Category Archives: Design

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Build Your 3D Printing Reputation

This is the first in our new series, Shop Owner Bootcamp: 10 week countdown to Black Friday. Every week we will be discussing advanced tips and tricks for optimizing your holiday sales. This week’s focus is reputation. 

Can you feel it? The churn of excitement that only comes with Holiday season and sales? We are just 10 weeks away from Black Friday and it’s time to whip our Shops into shape.

Vijay-Paul-Dotsan-Stag

Wired Life Stag by Dotsan

This week we’re focused on Reputation. Customer trust is the single most important factor when it come to repeat business. Knowing that they can get something unique, custom, and awesome from you that works as expected is crucial to the growth of your business. How do you build this customer trust? Back when I was on the UK roadshow, Vijay Paul of Dotsan, one of the most trusted designers on Shapeways, was kind enough to discuss reputation and tips for building it with us.  He’ll be guiding us all as we ramp up to holiday with our new Shop Owner Series.

Video produced by Stephen Greenwood, with help from yours truly

Consider this checklist your challenge for the week:

  • Print Your Models- Much of what we create has never been done before, and unexpected things happen to even the best designs from the best designers. The only way you can ensure form and function will be as you hope and expect for your customer, is to print it for yourself first. We know that with nearly 50 materials offered now, from plastic to platinum, that printing in all of them may not be an option. That’s okay, focus on ways you can paint the best picture for your customers. For example, even if its not possible to print a product of yours in a premium alloy like gold or silver, our stainless steel finishes can give the customer a very good idea of what to expect.
  • Document Your Process- One of the most compelling things about Shapeways is that every product has a story. Taking photos of the iterations that didn’t make the cut and illustrating how you’ve improved a design over time lets customers know you care about your products. It gives them the confidence that you’re not selling something you wouldn’t try yourself, and shows them your keen design eye.
  • Engage With Your Customers- Shapeways now shares the user name of a customer if they made the purchased logged in. Make a note to check back with them after the product should have shipped and see what they thought! Encourage them to post their photos in the comments on your product page, letting others browsing know how great your work is. Be open to updating your design based on their feedback, these early adopters can give you great UX advice!
  • Be Yourself- In your brand, in the products you design, in the product descriptions you write. This is your business, your baby, and the more it aligns with who you are, the more it will sing. Talk about your inspiration for the piece in the product description, upload photos to your personal and shop profile; and make the Shapeways Shopping experience personal!
  • Complete your Profile- Seeing a face and lineup of great products instills confidence in any consumer. Knowing who is behind the brand encourages people to try it out. Uploading your avatar is more critical than ever, now that your designer card shows up on every product page. Include your twitter handle so shoppers can chat with you easily on the go. Make a sweet shop banner. Invest in this now, so when traffic floods your shop around holiday, you like the reputable, fabulous business you are.

Next week we’ll be talking about the importance of photography and tagging in the getting your products discovered. Feel free to get a head start!

What help do you need to take your shop to the next level? Feel free to ask for guidance here or in our Marketing Your Shapeways Shop thread on our forums.


 

Extend the Function iPhone 6 Design Contest

Duann'sCase

Are you ready for your next design challenge? In honor of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6, and in our tradition of powering the coolest phone cases in the world, and our ability to bring some of the first cases to market, we’re launching “Extend the Function” an iPhone 6 case design challenge! The goal of the challenge is to extend the function of your phone or of your favorite app, maximizing the capabilities of the iPhone 6. 3D printing lets us combine form and function like never before and we cannot wait to see what Apple’s latest innovation inspires you to design.

Ethan Imboden

We have a special guest judge for this competition, Ethan Imboden, the Head of Venture Design at Frog. Ethan is a serial innovator and incredibly talented designer, we are all lucky to have him as our guest expert! He will be using his keen eye when evaluating the best combination of form and function in the winning case. The winner will receive $500 in Shapeways credit!

Duann, our resident designer of awesome things, has generously put together a basic case based on the specs apple released this weekend. You can find it in his shop on Shapeways and on tinkercad.

