or clicks on a material swatch on the product page? How do we know which image to show? You now additionally control the default image for all materials, not just the default material. The default image for a non-default material acts exactly the same way where it’s the highest priority image in the image table tagged with that material. For example, if the shopper selects your gold swatch on the product page (and silver is your default material), we will start at the top of your priority list, and go down the list until we find the first image that is tagged with the material ‘gold.’

This means if you have multiple pictures of your product in any material, make sure to prioritize your favorite photo of your product in that material above the other photos in that material so it will be the default image for that material.

While we’ve recently removed Not For Sale items from the marketplace, they do still remain available on your designer profile page. If you have a public product that is marked Not For Sale, the image shoppers will see on the product page will be your highest priority image in your image table. This is all to say that products marked Not For Sale appear the exact same way as products that are available for sale.

not-for-sale

View of Not For Sale: Image prioritization settings are saved

So in sum, you will now have control over: 1) the order in which your images are displayed in the image carousel on the product page, 2) the default image for your default material, 3) the default image for each non-default material, and 4) the image shown when your product is not for sale.

We appreciate your ongoing patience while we are working to fix open issues concerning images on the site. Because of the learned complexity of open image issues, we are releasing features that address open issues today. As always, thanks for all the feedback, and we hope this helps!

Easy tips to scale a model for 3D printing from Stony Smith

Posted by in How To, Tutorials
3D printed miniature trains tutorial scaling models

Z scale Fuel Tender by Stony Smith

Can you enlarge or shrink your model to another size? Yes! It takes only seconds to mathematically change the computer model from one size to another. But, to ensure you are happy with the results there’s a few factors to think about. In this tutorial Stony Smith explains what to consider when scaling a 3D model for 3D printing. You will learn how to scale your model considering polygons and price in this tutorial. Looking for more 3D printing tutorials? You can visit the Shapeways tutorial hub.

Copyright, 3D Printing and You: What does it all mean?

There’s a lot of speculation and guesswork circulating about Intellectual Property as it applies to 3D printing so here is a very general overview of what Copyright means for you, for Shapeways and 3D printing in general. While this is a fascinating topic, please keep in mind this blog should not be construed as legal advice and the author is not a lawyer (as much as she wishes she was!).

What is Shapeways Content Policy?

While we want to enable people to 3D print whatever they can imagine, this does unfortunately occasionally includes things that already exist and may be covered by copyright. In our Terms and Conditions, we ask that our community respects the rights of other designers and only upload their own original work or work that is freely available through a Creative Commons license. While we do what we can to ensure the content on Shapeways is appropriate, we cannot realistically review every model uploaded for a possible copyright infringement. We are also unable to determine whether the user has obtained a license for copyrighted content. As a service provider, our liability is protected by the Digital Millennium copyright Act under their Safe Harbor provision.

Shapeways is a safe harbor under the DMCA, and thus acts much like YouTube. In order to comply with the DMCA and protect intellectual-property-right owners, we follow a takedown process when we get a Takedown Notice. You can read all about it in our Content and Takedown Policy.

Ryan Kittleson’s success kid is a real life licensing success story

What are all these legal terms?

Very briefly, Intellectual Property covers a broad range of various legal terms:

  • Copyright: protects any expression that’s embodied in a tangible medium. Your child’s drawing is protected by copyright and STL’s are protected by copyright.
  • Trademark: protects symbols, words, designs, logos, and even trade dress of products and services when used in commerce, like Coke or Apple.
  • Patent: protects inventions that are novel and non-obvious.
  • Right of Likeness / Publicity: protects the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, and to keep it from being commercially exploited without permission.

For a brilliant 5 minute explanation about how all these terms differ, I’ll let a fellow jeweler, and real life lawyer Sarah Feingold explain, using Ring Pops.

For this post, let’s focus on Copyright. What is a Copyright anyway?

In the US, copyright is a form of protection for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright protects, for example, literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as paintings, sculptures, poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.  You’ll be glad to know copyright also covers STL (and other 3D printable) files, much like it covers MP3′s and other digital creative media. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. With exception, copyright protection exists from the moment of creation and lasts until 70 years after the death of the creator. Fascinated? Read Copyright Basics on the website of the United States Copyright Office to learn more.

What does this mean for you?

If you create and upload a 3D model on Shapeways or anywhere else on the internet, it is copyrighted. You don’t have to do anything, except choose how to enforce protection of your work. You may choose to do nothing, a celebrity may choose to hire a legal firm.

What about other people’s Copyright? How can I tell?

