Category Archives: Industrial design

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


 

 

Put a Kap on That Glass: 3D Printing Privacy

After surreptitiously 3D scanning a museum artifact with Google Glass Todd Blatt is now playing the devil’s advocate by providing a 3D printed cap to cover the lens of Google Glass and ensure the privacy of those around the wearer.

3D Print Google Glass GlassKap Shapeways

The GlassKap Kickstarter campaign is a range of accessories for Google Glass to either give those around the wearer privacy, or make explicit that the glass is ‘On Air’ and may be recording or even streaming what the wearer is currently seeing.

Along with the GlassKap, the product range also includes a few less functional and more fun items such as a wearable planter, pencil holder and laser sight.  Although this is a playful response to the privacy issues surrounding google glass, it is also indicative of what is possible with 3D printing, to embed smart devices into almost any 3D printed product.  Glass is starting to become a recognizable form that may indicate that you are being filmed, but what if someone were to 3D print a new housing and place the tell-tale form behind a polaroid lens.  

Shapeways 3D Print Google Glass

You can support the Kickstarter campaign for as little as $1 and for as little as $20 you can put a Kap on that Glass.


 

Inherently Useful: Mixing 3D Printing, Craftsmanship & Honest Design

Mixing 3D printing, craftsmanship & honest design, Lance Atkins wants to bring useful, 3D printed goods into your home with the help of Shapeways and a Kickstarter project entitled Inherently Useful.

Over the past two years have seen an avalanche of Kickstarter projects launching 3D printers, 3D scanners along with the occasional project using 3D printing as a way to reward some of their backers but Inherently Useful may be the first to tie 3D printed products into every level of the project.

A range including a pen, vase, iPhone dock and lamps the range all uses Shapeways 3D printing to make fully functional objects for your daily use.  The range has evolved out of products that Lance wanted for himself, and as is often the case on Shapeways, when you make something EXACTLY as you want it, often others have the same need and aesthetic so the product resonates with them in the very same way, it may even inspire them to make something for themselves. 

“When I make something for myself, it’s perfect, for me”

You can back Lance’s Kickstarter project for as little as $1 but $29 will get you a 3D printed pen and over $350 will get you a couple of very cool 3D printed lamps, powered by Shapeways 3D printing:)


 

Everybody Needs a Little Eames (3D Print) in Their Life

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is a mid-century modern design classic first released in 1956 by husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames but even after ovder 50 years of being in production, even the reproductions are prohibitively expensive, until now.

The Mini Eames Lounge Chair by kspence is a 1:20 scale miniature is about 2 inches tall and at just over $25 as a full color 3D Print is 1:67th the cost of a full scale reproduction.  Do the math, it’s a bargain and you can hold a piece of design history in the palm of your hand, maybe even make the perfect seat for Sad Keanu?

Eames Chair 3D Print on Shapeways


 

Introducing Maker Materials & the New Improved Elasto Plastic

The backbone of Shapeways is the 3D Printing materials we
offer to our community. From the versatile Strong and Flexible Plastics,
to the beautiful, hand-polished finish of Premium Silver, materials
inspire everyone to create new products that no one ever dreamed of
before. 

Our mission at Shapeways
has always been to enable anyone to make anything they want. First, we
built a system to allow Makers to design and purchase models for
themselves. Then we created Shapeways Shops to enable anyone to launch a
business and sell their products worldwide. Now, we want to make it
easier for Makers 
to gain access to the newest 3D printing materials on the market and test them with us. Think about it like one big, global 3D Printing R&D team.

Shapeways New Elasto Plastic 3D Printing

We’re
excited to announce the launch of our first ‘Maker Only’ material: a
flexible, rubbery plastic called Elasto Plastic! The finish, color, and
properties are not yet ready for sale to a wider audience, but it’s a perfect
material for any Maker out there who can work with a textured surface and
maybe a little extra powder arriving with their model.

The new, improved Elasto
Plastic
is a great option for Makers as it is an incredibly durable
material with a lot of really interesting properties such as high impact
resistance, flexibility and compression (depending on the geometry), along with a high level of static friction because of the surface
texture. Though not strictly water-tight, it can hold liquids, but it does
not like high temperatures or fire. It is a valuable addition to our 3D  Printing material options here on Shapeways that we are sure you will
find incredibly useful and fun.

Continue reading


 

Ask Shapeways Engineers Your 3D Printing Questions Today at 5pm

Do you have questions about Shapeways 3D printing materials and processes? Want to know how to optimize your design to ensure it gets 3D printed first time? Do you need advice on what software might be best to best make your ideas for real.  Join us for a Google Hangout with Shapeways 3D printing engineers this Friday at 5pm NYC time and we will answer as many of your 3D printing questions as possible.

Ask Shapeways 3D Printing Questions

If you have a specific question ready to go, please ask in the comment section of the blog and we will try to address those questions first.

See you soon. 


 

The KeyBit Hits Kickstarter: When Products with 3D Printing Roots Branch Out

Sometimes we see some of our really popular products on Shapeways enter the world using other manufacturing processes. On some occasions, due to licensing reasons a product may no longer be available on Shapeways if it is being produced by another manufacturer, and sometimes it remains available simultaneously as a 3D print and a mass produced item when the designer retains all ownership of IP.  We are always incredibly proud to help a designer take their product to market no matter which way they go, a little sad if they leave Shapeways, like sending a child off to college, but happy for the designer’s success.

