Category Archives: 3D Printing Materials

Shaping Dutch Design: Jelle de Vries

In celebration of Dutch Design Week 2016, our Shaping Dutch Design series will take a closer look at a few of the dozens of Dutch designers who are part of the Shapeways EXPO this year and, of course, our global maker community all year round. Make sure to visit us in person if you’re in Eindhoven this week, and follow us here, on Twitter, and on Facebook for live updates from #DDW16.

Jelle de Vries of Studio Jelle creates modernist lighting fixtures that seem to glow even when switched off. Making the most of the way that light interacts with our White Strong & Flexible material, Jelle has created a series of Pinhole Lamps that might recall midcentury modern pieces from afar. Up close, however, the difference is clear: despite a basket-weave appearance, the seamless fixtures give off a warm and diffuse light that shines evenly through every part of the durable, nylon-based plastic they’re printed in. The effect is playful and futuristic — with a nod to the pre-digital past.

Stop by Shapeways EXPO at Dutch Design Week to see the Pinhole Lamps up close, or check them out in the Studio Jelle shop. Whether you choose to hang one from the ceiling or rest it on a side table, the Pinhole Lamp is a truly unique way to bring home cutting-edge Dutch design.

BHDA Finishing Tips and Techniques: Support and Nub Removal

BHDA — or black high definition acrylate — is the newest material added to our roster. Starting as a maker material, BHDA was recently released to all shoppers because of its amazing detail, finish, durability, and color. However, this material does have one aspect that not all shoppers or makers may expect upon opening the box: tiny support nubs on a portion of the surface.



Why does this material have nubs?

These support nubs exist due to the production process. Before printing the model, the 3D printing engineers will check the model in order to ensure that the design meets printing guidelines and can make it through the production process. Next, support structures are added to the design file using a variety of preset supports which are selected based on your model’s geometry. If your design is particularly intricate, individual supports are added to delicate areas. These support structures hold the model to the build plate while they are printing, while offering strength to the product as it is being printed.

Once the models have had the supports added and are oriented in the build, the production team will load the models to the printer. The printers use direct light projection technology, which includes a liquid resin, and light to cure the material. Each build is created layer by layer using light voxels to cure the resin to the previous layer.

Once the build is completed and cured, the supports can be removed. This removal process uses a metal spatula, snippers, tweezers, and mineral oil. After the supports have been removed, small nubs will remain on the part. However, it is possible to finish the surface to a smooth clean finish with minimal effort.


How to hand-finish your products:

Initial Finishing Tools



  1. Snippers: Cut off supports

  2. Craft Spatula: Scrape off supports

  3. Tweezers: Pull off supports and scraping off nubs


Final Finishing Tools



  1. ≥ 600 grit sandpaper: sand off nubs

  2. Paint brush: apply finishing lotion or mineral oil

  3. Mineral oil or lotion: moisturize material to remove scratches



Large Support Removal

A small pilot group has recently launched which allows users to receive their models complete with supports. These users are interested in removing the supports at home.

TIP: Check the 3D file of the model while removing these supports to avoid removing crucial parts of the model.  

If your model has many wiry parts or fragile overhangs, it is best to use snippers to remove these supports. This will help to protect the model. When you have a wall that meets many supports, tweezers or metal spatulas may be used to remove multiple supports at one time. You can angle the tweezers or the spatula flush against the wall of the model and pull downward. This will “unzip” the supports from the actual structure. Ensure you are careful with the spatula as this can cause unintentional gashes.


Nub Removal  

Once the large supports have been removed, small nubs will remain. These can be easily removed with tweezers, ≥ 600 grit sandpaper, and mineral oil. The tweezers are used to scrape off the larger nubs.

CAUTION: Be careful not to add excess pressure as this material can easily scratch. Cosmetic scratches can be removed, but deep scratches will need additional buffing.

≥ 600 grit sandpaper should gently rub off the remaining nubs. This should take just a few swipes back and forth to notice the nubs disappearing. This material, although strong, does polish quickly. Double check while you are polishing you are not rounding sharp edges or losing details while sanding.


Left side before polishing / right side after sanding for 1 minute with mineral oil


Final Finishing Step

Once you have sanded off those final nubs and are left with a smooth surface, a few small white marks from the tools may remain. This is where the mineral oil or lotion comes in. These can be gently painted on the material to moisturize and remove the superficial scratches and scrapes.


BHDA is durable due to its strength and elongation properties, yet it is very easy to polish. This makes this material perfect for those that are looking to create miniatures. The surface is smooth and high detail where no supports have been laid. Where the supports have been placed, these nubs can be smoothed to a soft clean surface with brief sanding. This allows for paint and other finishing treatments to be added precisely and with little post processing.