When designing functional products like iPhone cases it is really important to specify the right materials and wall thicknesses.  Shapeways Nylon (WSF) is by far the best material to use for your iPhone case.  Keep wall thickness and wires to at least 1mm thickness.  We have designed the case at 1.2mm so that you can engrave the design with a 0.5mm cut and still keep 0.7mm thick which is the minimum.  It is always best to add rounded edges so that the product is not sharp, and adding a fillet between perpendicular planes makes the connection much stronger, and will reduce the chance of the part cracking.

Enter the contest by uploading and tagging your model “SWiPhone6” on Shapeways. Share it with your friends using the hashtag #ShapewaysiPhone on social media for bonus points!

You have until Midnight on October 1st, here in the city that never sleeps. How are you going to step up your case design?

Terms and Conditions

  • No purchase necessary.
  • Maximum of five entries per person. By entering this competition, entrants will be deemed to have accepted and agreed to the conditions.
  • No cash or other alternative prizes available. The prize draw is not open to Shapeways employees or their families.
  • The promoters decision is final – in case of dispute, no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Winning entries will be documented and printed by Shapeways and may be used for promotional purposes.
  • Contestants models must be uploaded to Shapeways and tagged #SWiPhone6 to be considered.
  • Winners retain all IP as per Shapeways standard terms and conditions. Winners and winning entries may be required to take part in any publicity resulting from this competition.
  • The winner will be contacted by Monday 6th of October, 2014
  • Promoter: Shapeways, 419 Park Avenue South, #900, New York, NY, USA, 10016.




 

Conversation with designer Michiel Cornelissen about opening MCHL designstore featuring his 3D printed products

design store retail Utrecht

Dutch designer Michiel Cornelissen just opened MCHL, an independent design store with innovative products from housewares to jewelry and electronics accessories, in Utrecht in the Netherlands. As it might be the only design store of its kind in the world where the majority of the collection is 3D printed I asked Michiel more about launching a retail store and how 3D printing is powering his business.

Tell us a little about your boutique MCHL. What can shoppers expect to find there?

MCHL is a design shop which has items in all the categories you’d expect: small furniture pieces, interior items and jewellery. What sets it apart is that most items there are made using ‘democratic’ production technologies such as 3d printing; and I always try to use that to my advantage, putting little innovations in just about every design that’s in the shop. And I think you’ll see my love of pattern and structure coming back in many of the products on offer.

3D printed design store

You already sell your designs all around the world at places like MoMA designs store in New York and Japan, the Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris. What inspired you to open a freestanding boutique? How do you hope the boutique will help your design business evolve?

I’m extremely lucky to have encountered people and brands that have helped me reach a worldwide public with some of my products – a dream come true. Shapeways itself is a great, innovative channel, where I’m happy to have a presence. But there were always so many ideas that somehow still couldn’t get out there; for instance, products that combine 3D printing with other, non standard materials; and some products are simply too expensive for wholesale margins, but work perfectly well when I sell them directly. In MCHL, we can bring all those products together and offer them in an environment that we can design exactly like we would like it to be; hopefully offering a truly wonderful shopping experience to our customers.

3D printed design Michiel Cornelissen

Also, it’s a really good experience for me to be in such direct contact with customers; seeing what works, and perhaps what doesn’t. We’ve also noticed that having a physical presence in the city is a great way to get to know people, some of whom are even turning into either clients or suppliers.

3D printed design

How has 3D printing helped you grow your design business? What opportunities do you think 3D printing offers to independent business owners such as yourself?

Although I happily work with clients totally outside of the 3D printing arena, I can safely say that 3D printing is becoming very much intertwined with my business. There’s my own work in 3D printing, such as what you can find in MCHL, but I also help companies research what 3D printing can mean for them. And I’m working on product design and creative direction for a well-known 3D printing manufacturer now – a perfect match for my interests.
In general, one important aspect of 3D printing is that it’s lowering barriers for the production of physical objects – which has enabled me to open my shop, but it also puts the creation of great, innovative products in reach of many more people then before.

3D printed design necklaces Michiel Cornelissen

What’s next for MCHL?

Because design, production and sales are so closely linked now, it seems like there’s something new in MCHL every week, and we’re definitely trying to keep that up. Beyond that, there are plans, but some are rather wild and far off – so it’s probably best to keep them to myself for now.

