Category Archives: 3D Modeling

Shapeways and DJI Team Up for Search and Rescue 3D Printing Design Challenge

DJI’s Phantom 4 with its sleek body, integrated camera and long flying range make it the perfect search drone. Now you can use Shapeways 3D printing to turn it into the ultimate rescue drone.

Shapeways and DJI want you to push the drone boundaries and help save lives. Your challenge should you choose to accept it: design an attachment for a DJI Phantom 4 which can be used to help first responders better serve the public in their search and rescue efforts. In addition to the satisfaction of a job well done, the grand prize is a DJI phantom 4 and $1000 in Shapeways printing credits. The winning design will also be demonstrated at the New York City Makerfaire this October.

To learn more, check out the video below:

If you don’t have a Phantom 4, fret not. We’ve got you covered. Design off these scans.


For all things drone, check out our new drone hub.


How To Guarantee A Perfect Fit For Your 3D Printed Pebble Accessories

Considering the vast amount of new accessory designs we receive at Shapeways for smartphones, Apple Watches, FitBit products and Pebble, it’s safe to say wearable technology is taking the world by storm. Like most traditional businesses, these companies are often keen to make their own accessories for their products. Offering a set of accessories is great as they enable different functionalities for the base product, but they can also be limiting. With only a few options to choose from, products do not become personal. They don’t showcase individuality, or why that product was bought in first place.

A while back Pebble shared a Reddit post of a Pebble Round customized with a non-official wristband on their own social channels. Is this showing how a big brand is embracing customization of their products?

A while back Pebble shared a Reddit post of a Pebble Round customized with a non-official wristband on their own social channels. Is this showing how a big brand is embracing customization of their products?

As we at Shapeways know well, mass manufacturing does not deliver on our desire for personal products. From bumpers that can be personalized using our CustomMaker, to affordable watch stands for easy smartwatch charging, to mounts for connecting your smartwatch to your bike (photos at end of post), we’ve seen a lot of accessories at Shapeways that really tap into that demand for giving an identity to your wearable tech. The bigger question in this growing demand for custom objects is: how to do it without going through multiple prototypes to test it out?

In the case of Pebble, they did a great job making their CAD files available on GitHub. This enables you as a designer to use a virtual Pebble Watch to design your accessory around, making sure you can keep an eye on the right tolerances and guarantee that your and your customers’ Pebble Watches have a perfect fit with your accessory.

Seeing Pebble open up their product to their community and encouraging them to customize it really shows how a company values the personal experience of their users without fear of losing territory. On the contrary, I believe this will give new users a broader perspective on how to implement the product into their lifestyle and customize it to their personality, thereby increasing the demand for the base product. While there still is a lot of ground to be gained on the customization front, I consider this a small victory in making the products and objects you love to be really you.

Celebrating 125 Years of Philips – a live demo of the 3D Shaver!

As you might have read in our blog about the 3D Shaver a couple of weeks ago, we share a close relationship with Philips. Last weekend, Philips celebrated their 125th (!!) anniversary in the place where it all started for them over a century ago, and also our homebase in The Netherlands; Eindhoven.

3D Shaver 4 Colors (712 version)

Last week I already had the honor of unpacking a personalized 3D Shaver, as you can see in the video below. To my surprise, Philips already personalized it with my name on it!

After receiving a personalized shaver, I couldn’t refuse the request to do a proof of concept during the event. So during one of the busiest moments of the event, I gave a live demo of the 3D Shaver and my beard (unfortunately) had to go. You can view the full video of the shaving demo here.


Want to order a personalized 3D Shaver for yourself or as a Father’s Day present? At this time they are exclusively available in The Netherlands via with only a limited 125 shavers being produced, so don’t hesitate too long and start personalizing!

Top Scale Trains so far in 2016

Shapeways is home to many types of products, from Jewelry to Drones to accessories for wearable tech, but we’ve become a very special place for a particular community; scale model railroads. From Z to O scale, Shapeways is host to an ever expanding universe of charmingly miniature user created trains and scenery for railroad layouts.

Railroad modellers use 3D printed parts to embellish elaborate and realistic worlds at a particular scale. Once the parts are printed, they often assemble and paint them like the example below.