If you are looking for more information on this material, I recommend referencing the materials page — or testing one out for yourself.

Tips for Designing in Porcelain

Porcelain is an ancient technology that has been transformed by modern machinery and 3D printing. Designs once impossible to create by hand are now possible using 3D printers. At Shapeways, we launched our very own porcelain process in 2014 that uses your 3D design file to print a mold and cast using our own porcelain material.

As expected with all new technologies, there are limitations. To understand how to optimally design for 3D printed porcelain, it is important to understand the production process as well as the caveats of the material. Read on to learn about each stage of production and find tips on how to design in porcelain to make your finished objects just right.


How is 3D printed porcelain created?

1.  3D printing engineers check your design

Once you place your order, your model file is sent over to our 3D printing engineers who specialize in porcelain. They inspect the model to ensure that the mold of the design can be printed and continue through the production process.

2.  The mold is generated and printed

We have developed software that generates a mold of your 3D file. You can imagine the mold as a shell or the negative space of your design. We will also generate a small funnel that will be used to cast your product.

3.  The mold is cut and cleaned

Once the model is taken out of the printer, it must be cleaned of all residual support material. In order to completely clear out all of the material, the mold must be cut to reach the interior. Imagine the mold as the “skin” of your model or the negative space. The mold and overall design must be able to hold together in order to eventually cast in porcelain.

4.  The mold is reassembled

After the mold has been cleaned out, it must be glued back together in order to cast. This creates a seam where the model has been cut and glued. However, this will later be sanded and repaired by hand.

The exterior funnel will be glued to the mold for the next step in the process, casting.

5.  Porcelain is cast in the mold

The porcelain material is poured into the mold through the exterior funnel. The porcelain material within the mold will settle and harden.

6.  The mold is removed

Once the porcelain is fully hardened, the mold will be removed and the porcelain model will remain.

7.  Model goes into first firing

Immediately after the mold has been removed, the design goes into the kiln for its first firing. This hardens the design so that the model may be repaired and glazed.

8.  Model is repaired and hand finished

With the first firing complete, the model is strong enough to repair. There are a few types of repairs that may be performed. First, the porcelain team uses a variety of tools to carefully remove the seam lines left by the mold. Second, if the porcelain has not reached all ends of the mold or has generated any air pockets, these minor imperfections will be patched and repaired by hand.

9.  Model goes into second firing

If your model needed to be patched, the product will go in for a second firing. This cycle of repairs and firings can happen a few times in order to get your design just right.

10.  Product is glazed

Your design will be hand dipped in a liquid glaze. Any excess glaze on the base of the design will be wiped away in order to avoid the glaze from sticking to the kiln.

11.  Glaze firing

Once the base has been wiped clean, the model enters the kiln for the glaze firing. This will solidify the food-safe coating of glaze on the design. In some cases, the model may need to be re-glazed and fired due to unpredictable surface issues, such as small pin holes or patches that were not glazed fully. A re-glaze may cause pooling of glaze on the model.

12.  Finished model

The model is then packaged carefully and sent to the distribution center to be shipped off to you.

What do you need to consider before designing in porcelain?

There are two aspects of porcelain to consider before you begin to design your product. First, the glaze that will coat your design. Second, the properties of the production process.


During the glazing process, your model is dipped in the thick glaze liquid. Excess glaze drips off and the base is cleaned so that it may rest on the kiln shelf without fusing to the bottom. While the model is in the kiln the glaze becomes molten. After cooling, the result is a stronger, hardened layer of colored food-safe glass.


Our glazes run a thickness of 1 to 2 mm. This means that if precise fit and unobstructed holes are important to your model, ensure you have left at least 2 millimeters of clearance on EVERY wall.

In the image below you can see two differently sized holes. The hole on the left is larger than 5 mm wide. This will allow the glaze to coat the inside without closing the hole. The hole on the right displays a 4 mm hole, the glaze will completely obstruct this hole eliminating the ability for clearance.


Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 10.48.46 AM.png

The same logic applies for lids that fit onto containers. The lid should account for the glaze that will be applied as well as the container itself. Meaning, your design should have at least 4 mm of space between the lid and the container.


Details of a design can get lost under a layer of glaze. It is necessary to consider the depth, height, and width of the detail of before submitting your design. On our porcelain material page, we recommend a minimum of 1 mm height and width of detail. If you are aiming for sharp details, consider making them greater than this minimum.