If you see something on the internet and want to create a 3D model of it, it’s best to ask permission first. On many sites like Thingiverse, TurboSquid or Sketchfab you can see if someone has put their work under Creative Commons – which may allow you either share it on other sites, to print it for yourself, or in some cases, sell it. The distinctions are clear, and worth checking. Designers may well be flattered you want to turn their artwork into a tangible format, others may not want you to profit from their ideas. Ask!  On other parts of the internet, like blogs or reddit, it may be harder to quickly establish who the author (and thus copyright holder) is. More often than not, somebody owns the copyright. Shapeways can neither be judge or jury in this case, as we cannot know the entire catalog of copyrights on earth, so it’s up to you to do your research.

But I see other people designing copies on Shapeways!

If in your research you see other models on Shapeways that seem to be using copyrighted work, that is not an incentive for you to create your own. Remember, Shapeways is a safe harbor of user generated content, so we do not (and can not) check every upload for copyright infringement. Those models may well be the original creations of their authors, or the designers may have licensing agreements in place (SuperFanArt models for instance have licenses with Hasbro). It is also very possible that there are infringing copies on our site and they may well receive a takedown notice.

So what are these Takedown Notices?

Shapeways as a company is bound by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and we are a “Safe Harbor” meaning we have a harbor where anyone can put their boat. This is what’s known as “User Generated Content.” Under the DMCA, to keep being a safe harbor, Shapeways agrees to a Notice-and-Takedown process. If a copyright holder identifies an unauthorized use of their work on our site, they must notify us with a proper DMCA Takedown notice, as detailed in our Content Policy. Rest assured, this is not something we take lightly. A DMCA Takedown is a specific legal document that contains statements of good faith made under the penalty of perjury. There could be costly penalties if the sender makes material misrepresentations about the infringement. We investigate and correspond with each and every notice we receive. We then notify the designer and remove the model from Shapeways within a reasonable amount of time.

If a designer feels the takedown is in error, they have the option to send us a Counter-Takedown, the process is also detailed here. Legal defenses such as “Fair Use” which take into account things like valid commentary, criticism, parody, news reporting, and teaching, consider many different factors, and can be quite difficult to prove. Unfortunately, Shapeways is not the one to prove it to. We can not consider any defenses a designer may have as we’re not a judge or jury, we can only introduce you to each other and let you work things out. Since we can not provide legal advice, we suggest you reach out to legal experts in your area.

But don’t despair! Some of the outcomes we have seen in the past range from a designer showing they have the rights to a design, a copyright holder upholding their rights, a community member getting a job at the accusing party’s company, a profit-sharing scenario on a model and, ideally, an opening up of Intellectual Property by a major brand: SuperFanArt with Hasbro.

Superfanart-landing-page

So what CAN I do?

If you get a takedown notice, don’t panic! Use it as an opportunity to learn about what is and isn’t copyright, and to develop your own work. Use your imagination! Making original content is the best way to avoid any legal issues. Taking the time to create your own original content, including 3D modeling, taking product photographs, writing creative descriptions and marketing your products, not only prevents infringement, it showcases your creativity and will set your shop apart.

Here at Shapeways, we provide the tools and YOU bring the magic, and we love seeing what you create! Like this incredible bacon mobius strip.

Still need inspiration? Take a look at public domain works! Many artworks in museums are in the public domain, which means copyrights on them have expired. There are people who may never have expressed an interest in art now excitedly walking around the Met 3D scanning art! The Met has embraced it, so has the Smithsonian, so maybe it’s time for a museum meme mashup?

Use 3D printing to solve a problem! We’re seeing an explosion of drone parts and gadget acessories – making add-ons to your favorite hardware is creative innovation at its finest. Solve a problem! Have you seen the e-NABLE hands helping children? Incredible.

Ultimately, we see 3D printing as a technology full of creativity and not about copyright infringement. With any new technology that’s democratizing access to a tool, infringement is possible, but what we’re enabling at Shapeways is a community in which original innovation triumphs.

Interested to learn more ? Check out these great articles about the state of 3DP and Intellectual Property from Michael Weinberg from Public Knowledge.

This post probably raises more questions than it answers so please lets continue the discussion in the comments. If there are other topics you want us to cover, let us know!

This information is for educational and informational purposes only. The content should not be construed as legal advice. The author and Shapeways disclaim all responsibility for any and all losses, damages, or causes of action that may arise or be connected with the use of these materials. Please consult a licensed attorney in your area with specific legal questions or concerns.