Visit Michiel Cornelissen’s Shapeways Shop to see more of his products and MCHL at Oudegracht 254, Utrecht, The Netherlands or on the web or Facebook


 

3D Print iPhone 6 and Apple Watch Accessories

Update: Apple has released the design files for the iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus! Page 16 and 17 of this pdf have everything you need to know to design a case for these awesome new phones. Be sure and enter our contest and be one of the first iPhone 6 cases ever 3D Printed!

Original Post: Did you watch the Apple announcement? Are you excited about the new iPhone 6/6plus? Are you counting the seconds until you can get your hands on the Apple Watch?

AppleWatchRender

UPDATE 9/11: Some amazing Shapeways Community Members put together a <beta> 3D CAD file of the Apple Watch! It’s based on the specs Apple announced, and while not Apple official, should serve as a great starting point for all interested in designing Apple Watch accessories. You can download the .stl of the Apple Watch design files here. Special thanks to Michael Christensen for sharing this in our Apple forum!
iPhone6
I’ve been counting the minutes for months now and seeing Phil show off the iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus and seeing Super Evil Megacorp’s gaming experience made me drool millions of pixels in anticipation of their September 19th launch into the world. The new iPhone camera has Focus Pixels, which means you’re essentially carrying a DSLR in your pocket. Just imagine, our 3D scans will be sharper than ever!
iphone camera
Shapeways has always been one of the first to market with accessories when new consumer electronics come out. Our communities ability to responsively create designs and leverage our short lead times is unparalleled by any other accessories company in the world. The cases that you’ll see in the Apple store were modeled months ago and have been in production all summer. Alongside the new phones, Apple announced a new line of silicone and leather cases, but I think we know our Nylon looks the coolest when it comes to pimping your iDevices. We are eager to see what cases, stands and accessories you make for this new line of apple products and will handsomely reward those who do it best (details to come when the design files are announced by Apple later in September).
iphones

Design files

Shapeways has a long history of being one of the first to market with iAccessories. We were keeping the iPhone classy back in early 2012 with this 4/4s MacPro Case:macpro case

We gave you the design files the moment they were available for the exciting new iPhone 5, hosting a contest around it. The Sweater Case by ArtizanWork that won is still a favorite of ours to show off at events and through our crew kits!
sweater case
We also brought you the iPad Mini files that same October. All in all, we power over 2600 products that fall in the iPhone category. Let’s round out our Apple Fan Boy and Girl offerings and incorporate all these awesome new products.

Now you can start brainstorming the iPhone 6 and iWatch cases you want to design in our Apple and iGadgets thread in the forum. Hit the sketchbook or the sketchup and get creative! The bigger form factor gives you more design real estate than ever before. We will update this post and announce a contest as soon as Apple releases the Design Files.

On a fun historical and sentimental note, this Apple Fan Girl can’t help but ask, 30 years after Steve Jobs announced the Macintosh (the anniversary is today) do you think Apple is still as innovative as they were under Steve?
timeandsteve


 

Conversation with Jodi Slater on Her New Collection of 3D Printed Accessories for Fitbit and Jawbone

3D printed jewelry for Fitbit and Jawbone

Bytten accessories for Jawbone and Fitbit. Photo Credit: Carly Gaebe – Steadfast Studios

Jodi Slater is no tech novice. She started her career as a programmer, including some work  on the original Tron, helped design the user interface for the first wireless Palm Pilot, and has since advised countless companies on user experience and new media.

The very talented Slater is now turning her attention to her fitness tracker, an accessory that she feels could use a facelift. Her new adventure, Bytten, sits at the intersection of fashion and technology and includes a line of beautiful 3D printed accessories for Jawbone & Fitbit. After reading this Q&A, we advise you to #getbytten.

What is the inspiration for Bytten?

Bytten was born out of a personal need – my Fitbit was not making the cut when I tried to style it with my other jewelry. I wanted to be able to wear it all the time, not just when I was working out. I had been tracking the wearable tech fashion ‘phenom’ and was and still am very excited about all the innovation that is percolating in that space. I decided to develop a line of accessories for existing fitness trackers as a way to solve an immediate need and to start building a brand. The Lucas Slide is our first collection for Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP. It is available in Brass, Silver, Gold, and 9 colors of Strong & Flexible Plastic (thank you Shapeways!).

