Category Archives: Tutorials

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.


Help with 3D Printing directly from Photoshop CC

You may recall back in January, we announced our partnership with Adobe, who enabled 3D printing directly through Photoshop Creative Cloud to Shapeways.

Using this feature, artists, photographers, designers, and other Photoshop users can create and prepare designs for 3D printing.

Adobe has created two custom video tutorials to help you use Photoshop CC for 3D printing:

Designer Paul Trani, Adobe’s Senior Creative Cloud Evangelist, shows you how he made a custom iPhone case directly from Photoshop with a personalized message: “Create Now”!

Custom iPhone case designed by Paul Trani

Custom iPhone case designed by Paul Trani

To get more hands-on, this Photoshop Creative Cloud Tutorial on 3D Printing is a three-part video course that takes you through an entire design-to-print project in Photoshop.

Source: Adobe HelpX

Source: Adobe HelpX

No matter what your level of design experience, we encourage you to check out the tutorials and give it a shot because they’re super informative and easy to follow.


How to convert 2D images into 3D models with our 2d to 3D app

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If want to get started creating models for 3D printing quickly and easily, our 2D to 3D app easily enables you to convert a 2D image or drawing to a 3D design. In our latest video tutorial, Laurie from our Customer Service team walks you through how to use our 2D to 3D app, complete with expert tips and tricks. 

In this tutorial, you will learn:

  • What images work best for 2D to 3D app
  • How to create depth in your design with grayscale
  • How to extrude and scale your design in 3D
  • How to review your model’s printability

Looking for more inspiration for 2D to 3D design? Check out Aimee’s video on how she made her personalized #icant necklace!  


Adapting and Designing your Character Model or Animation for 3D Printing

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In case you missed the Design Tips for Preparing your Render/Animation Model for 3D Printing tutorial, here it is. And now it’s time for Part 2, a video tutorial!

This step by step tutorial will take you through adapting your character models and animation designs for 3D printing.

We start with the process of selecting a Shapeways material, and go through relevant design guideline means. In the example portrayed in the video, the designer is working with Full Color Sandstone

Key video takeaways—what to keep in mind when preparing your design for 3D print:

  • Maxing bounding box—how large your 3D model can be printed
  • Wall thickness
  • Wire thickness
  • Clearance—especially if you want interlocking parts
  • Material Traits—if an appendage is too thin, it could snap
  • Sandcastle Rule—If you made your model out of sand, would it collapse?
  • Positioning of model—Can it stay in tact through handling?
  • Color shades—Do you have too many browns and skintones in your model?

Now you can bring your animations and geometries to life with 3D printing! Start by uploading your design today.


Design Tips for 3D printing in Stainless Steel

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Thinking of creating jewelry, a mechanical part, prototype, or small sculpture in Steel? No matter what you plan on crafting in Steel, we’ve got your design guide here.

When it comes to designing for Steel, there are five tips you should keep in mind:
  • Support geometries during the green state
  • Support walls during the green state
  • Round any external edges
  • Round any internal edges
  • Provide adequate surface area at connection points
Because of the unique production process for Steel, it’s important to keep this design tips top of mind. It’ll help ensure you get a consistent, stronger print and round edges.
Read the entire tutorial here for more about design guidelines for 3D printing in Steel. And don’t forget to keep in mind the Steel material guidelines.
Think you got it? We don’t take up any more of your time — start uploading your design here.


How I Made 3D Printed Earrings from a Drawing with Shapeways

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If you are looking for inspiration, design advice and ideas for how you can use 3D Printing to realize your creative vision, we are excited to share a new series in our tutorials section: “How I Made,” written by designers in the Shapeways community to share their unique perspectives, design processes, tips, tricks, and tools.

The first in the series features artist Megan Sawyer, a Carnegie Mellon graduate who works at a software company and is a fan of bats. Megan says, “I love bats, and thought bat wings would be such a cute and spooky alternative to the normal angel wing designs for earrings. But, I was disappointed by the selection of spooky earrings for people with stretched/gauged ears!”