How To Make Amazing Videos For Your Shapeways Products

Posted by in DIY, Education, How To

Selling and telling the story behind your Shapeways 3D printed product can be difficult when the consumer cannot see or experience that product in their hands. One way to make the buying experience easier for customers is having high quality, creative, and short videos of your products. Videos can provide an accurate assessment of the product and should achieve the following: form, function, scale, and purpose. Your product video should be no longer than two minutes and should provide essentially a 360 overview and elevator pitch of what your product is, what it looks like, and what it is intended for.

I’ve curated a few examples of well made videos you can use a reference for creating your next product video.

 1) Strandbeest Video by Theo Jansen

2) Mortal Coil video by Ryan Kittleson

3) Ghost Spinning Top by Michiel Cornelissen

4) Sprout video by Egant

5) Microsoft Band Charging Stand by Idle Hands Development

Do you have a great product video you wish to share with us? Share them with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

How I Made A 3D Printed Tardigrade (Water Bear)

Posted by in How To

Eric Ho here, Social Media Strategist at Shapeways and most recently the shop owner of the Shapeways shop Raw Legend Collaborations. One of my most recent collaborations was with designer Kostika Spaho and we worked together to create a 3D printed Tardigrade figurine and bring it to market. In this post I’ll walk you through the design process from 3D model to sale and share my tips for 3D printed success.

I first became fascinated with the Tardigrade, which is also known as the ‘Water Bear’ or ‘Moss Piglet’ when a segment about it aired on the hit science show COSMOS hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson. Tardigrades are resilient microscopic creatures that can survive some of the harshest living environments, such as the vacuum of space, boiling water and near absolute-zero temperatures. They even can survive doses of radiation lethal to humans!

After doing many weeks of research I was inspired to bring this amazing animal to life as a 3D printed figurine. I reached out to my friend and talented 3D designer Kostika and he quickly sculpted the Tardigrade in ZBrush and I ordered and received the prints in the Full Color Sandstone material a week later. I do not have the 3D modeling experience to create such a great 3D model myself, but I did provide the creative direction for how I wanted it to look and it came out amazing. I posted the render in my Shapeways shop and even before the test prints arrived there were a few sales coming in, which demonstrated to me that there was a demand for this product.

 

tardigrade

 

Once Kostika and I were satisfied with the design and print quality it was time for me to apply my social media and marketing experience to get this product out to the right, targeted audience, which for this model is the science, animal, and nature community. I did a simple Google Trends search on the Tardigrade and saw that the Tardigrade was still trending since it was featured in the COSMOS episode. I also used a Twitter listening tool called Topsy to track how many people were tweeting about the Tardigrade. I also identified current community members who were influential in the science community. For example, I asked shop owners Somersault1824 if they would help showcase our 3D printed Tardigrade to their social audience of over 460k fans on Facebook. After sharing it across my own personal social media channels and 3D printing / 3D modeling Facebook groups I followed the social media tips highlighted in my previous shop owner bootcamp blog post here.

tardigrade

Within two weeks sales were beginning to come in and I continued researching niche science blogs to get the 3D printed Tardigrade featured in. It got picked up by The Featured Creature and I was even able to get my Tardigrade in the hands of Paul Adams, senior editor at Popular Science who tweeted about it.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 6.13.48 PM

It has been a great experience going from an idea to physical product to actual demand and sales for that product, all fueled by my passion for natures most fascinating creatures and Shapeways 3D printing. What is your favorite fascinating animal? And will you bring it to life or bring it back from extinction with 3D printing?

Let me know in a comment below!

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Quick Email Marketing to Boost Sales of Your 3D Prints

Love-Letter-Target-Shapeways-3DP

This is the ninth in a 10 part Shop Owner Bootcamp series counting down to black friday. Last week we focused on Supercharing Your SEO and this week we’re talking Email. Pictured above is Love Letter: Square by Target. Learn more about our partnership with them here

Are you beginning to feel the heat of Holiday Season yet? If you’re not, let me be the first to tell you, it’s go time, Shapies! We just released our holiday gift guide are in full-steam-ahead holiday mode. If you do no other marketing for your Shapeways shop today, do this: remind your friends, family and former customers that you make awesome products through 3D printing and that just about anything can be personalized through your skills and the technology. If you’re concerned that it will come off as spammy, we are happy to take a look in our Holiday Messaging Help forum. I also ask that you trust me when I say, your network will be interested. While it’s no longer new to us, 3D Printing, especially in our unique material portfolio, is still very cool and new to most folks outside the Shapie universe.

