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.
In this blog post Shapeways community member James Herndon teaches you how to make a custom Bic Branding Iron that snaps onto a Bic lighter from a 2D image using Shapeways CustomMaker.
You don’t need a 3D printer, just an image, an image editing program like Pixlr and Shapeways.com to print your brand in real steel.
Yes, this is a branding iron, they get hot! Don’t do anything stupid with one of these, like burn yourself or an animal! If you do, please don’t blame me!
Step 1: Find your image
First of all you will need to find or create a black and white image for your branding iron.
When you upload your image the black areas will be extruded by 1mm, the white areas will stay in place. You should avoid any Gray scale or color images as they won’t produce as clean of a final brand but you can experiment if you want!
Step 2: Use Autodesk Pixlr to reverse your image (your Iron should be a mirror image of the final brand)
Almost every image will need to be reversed before uploading, that way the brand comes out the right way
This is super easy with Autodesk Pixlr, a completely free online photo editing program,
Navigate to https://pixlr.com/editor/ and choose to open an image on your computer or by inputting a URL
Then just click “Image” and then “Flip canvas horizontal”
Step 3: Use Pixlr to Invert your image and crop it if needed
If you found the perfect black and white image but it’s backwards, you’ll need to Invert it in Pixlr
To do this, just duplicate the background layer and change the new layer’s mode to “invert”, that’s it!
If you need to add white space around your image, just increase the canvas size by a few pixels with the center as your anchor. (do this if your brand gets distorted at the edges, you’ll know what I mean later when you go to make your branding iron)
If you need to remove space around your image just use the crop button in Pixlr.
If you have a rectangular shaped image then you may need to rotate your image in Pixlr as well.
The 3D base models all have the longest edge of the rectangle running left-right, so if you have a tall skinny image, you’ll want to rotate it by 90°.
Step 4: Upload your Image to Shapeways
If your image is mostly circular or square shaped follow this link:
If your image is mostly rectangular shaped follow this link:
If your image is a skinny rectangle follow this link:
Next just click on the “Choose File” Button and pick the image you made earlier!
Step 5: Order your brand, wait and burn!
This step is easy! Just click the “Add to Cart” button on the right and follow the process to order your Custom bic branding iron!
Shapeways will then 3D print your custom brand in Stainless steel and it should arrive in about 14-18 days worldwide!
After it’s arrived you just attach it to a Bic World Class lighter and then light it up for about 60 seconds or so (every brand is different)
Be sure to practice on some scrap wood first! Getting a good brand takes practice and you don’t want to mess up your 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie bat with a sloppy batman brand. (really though, that’s a dumb idea, if you have a Mickey Mantle bat just don’t brand it at all).
Drone parts and drone accessories are a popular design category on Shapeways. Customizing drones has become a fun hobby for 3D printing enthusiast, especially with SLS and Shapeways 3D printing, designers are able to design for accurate and sophisticated upgraded parts and accessories.
German designer Kai Bracher, of the Shapeways shop Cabrada has taken his love of drones to the next level by designing this eye catching 3D printable case for the drone for the Micro Drone. This 3D printed clip on case for the microdrone 2.0 and 3.0 from Extreme flyers turns your done into a wasp.
Wasp case designed in Zbrush
Micro Drone in flight with the 3D printed Wasp Shell add on
The Wasp Drone case currently sells for $31.50 USD on Kai’s Shapeways Shop and is available in various colors in our Strong and Flexible nylon material.
There is also a video shows the mounting of the wasp to the Micro Drone
When the love of 3D printing meets the love of another person, a marriage between the two usually occurs. Belgian designer Kurt Drubbel recently proposed to his long time girlfriend with a gorgeous 3D printed engagement ring he designed. This unique piece is covered with tiny crystalyzed hearts (visible up close only). The ring was prototyped in alumide and finally printed in polished silver.
Kurt and his fiancé have a 2 year old daughter together. He presented the 3D printed ring to her on a ferry on a rough sea at night, between the islands of Malta and Gozo. The answer was an overwhelming yes.
Here are some photos of the ring printed in polished silver
Video showing the prototype and final ring
On behalf of the Shapeways team, we want to congratulate Kurt and his fiancé on their engagement! Do you have a 3D printed love story to tell? We’d like to hear it. Shoot us a email to email@example.com.
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
Did you know today is Small Business Saturday? A day focused on supporting your community and the independent businesses within that. Online small businesses count too, and that’s why today is my favorite of this wild holiday weekend. There is a lot to celebrate today, alongside the over 22,000 small business owners powered by Shapeways 3D Printing. Remind your friends and family when they shop from you store on Shapeways, not only are the getting a great deal this weekend, they’re also supporting the maker movement and the small businesses within that.