We have published a previous post depicting examples of details after being glazed in each of our color options. As mentioned, each color has a slight variation of thickness. For the clearest text or imagery, please ensure you accommodate for the glaze.



Adding feet to your standing designs are useful for avoiding fully unglazed bases. While designing these decorative and useful features, there are couple aspects to keep in mind:

  • The height of the feet should be greater than the thickness of the glaze. Otherwise, the base will be required to go unglazed.

  • Long spindly feet can break during casting. Please ensure that the height and thickness of the feet are comparable or that the thickness can allow for the feet to fully cast


Sharp edges and rounded edges will affect how the glaze rests on the model after firing. In the images below, you can see how a sharp edge will split the glaze whereas a rounded edge will allow the glaze to roll over the edge. One is not better than the other; they are merely aesthetically different.



All models must be able to stand on their own, as they will be fired with other models in a single kiln. At this time stilts and supports are not included in the production process. This means that the model must have a base or feet to rest on. With designer-selected orientation, you have the power to determine which side of the model goes unglazed and rests on the kiln during the firing process.

During the upload process, a render is provided to select the top and bottom of your design. Arrows may be selected to rotate the design in the proper orientation. Top and bottom indicators are located on the render image. NOTE: The orientation in the render will be the orientation in production.

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 9.37.10 PM.png




The bounding box for porcelain states the limits of how large or small your design can be. These limits are important to consider before taking the time to completely design your item.

Minimum: 40 × 40 × 10 mm

Maximum: 125 × 125 × 200 mm


In order for a model to cast completely and reach the very edges of the design, walls and wires must be thick enough for the comparable length.

The smaller the model or shorter the wire, the thinner it may be. This is demonstrated in the image below. If the model is 2 mm thin and very short, it is easier for the porcelain to make it to the end of the mold. Otherwise, if the design is long and thin, it is nearly impossible for the porcelain to fill the mold completely.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 11.27.27 AM.png

With extremely thin wires, holes, and walls, cleaning out the mold by hand can cause breaks with insufficient thickness. So it is especially important to consider making these features larger than 3 mm for the best result. This does not increase pricing greatly as porcelain is priced by surface area. Adding thickness does not increase price as it does with other materials.


Elevate your porcelain ideas by using these tips and techniques. Let those details shine through and make sure your design glides through the production process. Once you’ve printed your design, you can begin selling on the Shapeways marketplace!

Jewelry Prototyping Tips

An idea emerges and you hop to the drawing board itching to see what comes to life. In most scenarios this first iteration is probably not what you had in mind. Rather, the design will be modified for any number of reasons. This can be especially true when designing jewelry. A ring, bracelet, necklace or any accessory must fit, hold an appropriate scale, meet your personal aesthetic, and retain important details. All of these facets of the design can be perfected when brought to life with prototyping.

Ring Set

The cycle of designing has no beginning or end because your process may start at any given point and continue any number of times. Prototyping is one step within this iterative process, and it allows you to take a step back and consider how you can improve your design.

The Iterative Design Process

When should you prototype?

Consider it necessary to prototype when you are looking to create jewelry with custom sizes or settings, such as stone settings. By prototyping these products you can ensure that the piece of jewelry or stone will fit correctly for your final iteration.

In the early stages, it is best to prototype your jewelry design before selling to the public. Printing in a more low cost material to start gives you the opportunity to evaluate the scale and fit of your product, and will save you from returns and excess spending. Once you’ve approved your prototype, you can move onto some of our precious metal materials.

The difference between a render and a physical object is greater than one may anticipate. Although measuring your model will provide you with concrete dimensions, there is nothing like holding a design in your hand. In my experience the scale of certain design features or even the entire product are always larger or smaller than I prefer. With this intermediary step, I get the opportunity to correct and improve upon this.

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 10.39.39 AM

What material should you prototype in?

While your final design will most likely be printed in a cast metal or steel, your initial prototypes will not require one of these materials with a longer lead time and higher price point. Instead, initial prototyping can be printed with frosted ultra detail or strong and flexible. These materials are great for quick turn around and a fair understanding of the overall look and fit of your final product.


Frosted Ultra Detail:

This material is great for a clean and high detail finish, particularly if you are looking to print your final model in a cast metal.

Strong and Flexible:

For a lower price point prototype, you can print in strong and flexible. This material is also offered in rush production, for those who need to move quickly.

TIP: Please do keep in mind that different materials have similar but different guidelines. Make sure that while you are prototyping you are following the guidelines of the material you will ultimately be printing in.