The email can be simple: 

Hi friends, 

2014 has been a great year, and I’m grateful you were a part of mine. I just wanted to share the 3D printed products I’ve created this year, and let you know that if you’d like any of them or any other custom products for holidays I’m here to help. 3D Printing is very cool and personal, and it’s not just plastic. Shapeways prints in Steel, Brass, Silver, Gold and even Platinum, too. Holiday season is fast approaching.  

(Insert a few photos of your work)

(link to your shop) 

Cheers, 

I bet you’ll be surprised how few people are aware of what you’re truly capable of, and what’s more fun than supporting a friends business and also giving a great gift? We see so many touching stories and personalized products come through our factories, I can’t help but encourage you to let your network know you’re there.

For those of you with Existing Email Newsletters:

I get many of your independent newsletters each month and enjoy them all. The one thing that all Shapies have in common is how genuine your passion is. This comes through in your communications and in your work. Keep it up! And don’t worry, if you don’t have an email list yet, Holiday is a great time to make one. Just add a link to a google form (or whatever signup mechanism you prefer) in your shop description and watch it grow!

Two Emails You Should Send:

  1. Next week, ideally Tues-Thurs (higher open rate): Holiday preview and/or reminder about your shop including top sellers & latest creations. You can even offer design services.
  2. Small Business Saturday: A holiday mostly celebrated in the US, but one worth letting your customers know about. Black Friday is historically retail centric, Cyber Monday (a great day to send an email as well) is all about digital, but SMB Saturday offers a different unique opportunity to showcase how 3D Printing is enabling your Small Business and say thank you to those contributing to it’s growth.

Here’s a great example from Somersault 18:24‘s Monthly Newsletter:

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.34.39 AM

 

Their message goes on to include links to their shop and updates about the science and 3D printing world. It’s helped grow them to one of the most successful shops and collections on Shapeways.

Would it be helpful if included easy to share news stories you could include in your emails in our Shop Owner Newsletter? What emails that we send do you like best? And worst? Be honest with us the way you want your customers to be honest with you :) .

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Five Easy Ways to Supercharge Your SEO

This is the eight post in a 10 week series leading up to our busiest sales weekend of the year. We’ve covered everything from getting press for your 3D printed products to how to promote your products on social media and much in our Shop Owner bootcamp series. This week’s post comes from our performance marketing pro, Jeanne, we’re focused on SEO.

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Scottish Shapie Shop Owner MyGadgetLife has some of the best product descriptions on Shapeways. Check out his eggbot (above) and his moon mobius to get inspired for your shop!

5 Easy Ways (Under 5 Minutes) to Get Your Products Picked Up by Google

We’ve already talked about various ways to get customers to your shop, but today we’re going to dive even deeper and talk about the importance of search engine results (SEO). Currently, organic search results are one of the top drivers to Shapeways. The more you can get your products in search engine results, the more likely a potential customer will visit your product page and make a purchase. Below are five tips to get your products search engine optimized in minutes.

#1 Use Specific Keywords in Your Product Titles & Descriptions

Your model titles and descriptions are used not only on your model page on Shapeways, but in search engine search results – a two for one! So, titles and descriptions with specific, relevant keywords will help your products appear in and get people to click (which helps it to surface even more frequently).

Action: You can spend a lot of time on keyword optimization, but here are two easy ways to get started:

  • If you were to search for your product, what would you type in a search engine? Make sure those keywords are in both your title and description

  • Be as specific as possible with your description, including all the peripheral search terms that might be relevant (synonyms, the category that your product belongs in, types of customization or personalization, etc.)

For example, if I title my product “Holiday Ornament,” the likelihood that my product will show up on the first few pages of Google is very low (there are a total of 22.8m search results). Sucks, I know. But if I title it “Custom holiday ornament with initial,” I’m competing against 8.7m search results. And in my description, I’ll write “Christmas or holiday ornament can be customized with initials, monograms, names, images, and is a great unique gift for your loved ones.” Sounds wordy, but it works.

#2 Update Titles & Descriptions to a Certain Length

Anything too long or too short is suspected by search engines to be of low quality. There is a min and approximate max, and you are penalized with less opportunity to turn up in search results for it.

Action: Titles should be about 6 to 8 words (55 characters), with the most important words in the beginning. Descriptions should be at least 15 words (160 characters) with keywords described above in it, as that’s the snippet that gets viewed in search results so you want it to be enticing! Use natural language (the way you would normally talk or write) in your descriptions, including facts and statements to help viewers see the value of your product immediately.

