Category Archives: Design

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.

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Monkey Selfie 3D printed in Full Color Sandstone
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Monkey Selfie 3D print taking a selfie of itself (Photo by Peter Rossdale)

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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

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.

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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.

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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

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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Shaping the Future of How We Buy: Introducing Beta & First to Try Products

People are demanding more from the products that they spend their hard earned money on. More and more, they are seeking out products created by people they know and trust, made in the cities and towns they call home. In research we did earlier this year, we found that nearly 50% of Americans know someone who is making and selling their own products. From the friend who quit her day job to create beautiful jewelry to someone who wants to make a better bike helmet, there’s no shortage of innovative products being created by independent designers around the world. In large part, they are enabled by the power of the Internet, which has made it even easier for people to sell their own products over the past 20 years.

Product design is also becoming more collaborative. Entrepreneurs are working with their friends and customers to get the support they need throughout the product development process.

Today, we’re excited to officially announce two big additions to Shapeways that we hope will make it easier (and more fun!) for people to create their own products by inviting friends and fans into the creative process.

Now on Shapeways, you’ll see a two new kinds of products: Beta & First to Try.

What’s Beta?

One of the most critical steps in designing a great product is iteration: tweaking a product to perfection by testing and refining the design. You can be a part of the creative process by giving designers feedback when their products are in Beta. Share your thoughts on the design, the aesthetics, the fit, or anything else you think will help make the product even better. There are already over 500 products in Beta on Shapeways — check them out and start collaborating!

Beta products on Shapeways

What’s First to Try?

If you’re the kind of person who can’t wait to get your hands on the latest gadgets, or if you wait in line for movies on opening night, read on.

In the past, you’d have to wait until a product has gone through months or years of development to try it out. With 3D printing, there’s no need to wait. Help bring a product to life by buying it in “First to Try.” These products are in earlier stages of development, so sometimes there are some kinks (no matter how beautiful the render, the laws of physics still exist. In those cases, not to worry, the refund is on us!). Most of the time, though, they’ve been 3D printed in a few of our materials and it’s your chance to try them out in others. Platinum, anyone?

Here at Shapeways, we’re trying to shake up how products are made and by whom. We have makers and designers from all over the world in our community, some of whom are making their first product and others who have been professional product designers for their whole lives. They’re creating everything from jewelry to rocket ships, GoPro accessories to chess sets. It’s your turn to join them.

Note for all the designers and creators out there!

In the short term, here are a few things you can do to take advantage of these new features:

1. Create Your New Material Renders
For all of the materials that you are offering for sale, you can now create realistic renders of each material. You can pose & generate renders for all of your products, regardless of if they have been printed before. Learn more.

2. Tag Materials in Your Photos
If you have photos for each material you are offering for sale, you can tag them so they show up when shoppers select a material on your product page. Learn more.

3. Explore First to Try & Beta
You can learn more about how you can use these new tools to bring your products to market using 3D printing.

We also shared these features with our community a few weeks ago and got some great feedback, some of which is already implemented in this latest iteration. But it’s not too late to join the discussion! We’re in Beta too :) Sign up for future usability testing here.


 

Show Us Your Elasto Plastic 3D Prints

We introduced Elasto Plastic as our first 3D Printing maker material back in May last year so that the Shapeways community could have access to a impact resistant, flexible 3D printing material.  The team at the factory in Eindhoven get to see the amazing products you design with this unique material but because it is a Maker Material, and not available for sale as a product on Shapeways, many of us do not get to see and be inspired by your designs.

flexible 3D print material on Shapeways

We would love to see your Elasto Plastic designs shared in the It Arrived forum so that we can all see the range of products you are designing and get inspiration to explore the material in different ways.  We are looking forward to seeing photos of your designs on the Shapeways forums soon.


 

From prototype to product: Creating glowing jewelry with 3D printing

Christopher Boynton is a co-founder of Fire & Bone and a self-taught 3D modeler and designer with a passion for product design. He has been using Shapeways to prototype and create a new line of luminescent, 3D printed jewelry called L Ī T. I caught him about his design process, how he moves from inspiration to prototype to product, how 3D printing is powering the future of jewelry design and tips for running a succesful crowd funding campaign for your product. 