Now after the initial prototypes are completed and you have made another cycle through the Iterative Design Process, a final prototype can be created in a beautifully polished or unpolished cast metal such as brass or bronze. These are particularly beneficial when looking to print your final model in silver, platinum, gold, or a precious plated metals.

final brass

Brass or Bronze:

Brass  and bronze are significantly less expensive and go through a similar production process as the other cast metals. These cast metal prototypes will demonstrate the extent of polishing you can expect and which tiny details will be able to make it through the production process.

three ring set

A prototype can be the stepping stone to a finalized design or even an inspiration for your next project. Skipping this step can be a missed opportunity to creating that perfect piece of jewelry.

If you are looking to learn more about the design process and the materials at Shapeways, take a look at the Back to the Basics for designers.

6 Fashion Trends to Design for in 2016

Having just relaunched our jewelry marketplace to better highlight micro-brands and feature curated collections, we’re excited to position ourselves as an excellent destination for holiday shoppers to snag some uniquely designed accessories. While we know our designers have already uploaded some incredible designs, we wanted to flag some trends we saw on the NYFW runway to give our makers a glance at what trend-setting shoppers may be looking for this season.

We’ve also included examples of existing products from Shapeways designers below!Silver reigns supreme:

We saw lots and lots of silver accessories on the runway this season– something to keep in mind when determining which materials you want to offer designs in.

Statement necklaces:

Oversized chokers and large necklaces were prevalent at shows including Balenciaga, Valentino, Loewe, Chanel, and Balmain. This was a fun opportunity to play with larger geometric designs, crazy pendants– great inspiration for designers looking to create some more unusual signature pieces.

Dodeca Horizontal Pendant by Studio Noesis

Earnestly large statements:

From Sachin and Babi to Creatures of the Wind to Altuzarra to Tory Burch, big earrings were everywhere. Large hoop earrings to geometric shapes, we’re excited to see that loads of our designers’ products seem to be similarly inspired.

Star Coral Earrings by Coraline Jewels

Ear cuffs:

Rodarte’s models wore extremely intricate ear cuffs which seemed floral-inspired (one even featured an insect). We’ve seen a number of ear cuffs in our marketplace, so it’s definitely an accessory ripe for design experimentation.


Brass Triangles Earcuff by 3Different

Interlocking Circles:

Hellessy sent models down the runway with some beautiful earrings which were made up of metal interlocking circles. This is a perfect trend to pull inspiration from, especially since Shapeways is the only company to offer interlocking metals!

Twisted Square Earrings by ByNatalia


Lots of designers (Isabel Marant, Christian Dior and Sonia Rykiel) were sending their models down the runway with asymmetrical earrings– allowing for some great variation. Other designers like Mugler, Anthony Vaccarello and Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, opted for the one-earring look. At Shapeways you’re able to order one earring, making it totally unnecessary to purchase a complete pair for this look.

Septum Rings:

While septum rings had a big moment last year, some made an appearance on the runway during the Monse show this NYFW. Shapeways designers have created a number of faux septum rings– a good option for people looking to try the look without committing to the actual piercing.

Septum Ring by PrimalCrafts

If you’re interested in more in-depth looks at these trends, we recommend checking out this Vogue roundup and this piece from Justine Carreon at Elle for coverage of this year’s trends.

3D Prints So Good You Can Smell Them

It’s a banner week at Shapeways. A week introducing not one, but two new material innovations.

Developed in junction with MIT to implant micro-particles into your 3D prints during the manufacturing process, our latest innovation lets you experience your prints like never before. Just in time for spring, this new material is sure to please your senses.

Watch the video below as Shapeways Material Explorer Anton Sensenbrenner and colleague Ralph discuss this amazing new frontier in 3D printing.


Click HERE to get started adding scents to your 3D prints!

And be sure to support Anton’s flower pot business here

3D Printing for Fashion: Interview with Alexis Walsh

Fashion Week may be wrapping up here in New York City, but that doesn’t mean that we’re finished exploring all the great work our fashion-driven community members are producing here at Shapeways. Today, we’ll be exploring the work of Alexis Walsh, a fashion designer turned 3D modeler who designed the LYSIS collection and the Spire Dress, recently featured in the Nire - Hopscotch music video.

Spire Dress, Designed by Alexis Walsh and Ross Leonardy

Alexis Walsh is a New York tri-state native that studied at Parsons the New School for Design until 2014. During her time at Parson’s, Walsh took a combination of fashion and product design courses. As her primary focus was in fashion, she became interested in exploring ideas about wearable sculptures, and utilizing non-traditional materials and techniques to create fashion items.