Description

#3 Give Your Images Captions with Keywords

A picture is worth a thousand words. More and more people are finding Shapeways products through image searches on search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, etc). Including a photo and a description with keywords will increase the likelihood it will get picked up in image searches (known as an “Alt text”).

Action: In the Details tab of your model, fill in the image caption with keywords, starting with the ones most relevant to your product. For example, for this ornament I created with Shapeways ornament creator, my caption is “Custom Christmas holiday ornament with organic design”

Image caption

#4 Every Product is Unique, so its Title and Description Should Be Too!

Every model should have a unique title and description. Duplications are penalized by search engines because it assumes the viewer won’t have a good experience if there’s a lot of too-similar content.  Unique titles and descriptions will help your products get shown by search engines.

Action: Give your product titles and descriptions. Your products are unique and their titles and descriptions should be too.  little bit different is better than no difference at all.

#5 Your Shop Description is Prime for SEO Opportunity

Your shop page is full of opportunities for search engines to pick up, with your product and their titles, image alt text, and the robust area to write in a shop description.

Action: Update your Shop Description in your Shapeways Shop Settings with examples of your products types, your background and your expertise designing them. Feel free to elaborate on your designs and products, as the more relevant keywords on the page compared to non-relevant keywords, the better.

Bonus: Also add an extended description for your shop page.

Shop Description

Search engine optimization is a time-intensive and ever evolving process, but the key tenets are consistent: quality content, natural descriptions, and following basic guidelines will go a long way.

What keyword search do you wish you were the #1 result for?

Hire a 3D Modeler & Designer: The Three C’s

Getting in the DIY spirit and want to hire a designer to bring your project to life? You’ve seen the directory of Designers for Hire, read about a designer you like, and now you’re ready to get started. Even if you’ve never hired a designer before, keeping the three C’s in mind is a good guide: Clarity, Communication and Cost.

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Clarity

Knowing what you want is half the project! The more specific you can be, the better chance you will get exactly what you want.

When talking about your idea, sketches, photos, Pinterest boards, magazine clippings and even screenshots of elements you like are all really helpful in communicating what you like. Photos are especially useful whether it be similar items that represent your idea or elements of different objects that you would like to incorporate.

It also helps to be specific about your preferred style, finishing touches and how your completed product will be used. If you know what material you would like the finished product to be made it, that helps immensely, as the 3D printing guidelines vary between materials and may influence the design itself.

If you’re still in the ‘concept’ phase (say if you are designing a new functional product) and are seeking project guidance or inspiration, be sure to choose a designer who has those skills listed as their specialty.

Designers are creative problem solvers. Once you have given them a clear outline of your requirements, let them do their creative thing and come up with creative solutions.

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Communication

Designers are experts in bringing ideas to life, and most of this magic happens through effective communication. Throughout the creation process, it’s important to communicate openly and frequently with your designer to ensure that they have a clear understanding of what you want, and you know their schedule. They should be asking you just as many questions are you are listing specifics.

Throughout the process, be honest but polite. If your designer is making something that isn’t going in the direction you were imagining, let them know. Many designers are more than happy to modify their designs as long as they have clear direction. I recommend highlighting what you liked (the more specific the better) and exactly what they need to improve on. Don’t just say “I don’t like the hard edges”. Explain why: “The hard edges make it feel minimalist and modern, I am looking for a romantic, organic feel”. The latter statement is much more useful.

In the end, designers like being able to use their own creative judgment to improve ideas. So while it is important to be specific, leave them some space to work their magic to delight you.

Depending on your project, it may be a good idea to formalize your agreement in writing. This digital contract should include all of the specific details that you and the designer agreed upon, including timing and pricing.

The process of bringing an idea to life

 

Cost

Which brings us to the last and most important point: Money. Two things to keep in mind here are how much you are willing to spend and understanding the design process.

Part of having clarity around your idea is knowing how much are you comfortable spending. Three things to consider may help you get an estimate beforehand:

1. Finished product or 3D file? Do you want just a 3D printable file that you will upload and order yourself? Or do you want a finished item? Material cost comes into play here – if you want a silver ring, part of the cost will be made up of the silver itself, and part for the design.

2. Time and labor. Larger or more detailed projects can sometimes take more time to complete, and therefore cost more.

3. One of a kind design. If this is a one of a kind item, it’s not something that you could buy in a store even if you wanted to, so the price may be a little higher than you would expect. If you are working on a brand new product, it’s worth investing in a good design. There is really no way to put a price on how incredible it is to hold something that you imagined, so keep that in mind!