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Tell me a little bit about your background – who are you and what do you make?

I’m one of three co-founders of a small company called Fire & Bone that makes miniature animal skull replicas, to wear or collect, using 3D scanning, 3D printing, and lost wax casting in silver and bronze. We launched our first collection in a very successful Kickstarter campaign last December. I’m also a product designer and the creator of L Ī T (I pronounce it “light” on account of the macron), which is a line of 3D printed luminescent (glow-in-the-dark) jewelry that I launched in late June 2014 on Kickstarter.

What inspired you to create luminescent jewelry?

As a kid, getting a glow-stick was always a special treat and I’ve always been fascinated by the quality and color of light they give off. But L Ī T really is a study in lighting design and that’s how I approached it. Shapeways strong and flexible nylong plastic has a wonderful way of interacting with light so it was the perfect material to work with and, 3D printing and modeling made it easy to play with different forms and different ways of manipulating that little bit of neon light. I’m working on several full-scale lighting design projects right now so don’t be surprised if you see a giant descendant of L Ī T with an LED tube instead of a glow-stick in the future.

How did you learn to 3D model?

I taught myself the basics in Sketchup and now I work primarily in Rhino with a little Zbrush thrown in.

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How did you discover 3D printing for jewelry design?

Jason Bakutis, one of the co-founders of Fire & Bone, is a sculptor and jewelry designer and he was an early adopter of 3D printing for jewelry design. A few years ago, he showed me a few of his pieces that were produced using 3D printing and lights started going off in my head. The first piece of 3D printed jewelry I made was done in Shapeways sterling silver.

What is your design and iteration process like?

I usually use pencil sketches early on just to crack an idea and figure out how to approach it. However, I prefer to talk it out with Matt Kroner, who is a product designer and the third man behind Fire & Bone. We speak the same language when it comes to design so if I need to make one piece fit more Kentucky with another piece (look it up) and make the whole thing look more like that weird lego piece with the backwards studs he’ll let me know. Most of the heavy lifting is done in Rhino. I like to get a physical prototype as early on as possible so I have something to turn over in my hands and learn from.

Having a physical prototype can reveal solutions and open all kinds of possibilities that a virtual model can’t. 3D printing is great for that because I can make a prototype and see how well it fits with other parts, like how snugly a glow-stick fits, for example. Then, make a change to the model and have a finalized piece much more quickly than if I had to produce it any other way. I like to decide on an overall form quickly and then do several iterations, making subtle changes and adjusting tolerances and smaller details until it feels like it’s ready to be a Thing with a capital “T”.

22_B

Can you give an example of how you go from idea to finished product?

The ideas I get the most excited about tend to happen late at night and my favorite design solutions tend to get dropped on me just as I’m waking up. However, ideas and solutions rarely occur on consecutive nights and sometime not even in that order. The idea for L Ī T grew out of two other projects. One was a silver ring I was working on that had a hollow tube in it for keeping secret notes and the other project was trying to figure out a cheap way to prototype a full-scale LED light without having to worry about wires and soldering because I was living in a tiny apartment at the time. I was thinking about using glow-sticks, just for proof-of-concepting, as a possible alternative to LEDs and the hollow ring was sitting right there.

My first prototype ring was in Shapeways black strong and flexible nylon plastic so it masked the light and had Morse code. I printed one in white polished just out of curiosity and when I saw how it diffused the light I realized there was a lot more potential there. I started playing with different forms, testing just how far I could push and stretch that little bit of light. 3D modeling and Shapeways made it so fun and so easy to try different shapes that I got a little carried away. I’ve used Shapeways to make masters for mold making and prototypes before but L Ī T is the first time I’ve used it to manufacture the final product. I don’t think it could be made any other way.

You are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to support the production and expansion of your line. Do you have any advice to other creatives who are interested in launching a crowd funding campaign to support their product?