She decided to make her own custom earrings and signed up for the Intro to 3D Printing Skillshare class taught by Lauren Slowik, Shapeways Designer Evangelist.

Megan’s tutorial walks readers through the design process from sketch, importing to 3D modeling software, preparing the model for 3D printing, uploading and ordering from Shapeways, and refining and improving on her design. 

Read the full tutorial here and learn more about how you create 3D Printed earrings and can bring your own ideas from sketch to finished product with Shapeways.

Let us know what else you’d like to see and learn from your fellow community members or inspire others with your own “How I Made” tutorial by reaching out to us at!


Managing your Shapeways Shop Facebook Fan page Best Practices

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Savannah here, just popping in to introduce you to our latest series of Shop Owner Tips & Tricks. The glorious signs of spring are everywhere, and that means it’s time for Spring Shop Cleaning! You all did such an impressive job with the Fall Shop Owner Challenge, we wanted to follow up and help you have your biggest Summer of sales yet! Many members of the staff and community are pitching in with inspiring stories and ways to make your Shapeways Shop more successful. Today, Eric, our Social Media Manager is letting you in on some Facebook pro tips! 

Ready to get more eyes on your designs? Time to tap the largest social network on Earth. If you currently have shop open on Shapeways or are thinking about opening one, Facebook is a great platform for establishing your brand and engaging your customers. Today we will highlight basic best practices for managing your shops Facebook Fan page so that you can use all the tools the platform has to offer to your best advantage. 

1) Have eye catching fan page profile and cover photos that highlight your brand

As you can see above, Joy Complex does a great job having a beautiful cover photo that aligns with their shop’s profile image. You can find the photo dimensions for Facebook pages here

2) Post Fun, Engaging, and Visual Content 

Content is king on social media and every second you’re competing for eyeballs on your followers Newsfeed. The best way to get the attention of your audience is through engaging content that includes catchy visuals like pictures or video. Keep your posts short, include a photo, have a call to action, and always link back to your shop. Try to keep your content relevant, have a sense of humor, be fun, inspiring, and open with your fans. 

3) Post at the best times and optimizing your content for Facebook Newsfeed algorithm

The organic reach of your pages Facebook posts gets seen by fewer people due to the frequent changes in the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm. Here’s how to optimize your content posts without having to pay to pay to sponsor your posts

  • Including multiple photos in a post and create visual rich Facebook photo albums
  • Looking at your page analytics and posting at the times where people online and are more likely to see your post. 
  • Post on weekends
  • Sharing news content, blog posts, articles relevant to your work
  • Post 3-4 times throughout the day 

4) Engage, Interact, and Listen to your audience

Get social with your fans! Initiate conversation, join the conversation, and recognize your top evangelist. What counts as an “engagement” on Facebook is a Like, Comment, or share. When someone comments on your Fan page, reply or ‘Like’ their post to acknowledge their feedback. 

Spread the love: By liking and engaging by other artists, designers and makers you further enrich the community we’re all apart of. Conversation karma goes a long way. Be sure and check your page daily.

5) Check Your Page Insights and Analytics 

Use the the page analytics section on your Facebook fan page to track your audience growth, reach from your content posts, along with fan page engagement metrics. It’s important to monitor which content performs the best according to the data which you can use to influence your decision making. 

6) Run Contest and Promotions 

People love contest, giveaways, and promotions. Most importantly, everyone loves free stuff. Give your fans an incentive to come back to your page and engage with your content. This can be something as simple getting users to ‘Like’ your fan page, share their email address, commenting on your page posts. 

7) Use Facebook as your Fan page instead of as ‘You’ 

By using Facebook as your fan page, you’re able to filter out your personal newsfeed and insights from your fan page’s. Your fan page can also ‘Like” other fan pages and you can follow their updates. 

