Category Archives: Design

CAD vs. Modeling: Which 3D Software to Choose?

One of the most common questions we get from those who are new to digital manufacturing is “If I want to design something, which software should I learn?”

The answer to that is a little complex, but it hinges on one simple idea: What are you trying to make? There are lots of great software packages for 3D design out there, each tailored to a different type of product design. Knowing what you are trying to make will dictate the type of software you will use.

Overall, design software falls into two camps: CAD and 3D Modeling. CAD software is used when creating industrial, mechanical objects. Alternatively, 3D modeling packages more commonly used for making organic elements used for film special effects and video games.

Depending on the goals of your design, you may use both types of software at different stages of the design process to make the final 3D-printable design.

Below, we’ll go over how they are different and provide a few examples of each software type.


CAD (Computer Aided Design/Drafting)

CAD programs ask the user to “draw” a 2D shape and then turn those drawings into 3D forms, as either solids or surfaces. Drafting software comes from a long lineage of product designers, architects and engineers who would draw 2D plans, complete with measurements, which would be handed over to technicians or craftspeople who would interpret the designs and make the said object. This could be done manually or with a successive process of machining. Nowadays we have tools like 3D printing so that the design can be interpreted by other software (CAM or Computer-Aided Manufacturing) to create the tool path or slicing for 3D printing.

CAD programs take these 2D drawings and digitally translate them into 3D rendered “objects.” In some cases these are just “shells” or surfaces, while other programs treat the object as mathematically solid material. Simple shapes can then be added or subtracted to create more complex forms.

Because CAD software takes its roots in 2D drafting it is mainly for functional, measured 3D objects. Any functional object around you (your phone or computer that you’re reading this blog on) was designed in CAD software.

Examples of CAD:

Solidworks: Industry standard CAD software


Fusion 360: Free for students, startups, and makers!


Tinkercad: great for beginners


Onshape: Cloud-based with free option


3D Modeling

CAD software is great for functional objects, things that need to work mechanically or fit to a real world device. That said they may not give direct enough control over a design to allow for freeform, artistic work. This is where 3D modeling software comes in. Long used by the film and video game industry to make animation and special effects, you can also use these programs to create printable 3D models.

Modeling softwares are based around surfaces created from 3D geometry. This may be based around a system called NURBS, or may be simple polygons composed of vertices, edges, and faces. In many cases, programs will let you switch between these systems with ease, depending on your workflow. These points and surfaces come together to form the edges of a 3D object.

The advantage of modeling over CAD is that modeling software gives users direct input into each vertex or surface individually or as groups. This always for different ways to manipulate the shapes, often in ways that look more organic.

Some programs are even designed to treat 3D models as if they were lumps of clay so that designers can take a more sculptural approach. Using tools that emulate traditional artistic techniques, artists can get the most out of the geometry of a digital object.

Examples of 3D modeling software:

Sketchup: Free and popular


Maya: Industry standard for film and animation


Blender: Free, open source, and runs some of Shapeways’ backend tools


ZBrush: Professional digital sculpting software


Sculptris: Simpler, free version of ZBrush for beginners

Overall, knowing what you want to achieve with your design is vital to choosing the right tool for you. If a design needs to be functional, fit to other real-world objects, or have specific measurements, starting with CAD is the way to go. If a design needs to emulate a real-world or imaginary object or showcase your artistic vision, modeling could be a solution. If a design wants to do both, try mixing and matching software within your process.

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.

Shapeways at Dutch Design Week 2016

Dutch Design Week is here! Based in Eindhoven (Shapeways’ hometown), this annual nine-day festival draws designers and design-lovers from around the world. Each year, we join forces with our community of independent designers to showcase their amazing creativity. And in keeping with this year’s theme, The Making Of, we’ll be opening our factory to visitors — giving them a chance to see where (and how) the magic happens, get 3D scanned, and take part in workshops and presentations by some of our Dutch Shapeways designers.

Keep reading for a rundown of how you can join the fun at Dutch Design Week.