3D printed jewelry for Fitbit and Jawbone

Bytten accessory for Jawbone. Photo Credit: Carly Gaebe – Steadfast Studios

Who’s behind the beautiful products?

Lucas Goossens is the designer behind our first collection. He is incredibly creative, a beautiful person – inside and out, and I am so grateful that Carine [Carmy from Shapeways] introduced me to him! The design incorporates elements from Lucas’ pixel style and includes his signature plus sign ‘+’ to represent positivity. We hope you love it as much as we do.

3D printed jewelry for Fitbit and Jawbone

Bytten accessory for Fitbit, worn by Lucas Goossens. Photo Credit: Carly Gaebe – Steadfast Studios

What’s your background? How did you get into product design?

I have always been into technology and art / design. I feel lucky to have found a career that I am passionate about and have been involved in from the start (and I mean *start* – you have no idea – there were punchcards in my life). I started out as a programmer in the computer animation and graphics field during the first release of the movie Tron, ahem. It has all evolved from there. Oh, and my color software was at the Guggenheim as part of a Josef Albers retrospective. #proudmoment

What’s your most coveted fashion accessory for fall?

I have been obsessed with gold temporary tattoos this summer… and although I am having a hard time moving onto fall, there are three things I am excited about – GREEN #favoritecolor. Boys shoes for girls, and chic leather backpacks.

What’s next for Bytten?

Let me say that there is no shortage of ideas swirling around at Bytten. We are working on an exciting new collection with Jaclyn Mayer of OGJM, Lucas is working on a Matisse inspired design, and we are working on some oft-requested customization (which after all is what 3D printing is really good at – bespoke production) and there will definitely be some smart jewelry in our future.

3D printed jewelry for Fitbit and Jawbone

Bytten accessory for Jawbone. Photo Credit: Carly Gaebe – Steadfast Studios

 

Looking for other 3D printed fashion? Check out some of our favorite custom rings, necklaces and bracelets… Or create your own!


 

Ultra Slim Ring Box with Spinning Feature Showing Moving Parts in 3D Prints

This Ultra Slim Ring Box by IncogNerdo Apparel is a perfect example of how you can introduce moving, articulated components to your 3D Prints.

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3d print slim ring box Shapeways

Normal ring boxes too bulky?
Having a hard time hiding your surprise engagement ring?
Then you could probably use this ring box!
This ring box is impressively slim and can easily fit in the fifth pocket of your jeans. The ring holder is also designed to spin the ring as much as 45 degrees as you open the ring box to beautifully showcase any and all gemstones.

The box is designed to be as innocuous as possible so that, should your ring box be found, it would be glossed over as nothing important. No more worries of stumbling upon your big surprise!

So subtle it is basically invisible, check out the video of the Slim Ring Box in action.


 

Full Color Plastic 3D Prints from the Shapeways Community

The first wave of full color plastic 3D prints are starting to appear on the Shapeways forums showing the level of color saturation, material strength and precision that you can expect with your full color 3D prints.

3D printed full color plastic flowers Shapeways

Barratomica seems to have the best results so far with his full color plastic flower rings showing a nice color palette and regular, organic forms.

Others are having less success with their full color plastic 3D prints including our very own Mitchell with his scale model trains.  The colors in his model are not as crisp with a sligthly faded look to them as Multihawk also found with his prints.

As you can see below his full color plastic 3D prints look quite faded with some white spots evident on the surface and colors bleeding.  This may be in part because of the relatively small size of Multihak’s mini figurines, it would be interesting to see the exact same models in full color sandstone to compare.

Multihawk also experienced some warping in the thin areas of his small model as did Lensman with his Icicle and Stalactite Pendants Models where the small tips of the pendants were warped.  These models are also relatively small with a total length of around 5cm and just over 1cm at the widest point.  From this we may be able to deduct that the parts may go through some thermal shock after the printing process that is introducing this warpage.  As we learn more about this machine and the post processing we may be able to reduce this warpage that some designers are experiencing.