4. Similar items.To get a sense of the general cost of an item before you hire a designer, look for similar items and get a sense of the price. For instance, if you want to make a piece of jewelry, browse our jewelry category section to find a handful of custom items that are of a similar size and scope. The average cost of those items is often a good starting point for you to discuss your budget with a designer.

It also helps to understand the process. Designing is a process that takes time and effort. You may not be aware of all of the “behind the scenes” work that takes place including creative brainstorming, sketching, drafts, revisions and renders. Asking your designer about the process involved in making your specific idea will help you understand the level of work involved.

Communication is key here as well! Talk to your designer as some charge by the hour, some charge by project and the complexity of your design will influence this. The more detail you can give them, the better they are able to estimate a price for you.

3D printing gives us the unique ability to make custom things to order, helping you get exactly what you want, and not just what is available. While we at Shapeways do what we can to give access to the best materials at the lowest prices, ultimately the design is what sets a product apart, and this is where the skill lies. Translating an idea into a physical object is a designers skill, and this alchemy is worth paying for!

How you work with a designer comes down to your project but keeping in mind the Three C’s should help you minimize stress and get exactly what you want. Have you hired a designer on Shapeways? Tell us about it in the comments! If you are a designer, what other tips would you offer for potential clients?

Happy creating!

HOW TO: Create a Rubber Prototype Using a 3D Printed Mold in 14 Easy Steps

Will Harris at Design That Matters has posted a fun tutorial on HOW TO: Create a Rubber Prototype Using a 3D Printed Mold that is a step by step process that is easy to follow and looks like the kind of fun that will have you pouring liquid rubber into 3D printed molds for months.

how to 3D print a rubber mold

You can flex your industrial design skills in software such as Solidworks or Inventor which both have great tools to help you boolean and split a mold from your designed part.  Will also includes practical design tips such as including registration pins and escape vents into your mold to ensure bubbles do not form and you can add extra material to your 3D printed mold if required.  (or you can mix colors and/or materials if you want to get a little more experimental).

The best materials for 3D printed molds are usually polished Nylon or Acrylic if you want to do smaller, higher detail molds from your 3D prints.  Some people also spray the molds with silicone as a mold release to ensure you do not end up simply gluing your mold together with the filler material.

Why stop at rubber, you can use your 3D printed molds for many materials, soap, crayons, wax, ice, jello, or even, mature cheddar cheese.

NOTE: 3D Printed materials may not be food safe, mature cheddar cheese molded from 3D prints are for decorative use only.

Please 3D Scan the Art: Design Student Creates a How-To Manual for Metropolitan Museum Visitors

Posted by in 3D Scan, Art, Education, How To

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has a very friendly policy with 3D scanning. The museum not only allows 3D scanning but they had design graduate student Decho Pituckcharoen create a guide book to help you learn how to do it properly. As a collaboration with the  Met Media Lab, Decho created this friendly guide to help visitors do exactly that. Not only did he set about to create an accessible manual for visitors interested in digitizing the art but he also had to learn how to use the technology himself. It is this type of enabling research and sharing that we’d like to see more of.

Below we asked Decho a few questions about his process of designing for and explaining this new technology to beginners.

What is it about the 3D scanning process that made you want to make this guide book?

As a designer who has worked with print medium for a long time, I’m interested in 3D printing technology. Right away Don, the manager of media lab, introduced me to the 3D scanning software 123D catch, which isn’t exactly a scanning program but photogrametry, which is really easy to use. What I really need is just a digital camera or phone camera to take pictures of art piece and the software converts them to 3D models.

So, I did some research to find tutorials or how to use this technology to produce your own projects. Mostly the tutorials that I found were serious looking or had lots of text to read. That was when I had an idea that why don’t I make it friendlier than a usual one.

I got my inspiration from a simple IKEA instruction that lets pictures describe step by step of assembly. I think it would be a easier if users can understand how to use 3D scanning for their projects with user friendly information graphic that might be practical for non-tech savvy users to use. By combining simple 3D scanning software + user friendly instruction, I believe that my guide book will have a potential for anyone who is interested in 3D printing area.

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Did you learn anything unexpected about working in 3D?

After scanning objects, 3D scanning software algorithm will calculate and simulate over all shapes for a 3D model. I was amazed that it actually filled and completed a part that I couldn’t scan. For example, on the very top past of a big and tall sculpture.

I also learned about digital 3D community while I was researching about my project. There are a tons of open source objects and projects that they share to us. For example, If I need a business card stand, I will just download it and print it out from my 3D printer. That is like a magic place to me to see many makers who want to contribute useful resources for us.