Visitors to Shapeways' Eindhoven factory during Dutch Design Week 2015

Visitors to Shapeways’ Eindhoven factory during Dutch Design Week 2015

Shapeways EXPO | Shapeways Factory | Oct. 22-30

Every day, we’ll be inviting visitors into our factory to explore how our community of independent designers is using Shapeways to break new ground in product design. We’ll also be offering:

  • A 3D scanning booth to bring more fans into the world of 3D Selfies. (11 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily)

  • Community Workshops and Presentations to connect visitors with Dutch designers and the products they’ve brought to life with Shapeways. (1 p.m. – 3 p.m. daily)

  • Factory Tours that provide a rare glimpse into how files are turned into finished products. (10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. weekdays; registration required)

A winning design from our 2015 Helsinki Design Week CHIL-DISH Project

Shapeways Presents: CHIL-DISH Project | Yksi Expo | Oct. 22-23

After our successful event with CHIL-DISH at Helsinki Design Week, we’re partnering up again to unleash kids’ creativity at DDW. At the CHIL-DISH Project:

  • Kids will be invited to reimagine everyday objects using paper and crayons.

  • We’ll then choose 10 designs to be 3D modeled by CHIL-DISH designers, turning the kids’ drawings into 3D printed porcelain objects. (11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Oct. 22-23)

Wired Life Tiger by Shapeways Designer Dot San

Wired Life Tiger by Shapeways Designer Dot San, on display in our Eindhoven factory

Shapeways Presents: Community & Materials Exhibit | Yksi Expo | Oct. 24-28

  • Come explore some of the materials we use and check out how our designers are exploring these unique and versatile media. (Oct. 24-28, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.)

A group of 3D Selfies

A group of 3D Selfies

Shapeways Presents: 3D Scanning | Yksi Expo | Oct. 29-30

  • Don’t miss your chance to get scanned for a 3D Selfie.

  • We’ll take a scan of your head and shoulders using Occipital’s Structure Sensor and an iPad. Then, you can easily order your mini likeness through Shapeways. (Oct. 29-30, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.)

If you make it to Dutch Design Week, be sure to come to one of our events and say hello! And if you can’t make it, keep an eye on the the blog, where we’ll be highlighting talented Dutch Shapeways Designers throughout the week.

Designer Spotlight: Josh Appleman – Geo Glitz

Because statement jewelry and accessories are always a good addition to any outfit, Josh Appleman’s shop Geo Glitz on Shapeways is definitely worth bookmarking. He’s created cufflinks shaped like every state in the United States. After being unable to find some sleek Minnesota-shaped cufflinks to wear with his tuxedo for his wedding, Josh decided to turn to 3D modeling and printing to create them. Having received lots of compliments on the cufflinks, he decided it would be fun to design ones for the rest of the states in case anyone else wanted to show off some state pride. As it turns out, there were loads of people interested in getting some!

How long did it take you to create the comprehensive collection?

I probably spent around 15 hours collecting CAD drawings of all the states, scaling them appropriately and modeling them in 3D with the cufflink stems. In my day job, I design surgical robots. Selling cufflinks is something I do on the side for fun. I’m delighted every time I get a notification that someone liked my product enough to buy it and hope it adds a trendy personalized touch to the recipient’s outfit!

Any stats on the top-selling states?

The top three states I’ve gotten orders for are Minnesota, Michigan and New York.

Any interesting challenges you encountered during the creation of this collection?

Certain states, such as Hawaii, Alaska, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Louisiana were tricky to model because of all the islands they have or because of thin portions of their geography. I spent many hours trying to decide what details were possible to maintain and which had to be removed. For example, for Hawaii I decided to make the geography the negative of the cufflink, I took a rectangle and removed the island outlines from it. Cape Cod needed to be thickened a bit as did the connection between Long Island and the rest of New York State. Lots of tedious work but fortunately I only needed to do it once.

You’ve done all 50 states! So what’s next?

Thinking of doing pendants and money clips. Also want to add geographies of different countries and famous cities. Lastly, I’ve done a few embossed orders with custom lettering, so may continue to do so per request.

Designer Spotlight: Gavin Rose – Sparkshot Custom Creations

Gavin Rose of Sparkshot Custom Creations has been interested in British outline railways since a very early age and has been making models since he was 12 years old. Almost 20 years later, he’s still at it, now with the help of 3D design and 3D printing. Gavin does a tremendous job of leveraging 3D printing to create model trains that are otherwise unavailable through mass-manufactured models.