IMG_2855 (1)

Here is a list of the best selling parts for model railroads so far in 2016








3D Modeling At Your Fingertips with Gravity Sketch

Drag. Pan. Scale. Rotate. Orbit. Pan. All these terms to match all these different key and mouse movements! 3D software can be a challenge to pick up quickly. Luckily our friends at Gravity Sketch have created an incredible app to make 3D design almost as intuitive as finger painting.

They have even gone one step further and created this awesome playlist of short tutorial videos to get you rolling with their innovative 3D modeling iOS app. (Android users don’t fret, they’ve got an app for you in their pipeline.)

Designer Spotlight: Gabriel Prero

This week’s Designer Spotlight is with Gabriel Prero, who runs CuffJunkhis Shapeways shop, where you can purchase an assortment of awesome and unique cufflinks.


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

My name is Gabriel Prero. I was born and raised, and am raising a family in Chicago. I always wanted to “make stuff better,” and try fill that role as much as I can every day. I’m an Industrial Designer for Home Products International, where I design home storage, organization, and garment care solutions. I’m also the Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer for BioSpawn Lure Company, as well as Principal of Prero Design LLC, where I consult on design and product development primarily for startups.

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

There are two distinct parts of me that I think merge very well in the design world. I really like whimsy and fun. The magic you feel when playing with a good desk toy, or using a really well executed product. I also enjoy the technical side of things. Watching manufacturing is fun for me. I love products made with high precision. I like understanding the processes behind things, and working that into design. I think both of these come across in my cufflinks. I’ve been fortunate enough to work directly with 3D printers every day for nearly six years, so I’m very in tune to what works and what doesn’t, both on a technical scale and on an artistic one. I always look to do designs that have high levels of detail, and bring a certain magic when miniaturized. When doing names and monograms, it’s that balance of clarity and class with soft technical detail that I strive for.

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?

I think a blog post first turned me onto it. I had been tinkering with some cufflink designs on a printer I had access to, and decided to try them in steel on Shapeways. I’ve always loved “man-cessories,” particularly cufflinks, so I was really excited to have my own designs on hand, or “cuff.” And that was my button cufflinks. I decided to list them, and the rest is kind of history.

How did you learn how to design in 3D?

I studied industrial design at the University of Illinois-Chicago School of Art & Design. We had some formal training there in 3D modeling. Since then, I spend most workdays swimming in Solidworks, so I’ve become pretty well versed in it.


How do you promote your work?

I do a bit with social media. I really love Instagram. Get in, see a picture, get out. Quick, and visual. I do a bit on Twitter as well. Much of my custom work has spread by word of mouth, which is nice, and if you google image “Hebrew name cufflinks,” you find a lot of my work, which helps. I’d like to ramp up promoting, but am trying to toe the line between profitable hobby and business.

Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?

The Eames, Bucky Fuller, Raymond Loewy, Dieter Rams, Mies van der Rohe, Brooks Stevens. They continue to inspire me every day. Around Shapeways, I’m still jealous of some of the work Gotham Smith has done. I’ve worked with Bathsheba Grossman, a consummate professional with intense talent. Lately, I’m inspired by solutions people are coming up with for product fixes. It’s the kind of thing that got me interested in design in the first place. Like the MINI key fob that you guys just blogged about. All about making stuff better.

If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?

Over the years, I’ve made a lot of things I’ve wanted using 3D printing. But nothing big yet, outside of my day job. And nothing with mixes of wood, glass, plastic and metal. I’m waiting for the day when I can print out some of my larger designs without it being cost prohibitive, or truly wonderful mixed material designs.

Anything else you want to share?

I’ve been a “Shapie” for a while now, and it’s probably one of the few services that I rely on that I really just love. And part of why I love it is because when I think something can be improved, you guys listen and act on that. It’s awesome. A few months ago, Andrew was kind enough to give me a tour of the LIC facility, and it was great to feel not only a guest, but a critical component of the process, and have a voice that’s heard. Keep it going!