Do you think that being able to 3D scan will add value to a museum visitor’s experience?

I personally think that it will definitely add more benefits about educational purpose to visitors. They can scan objects form the museum and keep them into digital formats in order to study at home or everywhere else. Moreover, visitors can see art in different angles from 3D files that they can’t do in the museum. Therefore, they can observe more details about each art piece to use for their research.

After scanning, art piece from the museum can be presented to different formats. For example, story telling animation, interactive websites or kinetic figures that will be attractive to young audiences.

It’s true that seeing an actual art piece you can feel more authenticity, but for some audiences they don’t have a chance to go to have their own experience at the museum; for example, people who live abroad or disabilities. With 3D scanning technology, they can take advantage by seeing art pieces through virtual 3D world from everywhere or on the internet instead. More over, it will add more value to disabilities especially blind people since they can experience by touching shape and texture of each replica art piece that is scanned from the museum.

How do you imagine this scanning and printing technology will be used in the near future? say, in 10 years?

I imagine scanning and printing technology will be used to produce more and more objects with verity of new materials. Importantly, for medical profession filed that human organs can be reproduce with very fine details and quality. Maybe, It will be awesome that we can use 3D scanning to keep our identity instead of taking pictures on our ID cards. I predict that 3D printers and scanners will also be apart of household objects. they’ll be very portable. If you break something in your house, you can reproduce it again and again. I hope that 3D printing industry and community  will grow bigger to wider audiences and people will think that it’s not a complicated things to learn and use.

 

For more info on digital happenings are the Met check out their Digital Underground Blog.

How to Submit Your 3D Prints to Sell with SuperFanArt

Submission are now open for you to submit your 3D prints to sell with SuperFanArt, the Shapeways and Hasbro collaboration to enable fans to make and sell designs based on Hasbro licensed brands.

Submit your 3D prints to Superfanart on SHapeways

As mentioned previously, SuperFanArt is now accepting anyone to submit their 3D printed designs based on Hasbro owned IP including:

  • Dragonvale
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • G.I. Joe
  • Monopoly
  • My Little Pony
  • Scrabble (to be sold in US and Canada only)
  • Transformers

Full details and instructions for both new designers, and existing designs can be found on the Shapeways SuperFanArt page.

Most importantly, when you submit your design, please be sure to include the tag SuperFanArt so that we can find and include your submission.  For inspiration, take a look at some of the submissions that we have received so far.

We can’t wait to see what you create!

How I made a keychain bottle opener: Iterative product design

When I started working at Shapeways earlier this year, I knew that I wanted to model something to make for sale in our marketplace.  It had been years since I last tried my hand at 3d modeling, so I wanted to make something simple and practical that was something I would use on a day to day basis. I decided at last that I was going to model a keychain bottle opener.

I set out with a few small goals for my bottle opener: I want to be able to attach it to my keychain, must be able to print in our stainless steel and cast metals, and the base model must cost less than $30 to keep it within a reasonable price range to sell after my markup is added.

Initially I thought the process would be easy: make a quick model, upload to Shapeways, order a prototype for myself and make it for sale. As anyone who has created a product from scratch would know, it is never that simple. After firing up Blender and recalling how to 3d model I was fairly happy with my prototype: the model looked like a bottle opener, it had a hole in the handle to reduce material and add to a keychain. After then uploading to the site I realized that I broke one of initial goals: it cost around $35, more than my plan of under $30 . Back to the drawing board.

When making a 3d printed product the easiest way to reduce the cost of the product is to reduce the amount of material that is being printed. This can be done by making the product itself smaller or by removing material from the product, for example hollowing out a solid object. My bottle opener was already a little smaller in size than the bottle opener I already had attached to my keychain, so I was a little worried about making it smaller. However, I took another look at the design of the product and found a few places where I could easily remove some material in the handle and in the opener head. So I was able to remove a large portion of material from the handle while still keeping the overall shape of the model.

Before Removing Excess Material

Before Removing Excess Material

After Removing Excess Material

After Removing Excess Material

With version 2 ready, I upload and see that the price is now under $30, while still allowing the model to be printed in stainless steel and cast metals. Awesome! This is the part where I wanted to make my bottle opener for sale to the world and wait for people to start buying. However, working at Shapeways and all of the challenges with making sure products are printable and functional, I couldn’t just leave it there.

How do I know if this thing actually works? What if it is too small? What if it snaps in half when someone tries to use it? I had to order a prototype for myself first and check the integrity of the model. I ordered my first prototype in White Strong and Flexible Plastic, as it has a shorter lead time and is cheaper, making the prototyping process faster than with Stainless Steel.