Thank you to all that are sharing their results in the It Arrived forum on Shapeways, we really appreciate your feedback as the more you tell us the more we learn.  Keep them coming.


 

Monkey Selfie Becomes A 3D Print

Earlier this week the United States Copy Right regulators ruled that the infamous Monkey Selfie photo that went viral cannot be copyrighted. This quickly prompted Dutch designer Peter Rossdale to 3D model the monkey selfie and bring it to the life for everyone to own as a 3D print in full color sandstone. You can order one of these Monkey Selfie 3D prints here.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 4.11.37 PM

Monkey Selfie 3D printed in Full Color Sandstone
Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 4.11.54 PM

Monkey Selfie 3D print taking a selfie of itself (Photo by Peter Rossdale)

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 7.32.04 PM

Who is Peter Rossdale:

“As an Amsterdam based graphic designer I’ve got 14 years of experience in designing websites, magazines. As my career evolved, I got more and more involved with photo/videography, 3d modeling and animation. All this experience comes in handy in designing 3d printed products. And I hope many more interesting designs will be created via Shapeways!”

The Monkey Selfie 3D model was sculpted using ZBrush which you can see in his video. It’s amazing to see designers inspired by viral trends bringing cool products to life with 3D printing. Which viral trend do you think we’ll see next as a 3D print?


 

More Videos of Shapeways 3D Printed Materials Torture Testing with FIRE

In the previous Shapeways Material Torture Test I set fire to our base materials in the Shapeways Sample pack.  Today I want to share a few more detailed videos showing how each material burns using a larger 3D print.   In this post we will take a look at our SLS Nylon, SLS Metallic Plastic (Alumide) which is a Nylon and Aluminum composite, and Full Color Sandstone which is made of Gypsum powder, bound together with an adhesive then soaked in Cyanoacrylate (super glue).

Take a look first at our most popular material, 3D printed Nylon (WSF).

It does catch fire fairly easily but seems to extinguish itself after a short time based on this geometry.  The Nylon melts into a hot, smelly napalm type form then cools and hardens fairly quickly.  Do not try this at home. Do not expose your Nylon 3D prints to fire.

Next we set fire to the 3D Printed Metallic Plastic (Alumide) which is a Nylon and Aluminum powder based 3D printing process.  It does catch fire very easily and stays alight, dripping a really nasty powdery, smelly hot napalm type goop, literally dripping fire.  You should really keep your Metallic Plastic (Alumide) 3D prints away from exposed fire. Really.

Setting fire to Shapeways 3D Printed Full Color Sandstone (Gypsum Powder, Binder, Ink and Cyanoacrylate) which is a powder based 3D printing process developed by Zcorp.  It does catch fire quite easily and stays alight, burning slowly and steadily.    The smell is not to noxious, smelling a little like burnt paper or cardboard.  After 6 minutes the 3D print was still burning so I blew it out to save the boredom.

All three of these 3D printed materials should definitely be kept away from naked flames.


 

At Work on the Road: 3D Printing, Designing and Living Around the World

One Infinity small pendant in polished grey steel at Mondello Beach, Palermo, Italy

One Infinity small pendant in polished grey steel at Mondello Beach, Palermo, Italy

by M.G., a member of Shapeways Crew and an American artist living abroad who sells her work she creates on Shapeways through her shop Sloris

Reduce the entirety of your belongings to two suitcases; all the clothes, accessories, documents, electronic devices and toiletries that you’ll need for the foreseeable future.  Don’t forget a sample of your 3D printed products.  Take a minute, or two.  

That’s how I live.  My partner and I run our business, www.sloris.com, from the road.  Our traveling home office consists of two laptops, two external hard drives, a tablet, a point and shoot digital camera and a HD digital camcorder.  And, of course, Shapeways.

My first ex-pat experience was living on the west coast of Mexico at the age of 24.  My most recent adventure was in the South of Thailand.  I lived four years in each location, which seems to be as long as I can happily settle in any one place (Brooklyn being the exception ).