Drone Design 101 in Fusion 360

Looking for a new tool for your CAD design? Are you into racing drones? Great, check out this tutorial on building a racing drone frame by Eli DElia.

Eli is a founder at the Aerial Sports League and an expert designer in Autodesk’s new software Fusion 360. What makes this so exciting is that Unlike many older design applications, Fusion 360 has been built by Autodesk with 3D printing in mind. Even better, if you run a startup that makes under a certain threshold or are a student you may qualify to use Fusion 360 for free.

Eli also has a great set of instructables articles for the other aspects of drone building here. Finally, if you’re looking for more drone parts check out my list of products here.

Kagoshima Streetcar Connects People Between Countries

One of our favorite things about 3D printing is the way that it connects people. Greg King, a model train maker from Australia was so impressed by his visit to the Japanese streetcar manufacturer Kagoshima that he used Shapeways to help make him a replica of one of their historic cars.

“I just got back from Japan. I had made a model of a Kagoshima streetcar for the manager of the streetcar operation there. He had shown me a great time, and accorded me a great honour, so when I got home I built a model from scratch.”



“When finished, I could not trust it to the mail service, so it was an excuse to go back (we had frequent flyer points to pay for the flight), see some more of that wonderful country and measure some streetcars for future 3D work.”


“My friend made an appointment with the manager (who knew nothing about the model but was just happy to see me again) and we met at their new car house and head office complex. We went into a room that they have made into a museum collection of parts, history and photos with a small N scale diorama of the old car house.”



“I then presented the model to him. He was amazed to say the least, BUT he thought I had made it for the museum until he read the plaque I had put on it; he almost cried and just about snapped in half with the bowing. Shortly after I was allowed to run one of their streetcars!”



We love to hear stories about how the Shapeways Community uses 3D printing to brighten another’s day. Have you given the gift of 3D printing? Let us know in the comments below. For more model train parts check out our marketplace here.



What is this insane new mecha-like gamepad contraption?

Gamers have long debated the superior performance of the keyboard/mouse found on a PC versus the more “casual” gamepad of consoles for competitive gaming purposes. The use of WASD keyboard configuration and a mouse has long been victor, and thus shaped the current focus of competitive First Person Shooters (FPS) and Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) on the PC, while casual or arcade based games typically go to gamepads.


One Shapeways designer is working to close the technology gap. Looking like a futuristic contraption straight out of a Neill Blomkamp film like Elysium, the Immortal Mechanical Gamepad Paddles is a cool solution to turn a gamepad from casual to hardcore.


What’s been holding back gamepads is that you can only use your thumbs for movement and your index finger for the rest of your buttons. The designer Solodus solves this by 3D printing mechanical triggers you can use to push the buttons on the tops of the controller. He explains via a forum thread:

“The main problem with first-party gamepads is the difficulty to perform two actions at the same time. For example, you can’t activate a bomb, and defend yourself at the same time. Your thumb is busy pressing the activation button, and you can’t aim. (You could use the claw technique, which is using your index finger to press the face buttons, but this is very uncomfortable for most, and could result in injuries).

With this accessory, you will never have to take your thumbs off the joysticks, allowing you to perform more than one action at the same time, and comfortably.

Another added benefit of this accessory, is the reduced reaction time. Because, the distance from your fingers to the paddles is less than the distance of your thumbs to the buttons, it takes less time to press a button. This is great for First Person Shooter games, where reaction time is critical. “

Check out the video below to see the results for yourself. This looks like the perfect accessory to gain a little bit of an edge in Trials of Osiris and other highly competitive FPS’. You can check out Solodus’ shop and follow them here.

Introducing our Newest Material: PLA – Our Maker’s material of choice for testing their product ideas!

Say hello to our newest 3D printed material family, PLA.


PLA, or Polylactic Acid is a common bioplastic and one of the most popular materials designers use to prototype in FDM printers. PLA is environmentally friendly, inexpensive and best of all fast, taking 2 days to ship in the USA. For those looking for a quick turnaround time so they can iterate their designs, PLA is a great way to go. PLA comes in the following colors:  Black, Orange (we were born in the Netherlands you know), White and Grey.