How’d you get into 3D modeling of trains?

Prior to doing 3D modeling I used to (and still do) railway modeling the usual ways — build kits or ‘bash’ them — modifying them to represent a different version of an engine, either real or theoretical. Before this, I dabbled in military modeling, but the bug has always been for railways more than anything. Amongst a few other things, 3D printing creates the opportunity for me (and you!) to now own models of railway prototypes the mainstream firms haven’t created. You have to buy your own wheels, motors and bits for the printed model but once done, it’s great to see the engine you’ve always longed for pottering about on a layout.

You mention that models of railway prototypes you’re building aren’t available from mainstream firms. Tell us about that and what you’re focusing on.

Most of the mainstream Ready to Run (RTR) manufacturers concentrate on the latter British Railways (BR) period of railway history and I can only estimate this is because most of the people alive today remember that period, and not earlier. As such, nostalgia has its power well established in BR territory, which undoubtedly is the reason that the mainstream companies cater to BR models. This means that newcomers to the hobby end up with a choice that is predominantly BR so sales of those products increase, mainstream companies keep making them … and so the cycle continues.

There’s nothing wrong with BR, but the post-Grouping (and especially pre-Grouping) suffers dreadfully, and many locomotive classes aren’t given any attention while the popular ones are redone over and over and over. This is a shame, and along with it goes some of the history and knowledge of what our railways looked like, once upon a time. If more people were to model the earlier periods we could hopefully get back to some degree and accurate portrayal of what was once lost and my hope is that 3D printing will help to bring the past back to the present. Currently Sparkshot Custom Creations is concentrating on the earlier periods, so keep an eye out. :)

We love that you’re using modern-day manufacturing to bring back the past! Tell us more about how you design these unique models.

For customization, I have done a series of variants of most of the locomotive classes. Some are real variants, but a lot are freelance also to enable me and anyone who is inclined to model certain things in a more theoretical rather than factual way. Obvious detail variations are the most important such as the standard VS extended tank E2 and the various chimneys some engines ran with. The new-to-the-SCC range Furness J1 class has a separate pack of chimneys to order that allow the engine to take on different guises, the simple change in chimney can make all the difference.  People have asked me to make a few alterations here and there and I have done it; the creation of the Cambrian Class 61 was due to consultation to give the Furness K2 some alterations but the work became more elaborate than originally envisioned as research continued. It has however produced a new loco choice all together, so all good!

At the time of this interview, the next engine to be completed and released for sale will be the Furness Railway J1 Class. There is already a Furness Railway 21 Class that’s also known as the K2 available in several variants, so for the meantime, I’m concentrating on this particular railway company and then will move on to another.

Check out Gavin’s incredible model train designs in his shop here. He’s created some videos on post-processing his models here and here if you’re looking for a glance into his methods.

He’s also requested that if anyone has built, painted, and are running his creations on a model railway, to please send him photos or video. As Gavin says, “I’d very much like to see what people do with the kits, there’s something quite ‘happifying’ seeing your own designs all completed by another!”

Designer Spotlight: Erin Winick – Sci Chic

At Shapeways we’re huge believers that smart is sexy and 4th year Mechanical Engineering student, Erin Winick’s goal is to help show off the fashionable side of science and show that 3D printing and technology is accessible to everyone. Her shop Sci Chic features a wide array of gorgeous jewelry, all inspired by science and we were excited to learn more about her mission and her successes so far.


Tell us about what drives your designs.
My biggest inspiration is to encourage more young girls to enter the engineering fields. All of my designs are inspired by science and engineering. Everything is paired with science descriptions so that fashion can help spread science literacy. I enjoy creating a variety of items, some more obvious than others in their inspiration. I hope to intrigue people enough with the design that they want to learn about the science behind it as well.

As a mechanical engineering student, the whole experience has been rewarding and really given me a platform to talk about encouraging young kids to look at science and engineering in a new and creative way.