8) Create scheduled content / Use a social media management application 

We don’t always have time to sit in front of a computer and post content real time. That’s why it’s important to schedule content to post during time’s you’re not online using Facebook’s schedule post feature or through a free social media content management application like Buffer or Hootsuite

9) Manage Facebook on mobile with the Facebook Pages Manager app

Mobile devices play a big part in our everyday lives so being able to manage your social media presence via mobile will give you an advantage. You can download the free Facebook Pages Manager App on itunes and on Google Play to help you manage your brand’s Facebook page on the go. 

10) Think like a creative consumer 

Ask yourself “What am I doing to make my content grab the attention of my audience?”. Is it a catchy tagline? Or maybe a funny photo? It could even be something that triggers an emotional response. The goal is to think like a creative consumer. If you were scrolling down your news feed ask yourself if your content engaging enough for someone’s attention. 

While maintaining a Facebook fan page takes some advance planning and energy to upkeep, it’s a great way to actively engage your customers and keep them personally involved and updated about your brand’s activities and the products you are creating. Do you have a fan page for your Shapeways shop? What are strategies you have found work for you?  


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

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

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

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

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


Shop Owner Holiday Tips Series: #9: Pay to Play

Once your shop is set up for holiday sales, you’re well on your way to being optimized for selling into the new year. These last few tips are going to help you set up a longer term strategy for maintaining a good shop.
By now you’ve hopefully been running a successful shop, your friends and family flock to it, bloggers are driving traffic, and you’ve got good data from google analytics to show you whats happening and how to adjust it. 
The next step is advertising. A quick and easy introduction to advertising is by using Google AdWords.
You create ads and choose keywords, which are words or phrases related to your products. Your ads appear on Google and when people search on Google using one of your keywords, your ad may appear next to or above the search results. This means you’re advertising to an audience that’s already interested in you. Read more and get started
Why bother with advertising you ask? Shapeways designer Seth Alexander of Masterworks shares his story:
I have a different ad with different keywords for each set of dice and more general ads for related products such as DND. I’m currently running 8 ads, each with 5 or more keywords.

For my Steampunk Dice ad I use these keywords:
Steampunk, steampunk shop, steampunk gear, steampunk theme, steampunk dice, steam punk shop, steam punk gear, steam punk dice, steam punk theme
Generally, you want to avoid very general keywords such as ‘dice’ or ‘Shapeways’ since these tend to draw a high click-through rate but no sales. This means you will be paying a cost per click but getting nothing in return. The keyword ‘Steampunk’ is debatable because it’s so general but I decided to leave it because Steampunk itself is a niche market.

AdWords has doubled my sales from approximately 25 sales/month to 50 sales/month. It costs me approximately 25% of the monthly Shapeways income at my current settings. So the net profit is a 50% gain from AdWords. I would need more time to study the statistics as this is only a 3 month analysis, but I believe it is worth it! 

As you probably already know, getting linked on major news sites and blogs has the largest effect and AdWords will add visibility, so those stories are more likely to appear.
What an inspiring story, thank you Seth!
And there you have it, our top tips for your shop. Happy shaping and wishing you lots of sales!


Shop Owner Holiday Tips Series: #8 Data is Your Friend

We’re back with the seventh in our series of Shop Owner tips to help you get your shop ready for the holiday season.

Once your shop is set up for holiday sales, you’re well on your way to being optimized for selling into the new year. These last few tips are going to help you set up a longer term strategy for maintaining a good shop.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know if all the things you were doing to improve your shop were actually working? Data to the rescue! While scary at first (to me at least!) data really can be your friend by letting you:

1. Keep track of sales

2. See where traffic is coming from

3. Use it to your advantage

1. Keep track of Sales

As a Shapeways shop owner, you have a great tool at your disposal: The Sales Overview Download located on your My Shop page. The Sales Overview Download (XLS) allows you to see exactly what models you’re selling in which material, when they have shipped, and which country they were shipped to. With this data you will be able to create your own shop analytics which can help you improve the performance of your shop. This great blog post dives into the details.

How is this helpful? If you see that you make most of your sales in silver, you can tailor your designs to sell even more. If you see most of your sales coming from Japan, you could think about what items might appeal to that specific market. You don’t  know what you don’t know until you experiment and measure!