Learn more about the people behind Shapeways 3D Printing powered businesses through our Designer Spotlight series. Celebrate your creative independence and remind others to #ShopSmall! What small business on Shapeways is your favorite?
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.
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.
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.
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?
What better use of the computer controlled x y motors of a 3D printer than to give yourself a tattoo. Tattooing straight lines and perfect circles are super hard so the enigmatic crew of Appropriate Audiences have solved that problem by attaching a tattoo machine to their 3D printer to give the perfect circle tattoo (not the band logo).
This should be listed under ‘do not try this at home’ as many territories have different laws on who and how to you can get tattooed. To follow their process so you can see exactly how not to try this at home, Pierre Emm and friends have shared their how (not) to on Instructables.
Making custom 3D Printed tabletop gaming miniatures is about to get easier with Hero Forge App, and the Shapeways 3D Printing API. The team at Hero Forge have raised support with a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign to create an app to make custom 3D printed figurines for table top gaming.
Following is the story of how the project came about, why they chose to use Shapeways 3D printing, and how this is a perfect case study, for helping people get exactly what they want with a customization app, and on demand 3D printing at Shapeways.
HERO FORGE ORIGIN STORY
About seven months ago, with bated breath and well-bitten nails, we at Hero Forge launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign proposing a new application of 3D printing: customizable tabletop miniatures. The idea was simple: using a WebGL-based app akin to a videogame character creator, users would be able to build a character from a library of parts, poses, and features, then get it 3D printed.
The idea for Hero Forge actually came about when we went looking for a service like it, hoping to use it as customers. We’d seen slick WebGL-based apps and had seen all kinds of cool Maker Apps using Shapeways Developer API. We assumed something like Hero Forge would already exist. As it turned out, all the pieces were there but the service itself wasn’t. We decided to make it ourselves.
Going to Kickstarter for funding was a no-brainer. Kickstarter has an incredibly passionate gaming community that’s been jumpstarting role-playing and miniatures projects for years. We really couldn’t have predicted just how amazingly supportive our backers would be, though. We ended up hitting our initial goal within the first three days of our campaign then went on to unlock nine stretch goals. It was exciting to say the least.
WHY IS CUSTOMIZATION IMPORTANT?
There miniatures can mean a lot to tabletop gamers. A player might spend years playing as a single character, and having a mini that really matches their vision is a powerful thing. Unfortunately, finding a miniature that really captures one’s character can be difficult. Nearly all tabletop fans know the frustration of combing through poorly-stocked shelves or browsing low-resolution image galleries looking for just the right combination of features and equipment.
We have absolutely amazing team working on the tech, UI, and building a library of weapons, armor, poses, faces, and more. They’re making the building blocks that users will be able to play with, combine, and rearrange until they get something that is legitimately theirs. We want to offer a whole new level of parity between the character in their imagination and the miniature in front of them.
HOW IS 3D PRINTING FACILITATING THIS?
It’s great to have reached a point where 3D printing can do more than prototyping. We’ve gotten to a place where it can produce polished, finished products. There’s no doubt that 3D printing is an integral component of our service. No other manufacturing method would allow for us to produce one-off figures in a cost effective way. Using the Shapeways API provides other huge advantages, too. As a start-up, being able to let an established, proven name handle both manufacturing and shipping is a godsend. It lets us focus on what we really want to be focused on: building an amazing service and designing cool great arms, armor, and characters.
There’s a lot of freedom and flexibility of material offerings, too. We’re taking advantage of that flexibility, offering larger-scale statuettes in stronger, cheaper materials and higher detail, smoother materials for users who want more fidelity in their miniature prints. And in the future, if new materials hit the scenes, adding them to our offerings will be easy.
At the moment, we’re focused on building an incredible service, and the Shapeways API and manufacturing team are proving to be amazing folks to have on our side. We’ve still got our sights set on launching before the year is out. We really can’t wait to see what people create with what we’re building.
–Joshua Bennett, Co-Founder of Hero Forge
Photo Credit: MDK Photography (MartinDK108@gmail.com)
Update: Hero Forge’s website is up and running! Check them out.
How 3D printing and DIY drone community are changing perceptions.
We will be attending the EAA Airventure Live convention in Oshkosh this week. So as this week will be all about wings, we thought we would look into one of our top growing communities of flying makers, the DIY drone community, and share their story with you.
“I’ll be back!”