“Throughout my academic career, I’ve been interested in the idea of wearable sculpture. I’ve explored using materials like metal and plastic to create garments, even welding a dress out of steel rods and making a corset out of aluminum paneling. All of this was very rooted in the notion of handcraft. After doing some research and discovering that 3D printing allowed for the creation of incredibly complex forms, I decided to pursue it for fashion design. With additive manufacturing, you are enabled to create structures that would be impossible to produce through any other medium, and this seemed like the perfect vehicle to experiment with fashion design.” – Alexis Walsh, 2016

It was around this time that Walsh began to conceptualize The Spire Dress, which was one of the first 3D printed projects that Alexis worked on. The dress was printed at Shapeways in our White Strong and Flexible material, constructed out of 400+ individual tiles that were assembled by hand using metal ring connectors. While this is quite an ambitious project for anyone just getting started in 3D modeling, we asked Alexis about her experience teaching herself the tools of the trade.

“The idea of learning CAD modeling from scratch was definitely intimidating. There are so many programs, and there’s a pretty steep learning curve when first attempting to 3D model. It took countless hours of YouTube video tutorials, trial and error, and reading online troubleshooting forums before feeling comfortable with Rhino and Grasshopper. But once you get a handle on it, you can begin to learn everything fairly quick. You need to simultaneously be concerned with creating a model and with how the model will function as a physical printed object. 3D printing generally involves plastic, which takes some creativity to work into a wearable piece.” – Alexis Walsh, 2016

Realizing the tactile limitations of using only 3D printed plastic, Walsh set out to create her next fashion line, the LYSIS collection. The LYSIS collection features handmade garments that are combined with 3D printed components to give structure to each of the pieces. These works were able to come to life after she received the Shapeways Education Grant in Fall 2014.

Piece from the LYSIS Collection, 2016

Alexis is certainly not afraid of pushing the limits when it comes to combining materials and techniques to create fashion items. The LYSIS collection was created using a combination of software and hand-touch techniques to apply the fabric and leather. Alexis even went to far as to use the 3Doodler 3D printing pen to apply details to her smaller accessories, such as belts and chokers.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 1.55.53 PM
LYSIS Collection, Alexis Walsh

Alexis is one of the few designers that we’ve seen successfully created an entire collection of fashion items using 3D Printing, and we wanted to hear about her projections for the future of this budding industry are. How will this technology evolve, and what are her hopes for the future?

“3D printing for fashion is undeniably in its early stages. There has already been so much innovation happening within the past couple of years, and this will only further continue into the future. I’m very excited to see how the capabilities of printing textiles will progress, specifically softer and elasticized textiles that behave like fabric. There are enormous possibilities for 3D printing within the performance and athletic-wear industries. It’s been great to see iconic brands like CHANEL embracing 3D printing in their runway shows, and I’m looking forward to seeing more 3D printing in high fashion.” – Alexis Walsh, 2016

And finally, as we mentioned in last week’s blog post, we posed the question to Alexis about her thoughts on the viability for 3D printing as form for fashion manufacturing.

“There’s potential for 3D printing to be a viable method of fashion manufacturing, but I don’t think that the current technology is there yet. There’s a huge market for 3D printed jewelry and accessories right now, and in that regard additive manufacturing is a great method of production. With the way the industry is evolving, fashion is sure to follow suit, as soon as more advanced printing capabilities can be developed.” Alexis Walsh, 2016

On that note, within our conversations with Alexis she teased a few of her upcoming projects that specifically focus on jewelry and accessories. We’re so excited to see what she comes up with next!

Stay tuned for our continuing series of blog posts as we continue to talk with designers about the future of Fashion, Tech + 3D Printing.


3D Printed Steel Frequently Asked Questions Explained (Video)

One of our community’s favorite materials that Shapeways offers is our 3D printed stainless steel. We often get commonly asked questions that aren’t often easily explained for those without a technical or material science background. In order to better explain and educate the community about our steel material to help you guys better design your products, we’ve partnered with our steel 3D printing manufacturing partner ExOne to put together a few educational videos explaining the steel 3D printing process and commonly asked questions.

In this video ExOne technician Brandon Cary answers FAQs on our steel material.

This video demonstrates the process and technology involved in creating 3D printed steel parts.

We hope that you find these videos valuable and that they provide you with insight on the process and technology involved in creating your 3D printed steel parts. We plan to continue to creating useful and educational resources like these for the community.

3D printing custom trachea stents

Shapeways offers the chance for designers of all kinds to turn their ideas into reality – be that in the world of tech accessories, fashion innovation, art and design, and in this case, the medical world.