One of our favorite Shapeways shop owners, Susan Taing of Bhold has been using PLA printed from Ultimaker machines for years. Susan utilizes the speed of these machines to rapid prototype her designs and gather feedback on how she can make changes and improvements.

Check out some of the early prototypes that lead to her beautiful products available here.


Given that you’ve used PLA to iterate your designs for Bhold for years, can you share a little about your iterative process?

Sure, Bhold‘s iterative design process is a combination of rapid prototyping with physical beta testing that ensures the most thoughtful design. Products go through anywhere between 35 to sometimes over 100 versions before they are deemed ready for release. Each product is inspired by and solves a problem in our everyday life.

 material-hub-pla (1)

Our aim is to keep the end consumer in mind throughout the entire design process and design for maximum functionality and also the best aesthetics. The formalization of this process is our tester program Bhold Labs, the first program of its kind in both rigor and scale.

Why is it important to iterate your designs?

The reason behind the speed in prototyping is to maximize the number of exploratory concepts we can test, and with the broad base of feedback through Bhold Labs testers, we can get the most usability data with the least amount of bias. It’s a very data-driven way to design, but it’s the way I’ve found that works best to maximize impact by designing the best product for a given problem. If you’re going to invest your time and energy into such a highly engaged project as creating a product, why not do it the best way possible?

promo-pla (1)

What makes FDM machines with PLA such a useful material for you iterate?

PLA is a super easy material to work with. It has a lower melting point than almost anything else you can 3D print with, so it saves both energy and time. It’s also completely non-toxic because it’s made from corn starch, which I love because I’m handling and working closely with it every day of a design cycle.

Much of your experience will have to do with the machines you use of course, which is why going through Shapeways for your PLA prints can save you the time and energy of managing and fixing machines. 

What did you learn from each iteration?

Sometimes my assumptions are wrong, and the only way to know is to find out through testing. My favorite “learnings” are those that are pretty much accidental and completely spontaneous and unexpected. For example, to create a sturdier stand, we lifted up the outer rim of the prototypes for the Bheard Sound Pod acoustic speaker, but this actually had the extra benefit of improving sound quality. To me it’s addictive to design because you don’t stop learning in the process. Glad that you guys are launching PLA to enable more designers to experience this as well!


Want more details…here is how it is made and an interview with our product manager sharing why we love PLA here at Shapeways.

PLA 3D prints come from machines in a process called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). The machine extrudes hot filament onto a bed, building up the form layer by layer. Because of the way the material is extruded, overhanging features may need to be supported by additional support structures. These types of printers are common from schools and makerlabs to design companies and we’re excited to be providing access to this process now to everyone.


And once you have finished testing your idea in PLA, you can print it in one of 56 other materials here at Shapeways for a finished, professional look to truly show off your amazing idea!

shapeways materials

Have questions?  Ideas?   Please share them with us in the comments below. You can also follow Susan’s Shapeways shop here.

Mastering 3D printing : Why Orientation of Parts Matters

Shapeways is committed to making this process easy, but we also want to make sure you get you have control over quality. Last week we launched a new feature to help with this: the ability to set 3D printing orientation for SLS materials.

Orientation Fail

orientation fail, this stepping could be avoided by laying the phone case flat in the printer

But why does this matter? How the file is built up in the printer can affect the dimensional accuracy and legibility of details of any given part. Parts printed in the Z axis, or “up” dimension tend to be slightly less accurate in the X and Y. That said, parts angled sideways may show less stepping depending on the geometry. Check out the video below to learn more.


Spring Policy Updates

Spring is in the air, and that means that it is time for a few policy updates here at Shapeways.  This blog post serves as a summary of those changes.  As a reminder, if you want to go deeper you can always check out the archived versions of specific policies in order to compare them to the current one.

The biggest update is to the Shop Terms and Conditions.  These terms were last updated in 2012 and, as you can imagine, Shapeways has evolved significantly since then.  In addition to the Shop Terms update, this update includes much smaller fixes to the general Terms and Conditions, the API Terms and Conditions, and the Content Policy.  We are also bringing our content policy precheck program out of beta.  I’ll detail all of the changes below.