Even considering this history, my current lifestyle is a radical change.  I’m moving every month or two, until either I find a place I’m so enthralled with I can’t imagine leaving or I’m too exhausted to continue.  My next move remains to be determined; it’s exciting, it’s scary. There are many considerations, but the main factors are attraction to the culture, the availability of inexpensive housing and transportation possibilities:

A combination of research, persistence and creative thinking is required to make this a reality.  I consider being really good at this my own little superpower. How does all this affect running a business and my creativity?  The running a business part is made possible by two factors:

  • Online networking:  its importance, accessibility and value makes living and working from the road not only possible, but effective.  Facebook is a good base, but my recent foray into Twitter and Instagram have helped me to engage a wider audience.

  • Shapeways: acts as my support staff by handling payments, returns, refunds, customer service and shipping.  Print on demand technology eliminates the problem of over and under stocking and the need for a storage facility.

Holeyware Espresso Cup at Teatro Massimo, Palermo, Italy

Holeyware Espresso Cup at Teatro Massimo, Palermo, Italy

Conveying exactly how this lifestyle affects my creativity is trickier.  When I’m stationary for a time, I build my environment very carefully.  I like my surroundings to be placid and inviting, completely free of clutter.  Routines are essential.  Having all the odds and ends of life scheduled gives my mind the chance to roam freely, unencumbered with worry and little decisions.  Being on the road makes everything I just listed impossible, but is equally inspirational.

On the move, I’m at the mercy of the environment and the apartment I find to rent.  I’ve already experienced a variety of decors; retro hippy, uber modern minimalist, French country and a split personality atmosphere where Mom enjoyed doilies and tea sets and daughter thought IKEA was the answer to everything.  The extent to which I’ve enjoyed living amongst and using other people’s belongings has really surprised me.  I’ve read things I never have before; gossip mags to improve my Spanish (I know more about princesses than I ever cared to) and décor trade rags.

Office view in Fuengirola, Spain

Office view in Fuengirola, Spain

I love learning the differences, substantial or seemingly insignificant, between cultures.  Thailand has an amazing cuisine and no matter how big or small the city, you can find many restaurants offering a wide variety of delicious complete meals priced at 30 baht (approximately 1 USD).  In Spain, I experienced an absolute dedication to siestas.  In downtown Granada at 2:00 pm every single business, except restaurants, closes and locks their doors.  The buses bulge with passengers as everyone makes their way to meet up with friends or family.  In my current apartment in Palermo Italy, there’s a toaster like I’ve never seen before.  I know it sounds ridiculous to mention such an insignificant product, but consider how many people across the globe use a toaster in the morning.

These shifts in behaviors and items affect my creativity because they spark interest in a way of life or an object that usually goes entirely unnoticed.  It revives a sense of newness and proves that there is still space for original concepts and products.

Then there are the things that can sap my energy levels and temporarily crush my spirits; fighting grouchiness after close to 48 hours of straight travel, sacrificing creature comforts to stay within our tight budget, trying to communicate in a language I don’t speak and living and working 24-7-365 with my partner of 23 years.

At the time these situations occur, I certainly don’t feel creative.  It’s as if I’m chained to a stairmaster, forever climbing and getting absolutely nowhere.  It’s exhausting and frustrating.  After the fact, I often need some down time to recover.  During this period I look and feel completely unproductive.  However, in many instances, I emerge from this dormant time with a plentitude of fresh ideas and enthusiasm.

I often work long hours, but then I walk out my door into a completely new and captivating world.  For me, it’s perfect, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.  Do you also work from a traveling home office?  Would you want to?

You can follow my adventures on my blog at and check out my products on my Shapeways shop

Finding inspiration in the streets of Palermo, Italy

Finding inspiration in the streets of Palermo, Italy


 

How to Submit Your 3D Prints to Sell with SuperFanArt

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

Submit your 3D prints to Superfanart on SHapeways

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

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

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

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

We can’t wait to see what you create!


 

Hero Forge, Making Custom 3D Printed Miniatures Easy

Posted by in 3D Printing, API, Apps, Design, DIY, Geek, Toys

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.

Hero Forge - Grid

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.

Hero Forge - Closeup 1

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.

SONY DSC

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.