Know you said you created your jewelry to utilize fashion to help spread fashion literacy. Do you have any interesting anecdotes about how you’ve accomplished this as a result of wearing/selling your jewelry?
Absolutely. One of the coolest messages I got was a mom who had bought a necklace for her 11 year old daughter who has now worn it to school every day since. It felt great to know that she loved the piece so much that she was telling all of her friends about it! For me, wearing the Trajectory Necklace has sparked a lot of conversations at events. People look at it and don’t see the inspiration right away, and when I tell them that it shows the path of the Apollo 11 mission, they get super excited! It is really rewarding to see people get so excited about science. I even had an astrophysicist wear the Trajectory Necklace on an episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s TV show, StarTalk! The necklace even became part of the conversation for the live audience.

Additionally, I have had stories of teachers wearing pieces in the classroom when teaching about related lectures and students receiving pieces as graduation necklaces printed in precious metal. Bringing science into people’s everyday lives keeps me going.

With over 2,500 Instagram followers, what are the typical reactions you get from people about these creations?
When we first reveal a new piece on Instagram it is always really exciting. We usually show it in plastic first, and then in metal. People usually comment on how awesome the steel materials look. Also, when we release a piece covering a new area of STEM, it is fascinating to see scientists and engineers from that area flock to that piece. They get so excited someone is bringing attention to STEM in a new way. People love the variety of looks they can achieve with our pieces because of all of the materials we offer.

We also love sharing pictures of our customers wearing the 3D printed creations. Many of the customers our in the STEM fields, allowing us to show some great role models in STEM for young women on our Instagram as well. However, we also have customers who are intrigued by the look of the piece and the fashion aspect of it, and might learn some about the science behind it in the process of buying it.

Instagram has been a great platform for us to build a community around.

What else can we see coming from you on the horizon?
We are working on some collaboration pieces right now with scientist and engineers from around the world. We are hoping to give them a platform to help share the fashionable side of science and reach a wide audience. We will be donating a portion of these sales to STEM related charities as well. We can’t wait for everyone to see them!

Check out Erin’s shop here, she recently added a ton of beautiful product images that we’re super excited about.


Designer Spotlight: Igor Puškarić – Iggy Design

Iggy Design features some incredible creations by Igor Puškarić, who is an award-winning 3D artist and animator with over 6 years of experience in the video game industry. He loves to design and create high-quality models that people can use in their own projects, films, games, and animation. We were particularly intrigued by Igor’s intricately designed chess pieces so wanted to share it with our community.


Tell us about your chess piece designs.
What I always strive for is originality and innovation. I would love to design toys and figurines; and chess was a popular game already so I decided to give it a shot and have my own take on it, with a strong intention to produce something that has not been seen before. I actually googled alternative chess images and see a huge potential there.

I tried to showcase something completely different, yet familiar and usable. I created them specifically so they would be difficult to cast, meaning I wanted to make them 3D-printable with the specific purpose of celebrating the technology. The great thing about printable chess is that you can afford to lose a piece– just replace the lost one, rather than having to buy a whole board again.

What inspired the design?
I started playing with general features of each figure but through a sort of steampunk direction to make them intricate while also keeping the industrial-futuristic tone. It was my wish to make them look cool no matter which angle you were looking at them from, so the flow of the shape was important.

So, what’s next?
I yet have to create the opposing army as well, so the black and white figurines aren’t the same armies painted differently. Painting is also something I intend to learn,but I am not there yet.

Chess pieces aside, Igor is most proud of his Swarm pendant which is printed in stainless steel and is loved by lots of happy customers. Check out his shop and consider picking something up for yourself!


Shapeways Designers – The Laser Girls – In The Press!

We’re so proud that The Laser Girls are featured in the October issue of Marie Claire with their 3D printed nails!

The article (on pg. 192!) shouts out the cube nails, the pointy talons, and the dragon master nails– marking them as Marie Claire-certified! We definitely think the article… nailed it (hehe). Pick up an issue to check it out!

Keep in mind that press is always checking out the Shapeways marketplace for interesting and unique products. Making your designs available for purchase and pairing them with gorgeous product shots, you significantly increase visibility for your shop.