3D Printing magsafe connector shapeways

The latest product looking to go down the mass production path is a recent favorite on Shapeways, the MagSafe Adapter Key Ring by jbobrow now hitting Kickstarter as the Keybit. Jonathan’s Kickstarter campaign pays tribute to the speed and ease of 3D printing and taking a product to market with Shapeways in his video and in his rewards which includes a Shapeways 3D printed version at reward levels over $30.  Jonathan also offers a one on one google hangout to help a backer over $200 take their own product to market using 3D printing.

Check out the video and support Jonathan on Kickstarter

Continue reading


 

3D Modeler Needed to Model 3D Printed Repair Part for Senseo Coffee Maker

Every week we are seeing more and more people looking for 3D modelers to help them 3D print everything from human busts to scale laundry baskets through to slightly more functional objects.

A recent request by baerfoot is looking for someone to help him 3D model a repair part for his wife’s Senseo Coffee Machine.

The replacement part is not available from the manufacturer but he has the existing broken part that will be relatively easy to copy for someone with basic 3D modeling skills.  If you are a 3D modeler who is capable of helping baerfoot keep his wife caffeinated drop him a line in the Shapeways Forums. While you are there you may as well submit your portfolio in the 3D Modelers for Hire section too.


 

3D Printed iPod Nano Watch

With great music comes great responsibility, and, honestly, it’s difficult to keep track of that tiny 6th generation iPod Nano sometimes.

The VIR 3D Printed Watch by dominicprescod is here to make life a little easier by transforming your iPod Nano into a nifty watch.

3D Printed iPod Nano Watch

The accessory has four parts, two of which attach to either side of the nano and have slots to attach the bands. The pieces are then secured with mating screws, which are sent separately.

3D Printed iPod Nano Watch

Having your music with you while you’re on the go has never been easier!

3D Printed iPod Nano Watch

What 3D printed accessories have you created to make your jam sessions more mobile?


 

Repairing Appliances with Shapeways 3D Printed Ceramic Parts (VIDEO)

How to extend the life of a kitchen appliance using Shapeways 3D printed ceramic parts.

When a small part for Shapeways community member Mitagaki’s Panasonic Bread maker broke he looked everywhere for a replacement part.  The manufacturer no longer supported the model so what was a $5 replacement part became unobtainable and the $200 appliance was rendered worthless. 

Rather than throwing the entire appliance away, Mitagaki 3D modeled a copy of the broken ceramic part and then 3D printed it in ceramics with Shapeways. 

After successfully testing the 3D printed ceramic component he made a minor adjustment to the design and has now made the Panasonic SD-YD250 breadmaker replacement bobbin available for others to repair their appliance using Shapeways.


 

MagSafe Adapter Key Ring: 3D Printing and the Power of Connecting Things to Things

Some of the best uses of 3D printing is the ability to connect things to things, whether it is your a plant to your bike, your GoPro camera to your drone or your Raspberry Pi case to your Lego castle.

3D Printed Magsafe Adapter Keyring

The MagSafe Adapter Key Ring by jbobrow makes sure you do not lose the Magsafe Adapter for the new MacBook and connects it to your keyring 3D Printed in Stainless Steel using the adapters internal magnet.  Clever.

Continue reading


 

iOS Stand App Makes it Easy to Customize and 3D Print Your Own iPhone Stand

Connecting to the Shapeways 3D Printing API the iOS Stand Creator is an app that makes it easy for anyone to customize a stand for their iPhone and 3D print it with Shapeways.

iPhone App

Usually when we think of iPhone apps we think of applications within the iPhone but this application makes it easy for anyone without 3D modeling skills to create a customized stand in just a few mouse clicks.  

What makes this app really interesting is that it uses 3D printing to make functional, not decorative items.  Most of the apps so far plugging into the Shapeways 3D Printing API on the Create page are making sculptural, cosmetic products or jewelry while there is a huge potential in making 3D Printing apps that connect things to things. 

If you want to 3D print a custom product but do not know how to 3D model the iOS Stand Creator App is a great way to get started, if you are a designer and/or developer interested in getting into the 3D printing app market this is a great example of how to make a customizable, functional product.  Take a look at some of the stands made so far that are now ready to 3D print.

Congrats to Kioròdesign and Archipelis.com


 

Need to Repair Your 3D Printer? Use Shapeways to 3D Print Replacement Parts

Anyone who owns a desktop 3D printer knows that sometimes you need to replace some of the components to optimize performance.  In many cases you can simply 3D print a replacement part with your 3D printer which is an incredibly rewarding process of self sufficiency but when it is a critical component that stops the 3D printer from functioning properly it can quickly become frustrating dead end.  

Shapeways 3d prints 3D Printer Parts

Shapeways community member Schlem discovered the extruder gears that came with his Printbot Kit were warped and his 3D printer was not functioning properly.  Of course a non functioning 3D printer can not 3D print repair parts so he used Shapeways to 3D print his replacement parts in laser sintered Nylon.  By using Shapeways to 3D print the parts for his 3D printer he now has a more durable, higher resolution part that will make his desktop 3D printer more accurate and reliable.

He also made it possible to make the 3D printer even more awesome by designing the Skulltruder, adding a little gothic bling to what is essentially an engineering project.

3D Printed Skull-Truder 3D Printer hack

If you have any 3D parts to share on Shapeways, be sure to tag them ‘3D Printer‘ and the type of 3D printer they are for so others can easily find them and repair their 3D printer too.