Shop Terms and Conditions

These are the terms that govern shop owners on Shapeways.  This update overhauls the format so that it makes a bit more sense, and updates some of the policies.  It also takes steps to simplify the terms.  Since you need to have a regular Shapeways account in order to open a shop, it tries to incorporate terms from the standard Shapeways Terms and Conditions by reference instead of repeating them again in the Shop terms.

For example, instead of having a big section on content rules, the new terms incorporate the existing Content Policy.  That should reduce confusion by just having one content policy that governs the entire site and make the terms a bit more concise and easier to read.

While the payment terms remain largely the same (we pay your markup if it is over $30 on the 15th of each month) there are a few additions designed to clarify policies and address issues that have emerged over the years.

One of the most important changes is to highlight the importance of providing us with correct PayPayl information for an account that can receive transfers from the United States or the Netherlands.  Failure to do this can cause all sorts of problems, so we wanted to make sure that there was ample warning in the terms that you need to do that in order to receive  your markup.

Another change is adding rules about how we handle markups on orders that later get returned or rejected.  Sometimes a model is returned because we did not print it correctly.  In those cases we will continue to reprint the models at our expense and send shop owners their markup.  However, sometimes a model is returned or rejected because of an error on the part of the designer.  We are currently exploring the best way to handle those situations.  It is likely that in at least some of those cases we will not pay the designer a markup if the return or rejection stems from errors that they made.

The changes to the terms give us the ability to begin testing rules governing what happens when a product is returned due to designer error.  The process of exploring options will take some time, and we will strive to do it in an open, inclusive way.  Expect to hear more about the process soon.  Until we roll out a more formal tests, designers will at most receive warnings that their model was returned due to what we believe to be their error.  To put it another way, we will not begin withholding markups for returned or rejected models until we have new rules in place.

Most of the rest of the changes are relatively small.  We added a reminder that some tax authorities require us and/or our payment processors to report data on accounts with gross payments over $20,000 and 200 transactions in a calendar year.  We also did a better job of linking the indemnity and product liability sections of the shop owner terms with the general site terms.  At the end we made it explicit that we may change the terms from time to time.

Finally, we linked the confidentiality terms in the shop owner terms to those in our privacy statement.  Hopefully that will give all users of the site a  more uniform set of expectations in terms of privacy on the site.

Terms and Conditions

As I noted at the start of this post, in addition to an overhaul of the shop terms and conditions we also made some updates to other policies on the site.  In addition to fixing some typos in our general terms, the update has two substantive additions.  These are actually clarifications of existing policies that we wanted to make even more clear in the terms.  Remember that these apply to all users, not just shop owners.

The first is what happens when a model violates the content policy. The terms now make it clear that if a model violates our content policy we will refuse to print it and issue you a refund.  If we catch the violation after we print the model, we will not ship you the model and may not issue you a full refund.

We are pairing this with removing the content policy precheck program from beta.  You can email if you are worried that a model might run into trouble with our content policy.  Even if your model is incomplete – or even just an idea – we will do our best to give you guidance about how our content policy applies to you.

The second update to the general terms a clarification as to what happens when you remove a model from Shapeways.  The terms now make it clear that we may continue to use the model as part of our internal education and testing process. This is largely because we use user models to develop testing benchmarks that need to be consistent over time.  However, you can still always email customer service when you remove a model and request that it also be removed from internal testing.

API Terms and Conditions

The updates to the API Terms and Conditions are relatively modest.  In addition to some minor typos, the terms now make it clear that developers using the API are responsible for all fraud and chargebacks related to their use.  Since the API developer is in the best position to design their application in a way that avoids these sorts of fraudulent charges, it seemed only fair that they are responsible when someone uses the application fraudulently.

Content Policy

Last on the list of updates is the Content Policy.  The biggest change, which I already  mentioned above, is that we are bringing the content policy precheck out of beta.  Besides cleaning up some typos (by the way, feel free to let me know when you see typos in our policies….), the only other change is to make our preferred way of receiving copyright takedown notices more prominent.  Sending emails to is the best way to get a takedown request processed efficiently, and now that email address is more obvious on the page.