2. See where traffic is coming from

Ever wanted to know exactly how many hits you get in your shop on any given day? Where they come from? What keywords they used to find you? How long they stayed on your page?

Google Analytics can tell you all those things! Check out this handy tutorial for setting up Google Analytics in your shop. It’s as easy as pasting a quick code and unleashes a lot of data you can use to improve your marketing efforts.

3. Use it to your advantage!

Using the data, you discover how to tailor your shop to your customers. For example, if you see a lot of traffic coming from Twitter, (like we do!) you might consider tweeting more often about your products. If you tag @shapeways with it, we’ll often re-tweet it or favorite it, exposing your product to all of Shapeways followers (10,000 and counting!). Read more about it in this handy Shapeways guide to Twitter.

Alternatively, you might find that a lot of the traffic to your page is coming from search, in which case you would want to consider AdWords or optimizing your descriptions for search even further.

So dive into data, you might be surprised by what you find. Next week we’ll take a look at advertising, and using those AdWords that Google may send your way just for signing up for Analytics!


Shop Owner Holiday Tips Series: #7 Fan Engagement

We’re back with the seventh in our series of Shop Owner tips to help you get your shop ready for the holiday season.

Once your shop is set up for holiday sales, you’re well on your way to being optimized for selling into the new year. These last few tips are going to help you set up a longer term strategy for maintaining a good shop.
One of the great things about 3D printing is the ability to quickly iterate a design.  You make a product, say a pair of earrings, and after wearing them for a few days, you realize they are actually a bit long, and catch in your hair. It’s easy to go back to the computer and modify the design. Similarly, if your customers give you feedback, you can incorporate it into the design, like adding popular colors or different sizes.

While advertising and promotion is important to get your products known out there, having a conversation with your customers is often more powerful than just broadcasting a message. Customers feel like they get input into a product they are buying, just the same way you feel when you design something for 3D printing! Best of all, they get to tell a cool story, like this one from Pete, our CEO:

“I saw this cup on Shapeways so I bought it to use in the office…
I like to have a little milk and one sugar cube in my espresso. I found that once I added the sugar cube, my coffee would overflow, so I emailed the designer Kostika Spaho, to make the cup just 10% bigger. He modified the design, I ordered it and now I have a perfect cup for the way I like my coffee.”
Something we introduced at Shapeways that should make conversations easier is @mentions!  When your username is @mentioned in a model comment, you will receive a notification. If you @mention someone’s username they will also receive a notification. It’s the best way to have a conversation with a designer or to recommend a product to someone else in the Shapeways community. (You can view your most recent mentions by clicking on the @ notifications icon next to your profile image in the top navigation bar.) So if a customer is shopping on the site and sees a product they wish could be customized, they can @mention you and start a conversation. You can also see who has favorited your products, and @mention them in the comments.
Here’s a great example of a conversation about this Peep Pendant by RustyLab

So what are you waiting for! Get chatting to your customers, and see how much customer engagement drives sales. 


Holiday Shop Owner Tips Series: #6 Promotion

We’re back with the fifth in our series of Shop Owner tips to help you get your shop ready for the holiday season.

Your shop is ready, your products look great, so now it’s time to promote yourself! We love the incredible designs that you create on Shapeways and we do what we can to promote you via our blog, the Holiday Gift Guide and our weekly newsletter. To get the most success for your products you can’t just rely on broadcasting, you need to go where your audience is. 

The first step is to tell your friends, using your own social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google + and your own blog or website if you have one.  The next step is to go beyond your social networks, and spread the word to blogs and magazines, people who have a bigger reach than just you.

With your tags and description you already know who might be the best person to buy your product, so it’s time to think about where they lurk. Which blogs do they read? Which blogs cover products similar to yours? For example, if you made something related to gaming or memes, reddit is a great place to feature it. Made something arty and gorgeous? Tumblr’s your best bet. Does your product have moving parts? Making a video helps to bring it to life. Posting it on YouTube exposes it to a whole new community of viewers, and you can link your video back to your shop, and embed it directly into your product page.