A group of clinicians, architects and engineers teamed together to create 3D printed traechea stents unique to the patient. We spoke with Noah Garcia who is working with Harvard doctors and MIT material specialists to spearhead this new world for airway stents. Starting off with CT scans, the engineers initially started with Formlab printers, but the lack of biocompatible material lead them to Shapeways. While we do not offer 3D printed biocompatible material, our castable wax offering allows the team to create molds that can be used for casting the necessary biocompatible materials. It’s really amazing to see this process – from the files to prototypes to a final wax version, it’s truly amazing to see how innovative this team is. The team has even offered a bronze “pendant” for fun!


How long have you (and/or members of your team) been in the medical field?
Most of our team has spent the majority of their academic and professional careers in the medical field, while other members of our team have had no medical experience at all. The process of creating custom stents required building a unique collaboration between clinicians, architects and engineers. Our clinical team knows a great deal about biology, physiology, and medical pathology, but little about 3D fabrication/computation, while our architects and engineers know a great deal about 3D fabrication, but little about biology. The crossbreeding of the medical and artistic professions is what has made this project possible. Our team includes George Cheng MD PhD, Erik Folch MD, Sebastian Ochoa MD, Mark Tibbitt PhD, Adam Wilson MS, Noah Garcia BArch, Robert Brik MS, Sidhu Gangadharan MD, and Adnan Majid MD. Dr. George Cheng is a clinician specializing in pulmonary medicine and has been leading this project.

How did you involve 3D printing in your practices? When did that begin?
Dr. Cheng first became interested in the possibilities of 3D printing after reading a 2013 article in the New England Journal of Medicine that detailed how researchers implanted a 3D printed tracheal splint into a pediatric patient with a collapsed airway. He believed that data from a CT scan of the chest could guide the production of airway stents or other airway prostheses. The research efforts were supported by Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology. The origin of the project was further documented in a Boston Globe article last year. Dr. Cheng recognized an opportunity to employ 3D printing technology as means to customize the trachea stents. Traditional stents are rudimentary extrusions, which do not fully represent the specific shape of a person’s airway. Airway obstruction from stenosis, malacia, or extrinsic compression can result in significant respiratory symptoms and decrease in patient’s quality of life. In recognizing that traditional stents may lead to significant complications, Dr.Cheng hypothesized ways to customize and optimize the forms. Traditional airway stents are made of silicone, metal, or hybrid materials, and are limited by their cost and complications. Common complications such as migration and granulation tissue formation may be related to inaccurate stent size and shape. Dr. Cheng and his team developed a workflow using CT scanners to extract 3D models of a patient’s trachea to guide the design of custom stent matched to the individual’s airway. The resulting 3D prints are anatomically accurate seamless surfaces, diagonal grids and circumscribed double ­helixes that follow the contours of a patient’s airway.

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From top left to bottom right, beginning with the CT scan model and ending with 3D prints. The CT scan is manipulated with Rhino and parametric modeling plug-ins. The inner surfaces of the trachea are isolated, a diagonal grid is mapped to the surface and the resulting diagrid is exported as a printable file.

Did you know how to 3D model prior to this project?
The engineers, architects and artists on our team are primarily experienced in digital computation for architectural and sculptural design. The clinicians, on the other hand, are experienced with producing 3D models from CT scanners. By bringing together these two worlds of art and science, we are able to achieve significant 3D modeling possibilities. There were scale and tolerance challenges to address when translating from digital models to 3D prints with certain materials, but we are continually making discoveries during the process. Our current challenge is to use the 3D printed forms to create molds and armatures that can support biocompatible materials. Shapeways’ castable wax material has us hopeful of achieving our goal. We’d hope to one day print in our biocompatible materials directly, but until then, we are limited by the available 3D printable materials. Our ideas are ahead of us in many ways, but we are excited to be learning and exploring the unknown.

Why tracheas? Will you experiment with more areas of the body?
The clinicians on our team specialize in pulmonary care and sub­specializes in the field of interventional pulmonology. One of the major disease entity they encounter is large central airway disease. Trachea stents can be deployed into and removed from an airway through minimal­ invasive procedures in a relatively short amount of time. As compared to a heart stent, which is much smaller and more dynamic, a tracheal stent has fewer variables with easier methods to control. Using the tracheal stent as a starting point, we are considering how our process might be applied to other areas of the body. For now, we are aiming to perfect the trachea stent and then explore how our methods can impact other parts of the body.