  • Make whatever you’re making because it’s fun challenging work.
  • Create a simple compelling story. This is harder and more elusive than most people think, which leads us to . . .
  • Get some talented and trusted friends to help you write, edit, shoot, revise, revise, revise, and review, your campaign. I’m lucky enough to know the folks behind launchpack.net who have helped put several successful campaigns, including Fire & Bone, together.
  • And, get your campaign in front of as many eyes as possible. For me, this is the most daunting and difficult step.

How do you think 3D printing will impact the future of jewelry design and production?

3D printing is a boon for all design and prototyping work. It opens up a whole new world of shapes and forms that would be cost-prohibitive or impossible to make using more traditional techniques. It also has the potential to make it much faster and cheaper to iterate. 3D printing blurs the lines between concepting, prototyping, and manufacturing so designers can start “sketching” in 3D objects. Having those physical iterations to examine and test so early in the process is changing the way designers work.


 

Sneak Peek into new ways to design products on Shapeways: First To Try & Beta Products

Here at Shapeways, we’re changing how products are made and by whom. We have makers and designers from all over the world in our community, some of whom are making their first product and others who have been professional product designers for their whole lives. They’re creating everything from jewelry to rocket ships, GoPro accessories to chess sets. No matter what they’re making, though, we know how involved the creative process can be. Taking a great idea and making it real takes a lot of hard work and iteration before amazing products come to life.

With 3D printing, designers are not alone in the creative process. They don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get the form and function just right, and they don’t have to wait to go to market until they’ve undergone extensive testing. With the support of their friends and fans, they can share their products with the world and get the feedback they need — wherever they are in the product development process.  We’re committed to helping you create great products, by embracing iteration and encouraging your customers to actively participate in earlier stages of product development. Step one is setting the right expectations, and step two is opening up the conversation around products.

Today, we are excited to give our community and particularly Shop Owners a sneak peek into two new ways to get support and feedback on early stage products that we’ll release later this summer: First to Try and Beta.

Shop Owners, you can see all of the new tools on your model edit page today and preview what your products will look like when this is released to shoppers later in the summer.

Beta 

BetaProduct

Design is becoming far more collaborative across companies big and small, and we’ve already seen thousands of examples on Shapeways in which designers and customers work together to tweak products and make them more personal. We want to make it easier for Shapeways Shop Owners to tap into this trend and develop deeper, ongoing connections with their customers.

The first way we’re fueling this kind of collaboration is called Beta. Products in Beta are in active development and are being improved upon through product iteration.  As a Shop Owner, you will be able to invite your friends, fans, and communities to support you in the product development process and get feedback to improve the design. You can ask for feedback on how it fits, whether they like the design, or anything else you need to get your product over the finish line. More and more, people want to be a part of the creative process — we’re excited to help open up the doors with you.

How will this work?

The purchase area on your product page will prominently announce that this product is in Beta, and has space for you to briefly explain to customers your goals and what you’re looking for in the Beta testing. You can opt to make your product a Beta Product or to move it out of Beta at any time.

Beta Materials

By positioning your product in Beta, you will have a private comment stream to collaborate with your customers and solicit their feedback. We see a lot of this happening in comment streams today on Shapeways, but we also want a private place to encourage honest feedback and collaboration on products. Elaborate on your goals, ask specific questions, and keep customers up to date on the progress of your product and new versions you’re working on. We’ll be encouraging customers who buy a product in Beta to come back here after they receive their product to share photos and let you know what they think.

Learn more about how to use Beta Products

 

First To Try
First To Try Product

3D printing a model in every material finish you’d like to offer for sale can be quite expensive. We’re working hard to reduce the barriers to entry and we don’t ever want to make you 3D print a model in every finish yourself unless you prefer to. However, because 3D printing is still new, some customers don’t understand the risks subtleties involved with 3D printing and can be disappointed if their product doesn’t turn out the way they were expecting — or especially disappointed if it can’t be printed at all.

As a part of our efforts to increase transparency about the manufacturing process with designers, including the Print Success Rate

we are also going to provide more information to shoppers by showing the “First To Try” label on any product that hasn’t been printed before in that material. This helps shoppers understand our level of confidence that we can successfully create the product that they are looking to buy.