The Terminator, 1984
We all know that line from the movie. And as we are seeing more forms of artificial intelligence and other robotic incarnations, science fiction and the media want us to believe that the Terminator  will indeed be back soon. One of the most reproved and misunderstood of these robots are probably Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, as they are more commonly known. But what no one is showing us is that this technology is not being molded by some dark overlord like “Skynet ”, but more likely by the hobbyist with a 3D printer next door. Embracing the “Maker Movement” and open source development, 3D printing and personal drone communities are bringing together two industries that are growing bigger than the sum of their parts.
“Disruptive technology” is a term coined by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen describing an emerging technology that significantly alters the landscape and creates a completely new industry around it. The web, cloud computing, cell phones, MP3s, and Wi-Fi are all examples of disruptive technologies that we probably cannot live without in today’s world.
Both drones and 3D printing are considered disruptive technologies and together will radically change our perception of both drone technology and the use of 3D printing. So just what makes them work so well together – 3D printed drones? Well, yes, this is definitely being done, but it is not the real game-changer. Let’s first inoculate the perception we have of UAV technology and then bring in the alchemy of 3D printing.
UAVs are flown remotely with no one onboard. This allows the pilot the safety of not being airborne and also dramatically improves the visibility and reach of the pilot as UAVs can go where manned airborne vehicles often cannot. The UAV uses computers, sensors, cameras , and GPS to locate itself and feeds back data to the pilot, which could include its position, the terrain, the conditions, and video footage around it.
Probably the most common use of UAVs is for film. The recent Winter Games in Sochi would not have been as dramatic if we did not have the drone’s eye view of the skier in midair. UAVs are not only cheaper than aerial photography from a helicopter, but they can also come much closer and stay close due to their speed. In the US, using UAVs for commercial filming purposes is illegal, but it does not stop amateur filmmakers from shooting some of the most breathtaking and brazen footage currently to be found on the web. Digital cameras such as the GoPro are attached to the drone and then the only thing stopping you from soaring with the eagles is battery life and range.
There have also been a couple of more playful uses suggested such as UAVs delivering pizza, beer, and your online store orders. But it is not all fun and games; UAVs are also put to work. They allow scientists to explore weather, farmers to inspect their crops or stock, and they enable rescue missions to find missing people and deliver provisions in disaster areas.
Now, let us add 3D printing to the drone mix, or we could probably just 3D print a drone. University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) has produced a UAV that can be printed and in the air in 24 hours. Without 3D printing, the same drone would take 120 hours to produce, there would be material waste, and there wouldn’t be options to print one or many. This same team is also researching disposable 3D printed drones that could be created inexpensively and be in the air on a mission, whether for surveillance or rescue, within 24 hours.
So there we have drones and 3D printed drones, but now we can take this to next dimension: 3D printing drones. Imperial College London’s Aerial Robotics Lab has developed a “robotic quadcopter that can extrude polyurethane foam while in flight.” The researchers are hoping that this drone could potentially fill holes that need patching or build completely new structures in unreachable locations.
Aerospace company BAE Systems predicts that by 2040 we’ll have airplanes with sophisticated 3D printers onboard that can 3D print UAVs on demand and to scope. So soon we will have flying 3D printers printing 3D printed drones that can 3D print. This is probably not what they refer to as a feedback loop in technology, but it comes pretty close.
However the real alchemy (or disruptive innovation) of 3D printing in the world of UAVs is neither the scientific inventions nor the futuristic possibilities, but rather lies within the rapidly growing DIY community of both UAV and 3D printing enthusiasts.
They have formed a participatory partnership that supports each other’s ideas, shares research, actively contributes, offers mentorship, and most importantly relinquishes ownership. This model of community-led research and development is not new, but it has never been in such control of an entire industry’s future.
A pioneer in this regard is Chris Anderson, who quit his job as editor and chief of the revered Wired magazine to join a then 20-year-old Jordi Muñoz, with whom he had only communicated via email to start 3D Robotics, the leading personal UAV manufacturer. Anderson is also a fervent backer of 3D printing and expounds the idea of a new industrial revolution in his book Makers, about a movement started by people who are once again taking design and development into their own hands. In particular, he refers to 3D printing that makes manufacturing faster and more accessible.
Before Anderson started 3D Robotics, he had a personal interest in UAVs. A couple of failed attempts at impressing his children with a homemade drone led him to start a community of amateur tinkerers of the UAV persuasion so they could share their findings in this relatively new field and also commiserate on their failings. “By building a team in public,” he says, “you build communities first and open source them, you do not have to find the right people. They find you.”
Anderson started DIYDrones.com in 2007, and the community currently has over 55 thousand contributing members and with approximately 1,000 new personal drones being launched every month, this community is flying high.