Here are two great excerpts of ideas from our community members, read their full posts for more details.

Joaquin Baldwin describes how to make your product go viral in this informative post about his Seed of Ygrassil sculpture

Think about which blogs would be interested in your product, and send them a short email tailored to their audience. Save them some time by writing it in the way they would write an article, make it short and to the point and include clear images.  Try to make your text interesting, tell a story with it and explain what you created and why its cool.
Alex Delderfield shares his tips on launching new products in his Designer Spotlight about his Minecraft figures:

I wanted prototypes of the models printed, pictures for galleries ready, videos, various other networking and popular sites covered and a website all ready for the first day of my designs going ‘public’ to the world.

Have any tips to share? Post them in the comments, and let us know what you do to make your holiday season fruitful! 


Holiday Shop Owner Tips Series: #5 Merchandising

We’re back with the fifth in our series of Shop Owner tips to help you get your shop ready for the holiday season.

Merchandising is all about designing for the occasion.  You already have products, you simply need to tweak them to appeal to holiday shoppers.

People usually shop with one of three things in mind: type of gift, price, and recipient. Knowing this, you can make it easier for them to find your products by tagging your products according to potential recipient, theme and occasion. Tagging is the fastest way to help you hit different categories.

Read Tip #3 on discovery for more about tagging your products. Tags relating to themes and occasions can be as broad as holiday, christmas, Valentine’s, mother’s day, fathers day, birthday, even just the simple tag of gift will help you get found in search. Tags relating to recipients can be broad too: men, women, parents, children, hostess gift, secret santa, teacher, stocking stuffer.

You can also use the description and photos to highlight gift ideas.Gunter Art and Design shows how his jewelry is perfect for a girl by using his own girlfriend in his photos.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of seasonal gifts! Ornaments, hostess gifts and decorations for the home are all popular choices. This great snowflake generator from Kimotion Arts is a perfect example of an inexpensive ornament that makes a great gift. A lego snowflake? Perfect for the man, child or techie in your life!

3D Printed Lego Tree Ornament

Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Share them in the comments!

And for those in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving!


Quick Tip: Finding the Center of Mass of a Model

Do you need to know if your model is properly balanced? The first step is to determine where it’s center of mass will be. Fredd shared an excellent tip on the forum – you can use the free MeshLab software to calculate it!

Fredd writes:

Meshlab can detect it:

  • Import your model, click Filter/Quality Measures and Computations/Compute Geometric Measures.
  • Then click show layer dialog icon. [It] looks like a sheaf of papers (It is under the Window in the top header)
  • Center of mass looks like what you are looking for. Plus gives bounding box dimensions, surface area and volume.

Lots of goodies, besides it being free.

Thanks Fredd!!

I plotted the result for ‘Suzanne’ in the image to the right.


Shop Owner Holiday Tips Series: #4 Personalization & Shapeways Co-Creators

We’re back with the fourth in our series of Shop Owner tips to help you get your shop ready for the holiday season.
Personalization is one of the most popular ways to make a gift special. Not coincidentally, it is one of the greatest things we can do with 3D printing! Luckily, it’s easy too.
If you have a model that can be personalized, you can turn it into a co-creator. Good models that could be personalized include rings, tags, keychains, company logos, business card holders, and iPhone cases. The list is endless!
Making a model into a Co-Creator is easy. On your My Models page, under the description there is a link to make this model a Co-Creator

You will get this pop-up where you can specify what is able to be customized on your model whether it is adding text, adding an image or even changing the size. You also indicate how long it will take you to make these changes once someone has ordered your model.

Best Practice Examples. Kaetemi makes this customizable keychain that can have custom images.

This is the what the customer sees for kaetemi’s model:

Another example is Ovidu Opresco’s ring which is able to be customized with text and for ring size.

For more instructions, see this tutorial page on Co-Creators and consider if any of your models could become co-creators. 

As always, if you have tips or any questions, share them here!