How does this work?

When your product has First To Try materials enabled, your customers will see a different set of choices on your product page. We’re also investing in beautiful material renders that match the color and finish of all of our materials, so you can show a shopper exactly what the product will look like, while also helping them understand that they are one of the first to 3D print it in that material and are seeing a computer-generated render, not a photo.

Once you or your customers have successfully printed your product in each material you’re offering for sale, the First To Try label won’t apply any longer. There are a few ways to progress through First To Try:

  • You can enlist your friends, fans and community to buy your product and share a photo, which will be important for your long term product success
  • You can print the product in your preferred materials and ensure you meet the Print Success Rate before you launch your product
  • You can disable the materials that haven’t been successfully printed before

Learn more about how to use First To Try

 

Beta vs First To Try

When you are really hoping to get feedback on your product — from fit to form to function and everything in between — we recommend using Beta. It’s a great way to solicit feedback and build a community around your products and ideas.

If you’ve already tested your product and are trying to understand whether you product can be successfully made in a given material, First To Try is your best bet. It sets the right expectations for your customers and helps you enlist support.

 

The Future of Product Development at Shapeways

With a process as new and rapidly-changing as 3D printing, expectation setting is critical. But we know there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We’ll continue to build more tools to help you solicit support from the community and help them understand how the process works. We’re really excited about these new additions to our marketplace, and would love for you to join the discussion here in comments and the forum to let us know what you think!

Learn more about Product Development at Shapeways, or jump into the tutorials on how to use Beta Products & First To Try in your shop today.


 

LaMetric: Using 3D printed prototypes for product development and crowdfunding

3D printing has already had a huge impact on the future of how products are conceptualized, designed and developed. Smart Atoms, a group of tech visionaries, designers and engineers, has created LaMetric, a standalone, customizable, hackable smart ticker that tracks key life and business metrics and displays them in real-time. Before launching their Kickstarter campaign, Smart Atoms prototyped LaMetric using Shapeways. Smart Atoms CEO Nazar Bilous discussed the process of developing LaMetric and how 3D printing is a key component of product, and hardware, development.

LaMetric - track what's important to you

LaMetric – track what’s important to you

What inspired you to create LaMetric?

Most of our team used to work in a digital agency before forming Smart Atoms. Every day each of us was curious about the most important digital product numbers including app’s ranking, downloads, website stats. It took a lot of time getting them from different slow loading sites and we decided to solve it by having a simple device that saves our time, tracks the key numbers autonomously and shows them fresh for the whole team.

Nike+ Fuelband was a huge inspiration at LaMetric concept stage. Its amazing screen made the highest impact. We wanted to get the screen that looks like it is a part of the black casing when the device is switched off and clearly projects the screen across a large physical space with bright, sharp, square pixels. Most people that saw the 3D model doubted it’s even possible. Which motivated us even stronger to reach it.

How did using Shapeways help you develop the LaMetric prototype?

In the course of several prototype iterations, we moved from an ugly brick-like box to a rounded bar, after which most of the early adopters wanted to put LaMetric at home or office. We now understand Apple’s passion for rounded corners, this works well in the 3D world, too. Initially, we created the casing using an average domestic 3D printer, but the quality was not good enough for us to get profound feedback from beta testers, especially “look and feel”. We discovered the Shapeways service that quickly transformed our model into high quality device parts.

LaMetric parts prototype: homeprinter left, Shapeways right

LaMetric parts prototype: homeprinter left, Shapeways right

What need will the product fulfill?

In the age of information overload it’s important to have personal information radiators or status panel to be more productive. Main indicators like weather warnings, amount of new emails, amount of daily tasks and how much you’ve already solved, money balance, time to meeting and others give you immediate understanding of where you are and what to do next.
LaMetric eliminates the need to check multiple apps or news sites for the information you need. Instead, you receive everything at a glance, all in one place, in real-time.