Hero Forge - Group Shot

–Joshua Bennett, Co-Founder of Hero Forge

Photo Credit: MDK Photography (MartinDK108@gmail.com)


 

How I made a keychain bottle opener: Iterative product design

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

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

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

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

Before Removing Excess Material

Before Removing Excess Material

After Removing Excess Material

After Removing Excess Material

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

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

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

Non-Fitting Bottle Opener

Non-Fitting Bottle Opener

After Curving Model

After Curving Model

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

Fitting Bottle Opener

Fitting Bottle Opener

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

Bottle Opener Progression

Bottle Opener Progression

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

Stainless Steel Bottle Opener

Stainless Steel Bottle Opener

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

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

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

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

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


 

Product Design Idea to Prototype: Meet up with Shapeways and Quirky August 19

Posted by in Design, Events, meetup

At Shapeways we are very interested in the process of product design and how designers are inspired to create, refine, iterate and perfect new products and ideas harnessing the power of 3D printing and the Shapeways community. With the recent release of Beta Products and First to Try we are excited to give Shapeways designers the opportunity to invite fans and friends into their product design process.

Lucas Goossens of LucasPlus Designs

Lucas Goossens of LucasPlus Designs

To further investigate the process of product design, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Quirky for an evening of networking and sharing ideas and inspiration with other designers, inventors and makers. Join us on Tuesday, August 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Quirky’s New York City headquarters. You can find more information and RSVP on our meetup page.

Susan Taing of bhold

Susan Taing of bhold

The evening will feature a panel discussion highlighting how designers conceptualize products and their process of moving from idea to prototype. Shapeways shopowners Lucas Goossens, of LucasPlus designs, and Susan Taing, founder of bhold, and Quirky inventors “You Can Call Me Phil” and “Vector.” Following the panel discussion, participants can enjoy a demonstration of 3D printing a product prototype and practice their product pitch with others in interactive breakout groups. Light refreshments will be served.

We look forward to seeing you there!


 

Grun Jewelry: 3D Printing, Travel and Inspiration by Tanya Gruenberg

Tanya Gruenberg was part of the Shapeways team at the Museum of Arts & Design for the Out of Hand exhibition, helping people understand how they can use 3D printing, 3D scanning a few thousand people, and always, obsessively thinking about and designing jewelry to be 3D printed.  Since her time at MAD, Tanya’s jewelry designs have evolved at an amazing rate to the point where she is now ready to present her beautifully resolved designs to the world, as Studio Grun.

“When I was a little girl, I remember my mom always wearing large white gold hoop earrings with diamonds running through it. I couldn’t wait until I was older to get my hands on them.”

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That memory left an impression on Tanya Gruenberg, a Miami native who graduated from Parsons School of Design with a degree in Industrial Design. Upon graduating, she has worked as a furniture designer and assisted in designing home goods for a large clientele. On her free time she was making jewelry and noticed her interest was getting deeper and deeper.

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Tanya has taught herself wax carving, along with other traditional techniques, but quickly noticed it was very difficult to balance a full time job while teaching herself physically laborious jewelry techniques. That’s where Shapeways came in. “I already had the skillset to 3D model which has helped tremendously getting my ideas out. Every time I commuted home from work, I would sketch out ideas in my Moleskin and as soon as I got to my apartment, I’d open up my computer where I’d 3D sketch and before I knew it a few weeks would pass by and BOOM… I would receive my package from Shapeways and my vision was physically in my hands. What could be better than that?”

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Travel serves as a source of inspiration for many of her designs. Tanya explains there is something really special about traveling, and exploring the unfamiliar that sparks her creativity. “Traveling allows me to observe and see things through a new perspective. “ A combination of traveling, book reading, museum going, and image viewing serves part of her inspiration. The unusual architecture and textiles from Florence, Italy and time spent at museums looking at ancient tools, weapons and artifacts in Egypt explain her aesthetic. “I feel like a storyteller when I design. All my pieces feel like they are designed for an ancient culture that never existed.”

Studio Grun is showing her work at, NY Now at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center 655 W 34th St, New York City and Accent on Design August 17-20 2014 (Sunday – Wednesday) Booth Number 4270

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