After waiting about a week for my prototype to arrive I was ready to unbox and test. I checked the bottle opener all over for design imperfections. I held it in my hand and of course I tested it out on a bottle. I did not actually expect the plastic prototype to be able to open the bottle since the material is way too flexible (in fact the handle easily bent in my hand), but I needed to check was how it fit onto a bottle. Does it catch on to the cap how I expect? Unfortunately, this prototype did not. The opener was not curved enough to fit on the cap exactly as I would have liked, so back to the drawing board to curve the model up a little.

Non-Fitting Bottle Opener

Non-Fitting Bottle Opener

After Curving Model

After Curving Model

Great, version 3 now ready, back to the site to upload and check pricing and printability. Everything here is perfect again and in fact the price dropped slightly on this new version since curving the opener made the bounding box a little smaller. I again printed another prototype in White Strong and Flexible Plastic. Another week later I received the new prototype and gave it the same checking over I did the first. This time however, it fit much better on the bottle opener, perfect.

Fitting Bottle Opener

Fitting Bottle Opener

Now this is where I wanted to just enable the product for sale to all. I was able to print it, the design seems like it works and it is in the price I wanted. However all that I have done was still not enough. I needed to order a test print in the target material family I wanted to enable for sale. I knew the product would never cut it in the plastics, it would just bend and break, I needed to make sure the same thing didn’t happen when printed in Stainless Steel. So, I ordered the model again, this time in Stainless Steel and again waited for the prototype to arrive.

Bottle Opener Progression

Bottle Opener Progression

The Stainless Steel version in hand and now to give it the same, but more rigorous, checks as the previous 2 prototypes printed. The first and most important test I tried to do was bend it in half and luckily I failed. After trying and trying to break the product I finally gave in and decided to try and open a bottle with it. Success, works as advertised. I now have the final product I was looking for. Having the final working product ready I went right to my account and enabled the product for sale in all of the various offers of Stainless Steel.

Stainless Steel Bottle Opener

Stainless Steel Bottle Opener

I chose to make my product for sale just in the Stainless Steels as they share the same printing process, so I knew if one worked well and was printable that print success rate is shared among all stainless steel materials. I could have also made available for sale in the Precious Metals, but I was not confident in their ability to print and be functional without ordering a prototype for myself and the price of a test print in gold or platinum slightly higher than I was willing to spend. However, luckily enough for me, I had a co-worker who loved the design of my bottle opener and wanted to order it in Raw Bronze. I was a little worried since I have heard the material is softer than stainless steel, but my co-worker was more than willing to be the first to try my design in raw bronze.

A few weeks later after my co-worker received his print of the product we gave it a try. It looked beautiful! We were excited to try it out and we soon discovered remembered why it is important to test in many materials– the handle was too thin for bronze and bent the opener instead of opening the bottle. I felt bad that he went out of his way to help me try my product in a new material and it did not work. I wanted to fix it for not just him but anyone else who might want to purchase in one of the Precious Metals, so I went back to create a new version with a slightly thicker handle, I uploaded and ordered for myself in Raw Bronze to see if I fixed the issue.

Another few weeks later after receiving my new version in Raw Bronze, time to test. Unfortunately again the handle was too thin and it bent easily, less easily than the last, but still much more than anyone would want for a bottle opener. I then decided to give up on trying for the Precious Metals. It would be nice to be able to have my product printable in those materials I would have to again make the handle thicker to try and get it to work which would continue to raise the price of the model which was something I wanted to steer away from.

However, at last I now have what I am calling my final product. A design that meets all of the original goals I set out to accomplish which is also printable and functional for the end user. Even though I now have this “finished” product for sale I am not done quite yet. I am still awaiting for both good and bad feedback from shoppers on how I can continually iterate on this design to make the product better and better. You can see my final product here: Keychain Bottle Opener.

When I started this adventure I assumed having the idea was the hardest part of the process. I didn’t yet recognize all of the necessary steps for making a good product. Product development is not a linear process. It is iterative and usually requires more than one attempt to get everything perfect. This process can easily be both time consuming and expensive depending on what you are trying to make. I personally decided to take on this entire iterative trial and error design process by myself, but the good news is you do not have to go it alone. Now with features like Beta Products Shapeways is working to make that iterative process more collaborative between designers, shop owners and shoppers. As I found out, collaboration and feedback helped me make a better product. Have you bought a product on Shapeways and offered the designer feedback? For designers, how have you further refined a product based on user testing and feedback?