Designer Spotlight: Cro’s Miniatures for Tabletop RPGs – Anthony Hinton

Having recently opened up Black High Definition Acrylate for shop owners to make this material available to their customers, we wanted to highlight Cro’s Miniatures for Tabletop RPGs, a Shapeways shop that offers highly detailed and customized miniatures printed in this material. We asked Anthony about how he began creating miniatures and the tools he uses:

What led you to start creating miniatures?
I started designing and printing 3D models when my D&D group all created rare races of characters. We searched around and couldn’t find any miniatures that were suitable for our strange assortment. After creating these characters, I realized how powerful 3D printing is for tabletop RPGs. Each character is so unique and the miniature that represents it should match, and that’s only really possible through the amazing technology of 3D printing. One of my customers requested a gnome sorcerer with a squirrel on his shoulder and a smaller clockwork version of himself. There’s no way anyone would have such a specific miniature, but through the magic of 3D printing, Foodle was born.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 3.41.51 PM

How do you do it?
I found some amazing tools that help me create quickly. Make Human is an amazing open-source base model creator that I’m now using for all my new models and from there I import the base into Blender and render the rest of the figure. Each of my models is fully rigged for animation using Rigify (Pitchipoy Human). With those tools alone, anyone can make amazing 3D models.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 3.43.11 PM

And you do custom orders?
While I wish I could do this full time, 3D modeling is only a hobby for me right now as my day job keeps me from making more than one or two miniatures a week. If you have a character that you’d like to have made, let me know. If you have the time to wait for the perfect model, I’ll make whatever you can imagine.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 3.44.10 PM

Check out Cro’s Miniatures for Tabletop RPGs shop here, his custom creations are well worth being patient for!

Designer Spotlight: Artur Dabrowski – Multiply Like Rabbits

Artur is a twenty-something maker from Brooklyn, New York who became fascinated by the idea of 3D printing while pursuing his architecture degree. While a relevant topic in the architectural field, Artur’s school didn’t offer resources to delve into the technology, so it wasn’t until after graduation that he found Shapeways by chance and took time to print a house in plastic to see how the process works. He loved the result and began attempting to print metals, making a pendant for a close friend of mine. She loved it and Artur was inspired to continue creating– leading to the launch of Multiply Like Rabbits, a line of whimsical jewelry and accessories. Artur pairs his products with gorgeous photos that tell a story, cute drawings that engage the audience, and work-in-progress shots… all combined with writing peeking into the thinking behind the designs.

Because the clarity of Arthur’s vision is carried out so impeccably throughout his Shapeways shop (and featured on our Jewelry marketplace), we wanted to find out more about his process and creative aesthetic.

What’s your inspiration behind your designs?
Everyone always asks ‘why rabbits?’ I started drawing rabbits in the margins of my notebooks during high school. I would personify rabbits to express thoughts, situations or feelings I was having. I think the imagery of the rabbit being personified is playful — the rabbit is cute, hops around, eats, multiplies… and lives naively in this world. Personification takes that image and crosses them with this highly rational and complex being, incapable of preserving its naivety. Rabbits were the vessel through which I felt comfortable expressing myself.

One rabbit leaps across the open gap of the two finger ring band while the other rabbit observes: Double Rabbit Ring

How do you approach the designing process?
Imagination lets you take elements inspired from reality into a world that is whimsical and of your heart’s content. I can remember as a child playing in my room, with little scraps of wood leftover from my father’s work, cutouts of printed paper, toy game pieces… and assigning them meaning and value. Elements of reality became extraordinary in this augmented world… little pieces became characters… desks and bed sheets became landscapes. I didn’t let go of that childlike fantasy — I still imagine things that don’t exist and stories that never happen. But I think, as an adult, we have the ability to turn that imagination into reality.

I do a lot of sketching on the subway. There are so many more serene places to sketch (on a deck overlooking the water) but I make the most of what I have. I ride the subway to get around the city in the morning. I’m usually hyped up on coffee fifteen minutes into my day, so I just can’t sit patiently. I need to make things. I can’t design in my mind because I get easily distracted. And to develop an idea I HAVE to draw it. Although the subway is crowded, I found that drawing has become a way to get into my zone… headphones-on I can zone out and be immersed in what I do. Plus, since I’m fixed in my seat, I can’t walk away from what I’m doing. It’s funny to think that such polished jewelry is inspired in the grittiest of all places. That’s NYC.