At about the same time that Anderson was starting DIY Drones, another company had its own story of success in a skeptical market: Shapeways. This company originated in an incubator within Dutch conglomerate Philips. And Shapeways itself is something of an incubator — a 3D printing marketplace that allows for others to make a business out of the work they produce. Community members are given free reign to upload any 3D printed file to the Shapeway’s website, 3D print in a myriad of materials and colors using Shapeways’ industrial printers and then use the infrastructure to host their own online stores and manage the logistics.
3D printing is a natural fit for the drone community because of the relatively new and unexplored nature of both industries. UAVs would not be developing so quickly if it weren’t for 3D printers and their ability to rapidly prototype and produce the variety of modifications and additions that are needed for things like camera attachments and battery cases for extended flying time. As soon as a new use is defined for a drone, they can immediately test or manufacture it. And in turn, there’s a whole new market and community for the 3D printing industry.
Shapeways has an active relationship with its own community as well. The suggestions and feedback from the community of Shop Owners and Shoppers are regularly addressed not only through dialogue but also by being implementing into development strategies for its online platforms and production facilities. It was also in these community dialogues (together with clear evidence of its booming sales reports) that Shapeways realized what was once considered a niche hobby began turning into a full-blown disruptive force in the marketplace. Drone bodies, modification and drone accessories, have become a significant portion of its current shop owner stock and sales.
When you search through the Shop Owners on Shapeways.com, you can see that they are clearly part of this participatory and global community. D3wey, a designer from the UK, asks for feedback on all his products to improve the quality and he proudly states that his designs are more for fun than for profit. He produces everything from GoPro attachments to the battery doors that allow bigger batteries and personalization like dragon or skull designs.
Another active community member, Simensays, produces spare parts, camera equipment, landing gear, and compass mounts to name but a few. These DIY drone enthusiast are clearly more interested in making interesting videos, tracking their extreme sports adventures, or just good old-fashion showboatery than any of the other concerns we might have around drones.
The DIY drone community alone flies more drones than the total number of US military drones at present. Thus the power to ‘demilitarize and democratize‘ the development of UAVs really lies in the hands of the DIY drone community. Inside these communities everyone is a moderator that can encourage good behavior, discipline bad behavior, contest legal decisions, and build software or hardware together. And for the first time, there is communal intellectual property which all own and protect.
And herein lies the true alchemy: every single member of the DIY drone community has a team of 55,000 peaceful and fun-loving inventors, scientist, homemakers, engineers, teachers, and artists—to name but a few—behind them, that are all building and industry with everyone’s best interests at heart. To top this, with the power of 3D printing they also have their own manufacturing plant and from here, the sky really is the limit.
Showing the intricate detail possible in our Sterling Silver 3D printing, Lougon post processed his 3D print by oxidizing to blacken the Silver, then polishing to return the raised sections to high polish, giving a rich contrast.
You can try this process yourself using egg yolks to blacken your Silver 3D prints to give the same affect.
I’ve been coding since I was 13 years old. I’d spend hours taking apart computers, putting them back together, and creating worlds of my own. Technology has not only impacted the way I solve problems, it’s framed the way I view the world. First with coding, and later with 3D printing, I found that my imagination was my only limitation.
Today, I’m thrilled to share that Shapeways is collaborating with Google on Made with Code to inspire girls to code. Our goal has always been to give everyone access to the best technology in 3D printing, and we’re now investing in that access for girls — a group that has historically been underrepresented in science and technology.
Made with Code offers fun and simple projects aimed at helping girls take the first step in learning how to code. The premier project of the initiative is a coding project based on Blockly, Google’s visual programming editor, in which girls can create a custom bracelet that we will 3D print in our New York City factory using EOS printers.
Follow along with our merchandizer Aimee in this 2 minute tutorial. Aimee shows you her process for designing a custom pendant using nothing more than a pen, a piece of paper, a camera phone and our 2D to 3D creator app.
Try for yourself with the 2D to 3D creator app here and a tutorial: How to use the 2D to 3D converter app. We’ll be seeking more entries to the series How I Made so if you’ve got an idea for a short video add it in the comments or contact education [at] shapeways [dot] com. Happy making!
The holidays are approaching so it’s time for our third and final installment of the Shapeways DIY 3D Print gifting series. This week, we’re catapulting you into another dimension and challenging you to try out our easy-to-use 2D to 3D Creator!
Using this nifty app, you can upload a 2D design, adjust the thickness and size, then 3D Print your product in a choice of more than 30 materials. And in just a couple minutes, you’ll have your very own personalized gift—jewelry, art, and more!
Don’t forget to check out our Holiday Shipping guidelines to ensure your product is delivered in time for the holidays.
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.