If you have a family or small business it’s twice important to track shared indicators and boost group productivity via getting communal experience and discovering something together. It can be tracking important dates(events, deadlines, anniversaries), profit numbers, product rankings, social metrics, leads amount, sales figures, visitors amount, youtube subscribers, mentions and others. In this day and age of personalised devices and individuals with their heads buried in their smartphone screens, people crave these shared experiences, a sense of belonging, a sense of greater purpose that make them more motivated and productive.

In a digital world, why develop hardware?

By developing hardware you can discover new tangible interactions and experiences. The digital world doesn’t give this.

Final LaMetric prototype

Final LaMetric prototype

How does having a well developed prototype help when launching a crowdfunding campaign dedicated to hardware?

We added photos of all our prototypes to the Kickstarter campaign page to show people our understanding of quality and where we’ve spent a year of hard work before launch. It builds relationships with your backers. It’s very important in crowdfunding, and it’s all about transparency.

How do you think that 3D printing will help the future of hardware design, iteration and development?

3D printing helps quickly build iterative prototypes, test with your early adopters and get feedback on idea, form, size etc. It increases the speed of building hardware products and gives not expensive tool for everyone to create things. For us, prototypes built with Shapeways additionally allowed get feedback how LaMetric looks and feels. 3D printing will have a significant impact on IoT industry and bring a lot of new exciting devices in the near future.


 

Project Caterpillar: How we’re resolving rejections at Shapeways

At Shapeways, we have a tradition of giving internal projects an animal name that captures its essence. In this case, the problem we wanted to tackle is a big hairy one with lots of sections and legs, across all our teams — like a caterpillar. The problem is: rejections. Our goal is to dramatically improve how we give you feedback when a product you have ordered cannot be manufactured using 3D printing. Historically, you might have received our standard rejection email that said, “After taking a closer look, we cannot print one of the models in order # …”  You probably spent hours designing, or searching for, that one unique product that is not for sale anywhere else and then we had to tell you to start over! We understand that this could be a very disappointing message. With Project Caterpillar, our aim is to turn design feedback and iteration into a positive experience, and watch our caterpillar eventually go into its chrysalis and emerge as a beautiful butterfly.

It has been half a year since we formed a team to tackle this issue head on. The team consists of community managers, operational directors, software developers, customer service representatives, product managers, and supply chain coordinators. It has been all hands on deck to fight what many of you felt is the worst experience when shopping, selling or making products at Shapeways: getting a rejection.

caterpillar

Caster the Curious Caterpillar Ring by designerica

Why is this such a hairy problem?

At Shapeways we always aim to quickly and affordably turn your ideas from digital designs into real products, but due to the limitations in 3D printing, some designs just can’t be brought to life in their current form. To help clarify how to best design for 3D printing, we provide tools on our website that give you the information you need to make the best possible decisions while designing a product, but it’s not always that simple. Usually we know what will print, but we are also learning with our customers every day — you are pushing the limits of the technology, and we’re right along with you, even if sometimes we have to give you bad news that we can’t produce your product as you’ve built it.

But really, why is this so hard? Here are some of the biggest issues:

  • Well, the first thing was to accept that it is OK to fail. We should take chances, and if that means we try it a few times and we still can’t print your product, that’s OK so long as we give you actionable feedback once we figure it out–and then we can keep learning about what works and what doesn’t.
  • For makers in particular, most of the time we have never seen these products before, and we are not sure what you want! Should that really small propeller actually be attached to the plane? Is it OK if you have a ton of powder stuck inside? We are guessing, and need better ways to understand your intentions and communicate.
  • One of the biggest challenges has been consistency: every model gets checked by hand, and we have dozens of production partners who are looking at thousands of models that have been made 5 minutes or 5 years ago in 40+ materials. This is a lot of people and data to coordinate. So a huge part of our focus was around training our 3D print engineers, and on giving you useful, timely feedback.
  • You might have noticed that we publish guidelines and not rules. That’s partially because we want to continue to allow you to push creative boundaries, and also because creating designs with 3D software that also observe rules of physics can be subjective. For instance, a thin wire will work if the rest of the geometry is structurally sound, but a hard “no thin wire” rule would have eliminated this option. So it’s a lot of art, and less science than we would prefer, especially when the technology improves every day.