Brick Arch Ring
As an architect, I love working with brick because it’s one of those materials you can feel with your eyes. Roughness is rendered by light, adding depth to a seemingly flat application. Although bricks are cut with a machine precision, they are always imperfect. It’s such a beautiful material in and of itself. I tried to capture such depth when creating the 3d printed ring. The bricks are 3d modeled rough and uneven, and the roughness peeks through the joints of the mortar. Hand polishing won’t reach into the .04 mm gaps, leaving striated 3d print lines. But the roughness is only visually, it wears smooth and comfortable.

When I design, I like to create something as if it was a found object, as if all the details were meant to be and there’s no trace of the designer to be found. In architecture school, I preferred to work with existing ruins and other found “objects” on a site. With jewelry, I like to work with the body as a landscape. To invigorate the design process, I embed stories within the objects that govern design moves. Rather than be overt, I like to naively create a moment suggestive of a story that can be interpreted differently than my initial intent. Although I am expanding the line with more architectural pieces, I use rabbits as characters in this open-ended story.

For more beautiful photos of Artur’s work, check out his Instagram account where he documents his design process and ethos.


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.

4 Gadget Gift Making Trends For Holiday 2016!!

With the holidays quickly approaching, we’re excited to be positioning Shapeways as the go-to for unique, customizable gifts– and our designers are crucial to growing that marketplace. We’ve identified some of the hottest tech hobbyist trends of this year to inspire our makers to stretch their imaginations and consider creating accessories for each, making them on-demand stocking stuffers.

Raspberry Pi: With this little computer giving you a lot of power to program and create, what better companion for it than 3D printed accessories? We’d suggest our designers tap into Shapeways customizable product feature to create Raspberry Pi cases or stands– because while it’s what’s on the inside that matters, it doesn’t hurt to have a neat exterior for your favorite gadget.Apple III Raspberry Pi Case 3d printed

Raspberry Pi Apple III case by RetroConnector

iPhone 7: With Apple’s latest release being on (most) people’s wishlists and being significantly different than previous models, it’s a great opportunity to tap into creative cases and accessories.The Vibe iPhone Case - 40033196:7.67 3d printed

The Vibe iPhone Case by Cacai

GoPro Hero 5 (Black and Session): GoPro’s latest cameras come in two sizes, meaning double the accessory options! Because both work on voice-command, there should be some fun potential for newly designed cases and accessories. We also hear that while the Hero 4 Black is waterproof, it won’t float so some aquatic accessories could be useful.Boonie Hat Mount for GoPro Cameras (Slim Case) 3d printed

Boonie Hat Mount for GoPro Cameras by BrainExploder Creations

Apple Watch Series 2: The new Apple Watch model is about the same size and shape as its predecessor but slightly thicker. We’ve been seeing some great watch docks and charging stations, and there’s limitless room for variations.Apple Watch Metal Bumper 42mm 3d printed


Apple Watch Metal Bumper by Amznfx

Remember, one of the most important parts of leveraging the products you create is showing vs. telling shoppers what your product does. Quality photos tell a thousand (or more) words and super nifty videos are even better.

Shop More Gadget and Tech Trends Here!

Designer Spotlight: Ellen Mueller #TinyTuesday

For this Tiny Tuesday, we’re highlighting Ellen Mueller because we’ve fallen in love with her tiny depictions of office life.

Ellen is an internationally exhibited interdisciplinary artist who explores the everyday challenge of living with hyperactive news media and corporate management systems. She creates experiences that engage with social and political issues through imagery, performance, and installation.

While Ellen’s Shapeways shop reminds us a bit of Office Space (particularly this little stapler in red), a number of her designs are part of a cheeky, in-progress 3D print-on-demand sculptural street art project, she’s called Synergism. Each cluster of office-related objects is designed to fit into corner-shaped spaces– and Ellen is encouraging participants to print these subtle sculptures, and install them on office buildings they feel could spontaneously start leaking bureaucracy (DMVs, corporate headquarters, office parks, etc). Note: we’re not endorsing that anyone glue something to anything that doesn’t belong to you. Each design is 3D modeled in SketchUp and is defaulted to print in matte bronze steel. Ellen chose this particular material because of its connotations with other large-scale recognizable public sculptures, whether life-size portraits of politicians or members of military on horseback.

She currently works as an Assistant Professor of Art at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and while the school doesn’t have its own 3D printer, she uses Shapeways to give 3D printing access to her students. Side note: if you haven’t noticed, we’re all about students using our services!