It’s fascinating to see and learn more about how 3D printing and the medical world are combining forces. Thank you for such a wonderful interview, Noah! Check out the pendant below, and let us know if you have a medical story to share with us in the comments below or by emailing community @


Opening our Porcelain Material Pilot to All

Ever since we introduced our new Porcelain material, we’ve been amazed at the creations our community has made with it. From vases to coffee cups to figurines, we’ve seen some amazing products come to life. Today, we’re excited to let you know any designer will be able to experiment with this beautiful material as we open up the Porcelain pilot program.



When Porcelain was first introduced, we kept the pilot closed so that we could work very closely with the designers in the program. Closed pilots (where we let designers in one at a time) allow us to control the maximum capacity so that we can focus on innovating, experimenting and specifying design guidelines. Because we allow designers to virtually make anything they want, we need to limit the capacity so that we can focus on learning before scaling our operation.


Porcelain is our first in-house developed material so we want to make sure it is as good as it can be before opening up to a larger group. We knew there would be a lot of questions surrounding such a new material and working with a smaller group allowed us to personally connect with them to help guide the design and printing process.


Here’s a few things we’ve learned so far:


  • We’ve developed our mold generation software and what types of geometry it can accept

  • We’ve honed our glazes so each unique one looks as brilliant as possible

  • We’ve expanded our team and standardized processes to get ready to scale the operations.



Because our closed pilot program has been going well, and we’ve been receiving requests from designers dying to join, we’ve decided to open up the pilot to any designer interested in experimenting with this new material. Our goal for this phase of the pilot is to scale up operations and have it ready to offer to shoppers in time for the holidays.



To sign up for the pilot program, and check out guidelines on designing for Porcelain, check out the Porcelain Material Page. Join the conversation on our forum to find comments, questions and other great designs being made.


We can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Mani Zamani’s Epic 3D Printed Toy Collection

Shapeways allows designers to leverage 3D printing in an interesting way, whether they are making innovative designs, custom products, or designs that are simply not possible without the use of 3D printing. A very eye catching Shapeways shop by designer Mani Zamani creates incredible SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) 3D printed toys that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without 3D printing technology.

Mani’s 3D printed toy collection called “Extra Terestri Aristocrats” are printed in our nylon plastic material and are available in various dyed colors. His toy designs are unique and take on complex and unimagined shapes. Some of his toy designs are printed with moving parts and are fully articulated without any assembly straight from the 3D printers.



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Here is a video of some of the models of Mani’s 3D printed toy collection which are also available for sale on his Shapeways shop.

Have you ever designed a 3D printed toy? If not our nylon plastic material is a great material for pushing the limits for what traditional toys are suppose to look like. Explore more 3D printed toys and creative designs from our community on our marketplace here.

Introducing Our Coolest Material Yet – Moon Dust!

Last year, 3D printers took off to print in space. Now, Shapeways is incredibly thrilled to announce that we’ve added the most innovative material to our portfolio yet – moon dust. Our engineers obtained samples from our friends at NASA  and developed a unique method for leveraging our current SLS printers to 3D print with this groundbreaking material.

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Moon dust surprisingly shares many of the same properties as the nylon powder we use in our SLS printers, so the design guidelines are the same. The finished product, though, has an extraordinary characteristic: a silver shimmer that only appears when held under moonlight. In daylight or under indoor lighting, moon dust products will have the same coloration as the color that we see the moon – a nice light gray with some white gradation. When held under moonlight, however, moon dust products have a beautiful, sparkly quality to them. Imagine how you will wow your family and friends with a smart phone case or bow tie that sparkles under moonlight, like the ones our community member created below!

Stay tuned for more details on our moon dust material, which we’ll open up to the public on the date of the next full moon. In the meantime use #ShapewaysMoonDust to let us know what you will design with this exciting new 3D printing material.

Happy creating!


Bigger is Better for Shapeways 3D Printing Bounding Box



Have you had to update everything from your case to your jean pocket size since upgrading your phone? We too have adapted to the bigger-is-better trend taking the product world by storm.

Announcing a Bigger Polished Strong & Flexible Bounding Box!

Thanks to a little R&D, we are excited to expand our current bounding box limitation for Dyed & White Strong & Flexible Polished from 150 x 150 x 150mm to 150 x 150 x 200mm!

This means that our entire Strong & Flexible Plastic family is iPhone 6 Plus case friendly! We look forward to seeing the colorful creations you polish with this expanded bounding box.

What other bounding boxes do you wish would expand?

Introducing 3D Printed Porcelain & Saying Goodbye to Our Current Ceramics Offering

We’re really excited to share a new, exclusive material at Shapeways: 3D printed porcelain.