 

With this in mind and the goal of turning rejections into resolutions, our teams have been working around the clock to surface potential issues with your models as soon as possible, to provide actionable, consistent feedback when there is an issue, and to make the rejection experience less frustrating for anyone that still receives that disappointing message.

Trust us, we know we’re not quite there yet and we will continue to do everything in our power to accommodate your needs. Still, we wanted to take this opportunity, half a year down the line to reflect on where we came from and where we are now.

Some of the steps we took to reduce rejections

#1 Thin Wall Checking and Fixing.

When we looked into the data for why we had to reject certain designs, it became clear that the biggest issue preventing them from passing our manual checks was in their structural integrity: they had “thin walls” and weren’t strong enough to withstand the whole production process. While a large part of the process your product goes through is just bits and bytes, after a product is taken out of the 3D printer, it is physically touched at least 5 times in cleaning, quality checks, packing, and more. While our printers can produce nearly anything, you can imagine when blasting excess material off your model with high pressured air, your model will need some strength to survive. Soon enough our team decided to surface critical checks of your models on upload; the thin wall checker was one of the first of these tools released on our website. Shortly followed by the thin wall fixer, which in many cases can help solve issues with your models that would have otherwise caused the models to be rejected. We have lots of huge plans for this area, so we can show you the path, right at upload, to producing your model successfully.

See how some of our materials are processed from start to finish in this video playlist:

#2 Print It Anyway.

Another feature many of our most loyal and seasoned community members have been requesting for a long time is the option to go ahead with manufacturing, even if the model doesn’t pass manual checks. Print It Anyway is an option at checkout, that enables you to test your most complicated designs and learn from the actual, physical outcome. Our production crew will always do their very best to ship models in the desired level of quality, and this is no different when selecting Print It Anyway. If a feature on your model cannot make it through the whole production process without slight issues, we would still ship the model to you, so you can hold your model in your own hands, learn from it, and iterate. We learn from your PIAs too!

#3 Detailed Manual Checks.

While all of this work was in progress, our 3D printing engineers have been aiming to provide the complete feedback to slightly adjust your design if it failed thorough manual checks. Instead of surfacing just one issue, they now describe all the issues at once. In practice, this means you would not end up in an endless circle of rejection and updating your model.  If you do experience a rejection, the reasons are also now available on your model edit page as well as in your original email.

#4 Checking Consistency & #5 Print Success Rates.  

We know that the most infuriating thing is to get a rejection of a model that you printed before, and we have paid special attention to fixing that. Indeed we have had a few big hiccups managing these models along the way, but we have improved dramatically, down to < 0.3% of models, and we are still trying to make it better. The consistency of manual checks is continuously monitored and the print success rate of your model is now shown on your model edit page. This way you see the same metrics we look at to judge success through the process.

What’s next?

We’re happy to report that we’ve made some significant progress, reducing by half the number of times we have to tell you that we can’t print your model.  When we do have to give you the bad news, most of the time it’s within 24 hours, and it’s always accompanied by a detailed explanation from a trained 3DP engineer. While we think this improves your experience, we know this is just the tip of the iceberg, especially if you’re someone who still can’t get your product made. We promise that we’re committed to helping you bring amazing products to life, and there are still lots of features and improvements lined up.

This caterpillar is not quite ready to come out of its chrysalis, at least not until we have found a solution that eradicates your frustration and disappointment, but we will continue to listen to your feedback and we will learn from you every day.

Thank you,

Team Caterpillar

caterpillar


 

3D Printing Custom Headphones is Normal

3D printed custom headphones are now available through the Normal app by former Quirky insider Nikki Kaufmann thanks to $5 million in venture backing.

normal 3D print headphone

The super simple app guides you through a photo based ear and face scanning process to configure the headphones to exactly meet your ear shape.  This is possibly the first 3D printing apps designed to make functional products, not a figurine or toy, a major step towards the ubiquity of 3D printing to power customized products.

There are already over 10 million 3D printed hearing aids in the world, now with apps such as Normal, we can expect to see more customized consumer products hit the market.

Speaking of Quirky, check out the video below and download the app to customize your earphones now.