We’re also particularly loving that while Ellen’s creating some incredible miniatures, she has some ideas for bigger, better tiny things if 3D printing limitations weren’t an issue, saying, “I would print tiny houses that are really well insulated. I think it would save a lot of energy.”


Symbols + Science = Jewelry Styles for All

Looking to revamp your jewelry collection?  Symbols are one way to make a statement without going overboard.  They also lend as great conversation pieces for history buffs, trendsetters, and Biochem masters alike.  Our community across the globe has designing symbols down to an art and we’re showing you the creations you don’t want to miss. 

As the masterminds behind Shapeways shop somersault1824, Belgium designers Idoya and Luk make science look sleek. Their minimalist necklaces are perfect for channeling your inner lab geek and make for surprising, sweet gifts.


Phi pendant from somersault1824

There is more than meets the eye with Phi! This letter is the basis for the Golden Ratio, a principle frequently found math and science which can be dated back to sacred architecture and art.  Another important fact to know: Products from somersault1824  support science education. For every pendant sold, the designers invest $5 of the profit in educational resources for scientists, students and teachers with the aim to make these resources available to everyone. Read more about the cause here.

astrocyte pendant

Neuron pendant from somersault1824


DNA pendant from somersault1824

If you like this double helix, you may want to experiment with spirals from other Shapeways shops.  Just don’t get it twisted!  Instead, wear the Twisted Pendant by Jaacov Molcho, one of our featured designers in Sparks Across the Globe.

We also love the pendants Antonios Bliss of Athens, Greece created. His designs reflect a modern adaptation of symbols rooted in native New Mexico.


Native America Zia Sun Symbol Jewelry Pendant from Symbolica.

Any idea what the four parts of this pendant might represent?  Here’s a hint: up to twenty different meanings can be found in total. Read more about the multifaceted design here and discover other fascinating symbols in Symbolica.

Be sure to check out other jewelry designers on Shapeways to find the symbol that suits you and explore all the beautiful options for everyday wear.

Designer Spotlight: Austin Robey

This week, we’re putting Brooklyn based designer Austin Robey on the map.  New York City is known for its spectrum of personality and we love how Austin Robey’s products capture this very essence. Austin takes concepts that may otherwise be transient or out of sight, such as a winking face or city landscape, and transforms them into bold, tangible creations. In fact, if you take a look at his shop, you can see that his 3D emojis were meant to be held in your hand.  He’s also made iPhone cases of popular NYC and Brooklyn neighborhoods, so you and your emojis will never get lost again!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?

My name is Austin Robey and am located in Brooklyn, NY. I have an academic background in architecture, a professional background in designing jewelry and accessories, and now have a studio called Make Mode, which helps people realize fun and inventive product ideas through digital design and 3D printing. As a side project from our 3D design services, we wanted to make a Shapeways store of some fun products we designed. It’s also called Make Mode.


What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you?

I am inspired by the immediacy of 3D printing and its ability to help people quickly realize product ideas. It’s definitely a catalyst for innovation. That being said, I also enjoy the challenge of designing products around the limitations of 3D printers (size, material, cost). The idea of producing a product that can be manufactured locally on demand is fascinating. We thought that making 3D emojis would be a fun project because it really represents what is exciting about 3D printing – taking something digital and making it physical.

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
Shapeways has built an amazing infrastructure to produce and distribute 3D printed products. It’s marketplace allows us to sell products that we could not produce ourselves. It also serves as a useful service for iterative testing of designs.

How did you learn how to design in 3D?
I was introduced to 3D design tools while studying architecture at Pratt Institute. Architecture is great, but working in an architectural practice didn’t interest me, so I applied 3D design tools I learned in academia to other disciplines. I use Rhino, Maya, and Zbrush.

Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
I am inspired by the design community in New York City. Two people I know from Pratt Architecture are doing really interesting work: Francis Bitonti and Brad Rothenberg. Joris Laarnman makes very cool digitally fabricated furniture. Also, some designs that are coming from Nike research and development are exciting – like their 3D printed duffel bag.

If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
If it wasn’t so expensive, I would want to design and print my furniture. Or maybe 3d print some more 3d printers.

Thank you so much for sharing, Austin! Don’t forget to check out Austin’s shop, Make Mode and website.