3D Printed Porcelain R&D

For the past year and a half, we’ve been exploring new options for ceramics based on the feedback we’ve heard loud and clear from our community. You told us that you want ceramics that are faster, more durable, more functional, and more colorful. This material didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop us. We created an R&D taskforce who have been working hard in our secret lab to develop a new way of 3D printing beautiful, durable porcelain. This is our first major investment in end to end material R&D.

The new 3D printed porcelain is groundbreaking, with quality and detail that mirrors traditional ceramics processes and the design flexibility of 3D printing. Utilizing a castable porcelain body created by Dr. Stuart Uram of Core Cast Ceramics with the support of Albert Pfarr, we developed an innovative process for producing 3D printed porcelain products. By combining the SLS printers that produce our Strong and Flexible Plastic with an innovative porcelain casting process, we can create detailed and durable products that are fired and glazed just like conventional ceramics. Using the best of 3D printing and traditional ceramics, we’re able to create the sort of quality you could only find in high end, handmade porcelain.

Here’s what you can expect from 3D printed porcelain, only available at Shapeways:

  • Amazing Colors – From cobalt blue to matte black, 3D Printed Porcelain will be available in classic colors that call upon the porcelain tradition.
  • Durable & Functional – Porcelain is dishwasher, oven, and microwave safe. You can even make baking dishes and pizza stones!
  • Gorgeous Detail – Porcelain enables you to design with very high detail and thin, translucent glazes.
  • Big & Bold – The strength enables thick and larger products, so we’ll be able to help you scale to the whims of your imagination.


Community R&D and Pilot

To start, 3D printed porcelain will be available in a limited pilot with the goal of improving our process and design guidelines. When we are ready to deliver amazing results to the masses, we’ll open this up as a material available for sale to shoppers in our marketplace.

If you are an experienced designer and would like to be considered for the pilot, Sign up here. We’ll start with a small group and expand as we learn more.



What does this mean for the current 3D printed ceramics?

You have probably noticed that ceramics has been plagued with problems for a while. For the last several months, our production partner for ceramics has been operating with significant delays. In order to ensure we set the right expectations, we’ve had to increase lead times from 13 days to 18 days to 22 days over the course of the last year.

At 22 days, our production partner was only shipping at 30% on time, which is simply unacceptable. We increased lead time to 45 days in October to set more accurate expectations, but whether you’re creating products for your business or waiting for a gift, these delays are unacceptable.

Given the uncertainty and delays, we had to make a hard decision and, as of today, will stop offering the current ceramics materials for the foreseeable future. Designers selling in ceramics are in the loop and will be key partners for us in the pilot and future R&D. We’re incredibly disappointed to have to take this step, but you deserve better.

Still reading?
Our goal is to make 3D printing affordable and accessible so that you can make amazing products. Unfortunately, current 3D printed ceramics just didn’t cut it anymore. We’re excited to bring an entirely new material to the design community and more than anything else, we cannot wait to see what you make! Here’s a teaser of porcelain in action:

Shapeways Launches SVX, a Voxel Based File Format for 3D Printing

Shapeways has created a new SVX format for transmitting voxel data for 3D printing. After much research we found no existing format that satisfied our requirements. Our primary design priorities are simple definition, ease of implementation, and extensibility. There are plenty of things you could dislike about the STL format, but it’s brevity and simple implementation are not one of them.


A voxel is a 3D dimensional pixel. Most 3D printers work internally with voxel like representations. Your 3D model is sliced into 2D image slices, each pixel represents a dot of material that the printer builds your object with. Voxel formats allow direct control over those dots. One promise of 3D printing is that complexity is free. Sadly with STL files we’ve had the disconnect that more complexity equals more triangles equals larger files. Above a certain limit you just can’t use triangles to specify the details you want in a 3D printed model. Whether that information be material allocation, density, RGB color both internal and external or a custom id that could be used for another variable, not yet available in the 3D printers on the market.

Another area that is interesting for voxel usage is in making printable objects. A mesh for 3D printing needs to meet certain mathematical properties. It is easier to write voxel software that meets these demands. This makes the barrier to entry much lower for writing creators and its especially easy to include 2D imagery into your designs. See ShapeJS for some examples. One area that is typically tricky is turning voxels into triangles. We’ve worked hard to provide some nice routines for much high quality conversion to triangles when necessary. When you upload a voxel model to Shapeways you’ll be leveraging that work, just concentrate on making the voxels right and we’ll handle the triangles if needed.

You can view the new format specification at: SVX Format. We’ve added support for voxel uploads at Shapeways so you can start sending full resolution voxel files now!