Thus concludes the spring recitation of the Shapeways policy updates.  As always, if you have any comments, questions or concerns, feel free to put them in the comments below, email them to me at, or tweet at me @MWeinberg2D.

featured image: Eyeglass Cap of Justice by Shapeways user Sabaku_Ika

Designer Spotlight : Stephen Arsenault

3D printing is all about pushing boundaries and solving problems. No one embodies this more than wearables shop owner  Steven Arsenault. Stephen runs a cool shop called Parts and Accessories where he makes useful and stylish accessories for the Fitbit, Pebble, Garmin and more. Let’s hear what he has to say! 

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

I have worked in ad-tech since arriving in San Francisco in 2012 from Canada. Prior to leaving Canada I worked as a graphic designer in the rapid prototyping industry with sheet metal for nearly 5 years, serving many branches of NASA, Naval laboratories, confidential US contracts, and the aeronautical industry.


Stephen Arsenault

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

Ranging from radioactive to purely utilitarian, I like to explore new designs and solutions to tricky problems.

One of my first designs was a carefully designed enclosure for the Fitbit Flex made in brass with semi-precious plating, I named it Fitbit Armour. When I say ‘carefully designed,’ I mean a tolerance of roughly 0.15mm, any less and it wouldn’t work. If I said I like to push the 3D manufacturing provided by Shapeways to their extremes it might be an understatement.

I would gladly accept the title nerd, because it’s tolerances like that which bring me back again and again to produce something new and exciting – it’s the challenge of pushing my technical design skill with the tools and manufacturing available to me.



What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?

Prior to the winter of 2013 I had never used 3D printing before. To me, it was just a buzzword for people toiling away over hot extruded plastic. But I had worked with 50,000 watt laser cutters and ward-jet cutters, so I knew the extruded plastic couldn’t be the limit to additive manufacturing.

That December my soon to be grandmother-in-law showed me a “Neva-5″. If you’re not familiar with that name I can forgive you – it’s a weaving loom manufactured in the 80′s in Soviet Russia.

There’s a switch which must be flipped to adjust the tension on some of the loom mechanism. The original had been roughly cast and eventually broke.

To make a short story even shorter, two weeks later I gazed in awe at my first 3D printed part and had one very impressed grandma (though, no woven sweaters yet).

How did you learn how to design in 3D?

I was exposed to Solidworks during my experience with rapid prototyping. I had tried rhino and 123D CAD but Solidworks just felt RIGHT to me! Also, Youtube is a very patient teacher (if only I were a more patient student).


How do you promote your work?

I promote my work through Twitter and Instagram. I have a shop on Etsy as well, but direct most of my traffic to my Shapeways shop. You get what you put into social marketing!

Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?

Is it too cliche to say Jony Ives and Dieter Rams? No matter, I love minimal design where the emphasis is on details that matter.

Still, there’s a special place in my heart for whimsy and clever flourishes. That would lead me to my two favorite Shapeway designers, Michael Mueller and Steven Gray. If consistency is key, these two guys never fail to impress.


If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?

I would make bicycles and things that propel themselves, the mechanical, the necessary. I would make it all!


Thanks for sharing Stephen, and make sure you check out his shop and follow him here.

How a Simple Mod Made an Entire Community Happy

Every few years automakers change up the entire design of an automobile. Frame, sheetmetal bodywork, engine, transmission and more to help give a vehicle a refresh and push buyers to want the newest model.

With the redesign of their Cooper line, Mini changed a lot about the third generation model. It was elongated, given a new engine and transmission, along with smaller details like this alien-like spaceship keyfob design.


User jwhdevries wasn’t fond of this odd component and after a little research and seeing other Mini drivers fix the issue with Sugru moldable rubber or electrical tape, decided there was a better way to fix the issue at hand. The fob was unnecessarily large, and odd-shaped, and they found that the extra plastic was entirely unnecessary. With his 3D design knowledge, he designed this product in Strong & Flexible Polished plastic.


After posting it on North America Motoring, a Mini- focused forum community with a massive positive response, it was reviewed on Motoring Fun, further pushing it up the ranks.

Through a bit of frustration, a lot of motivation and some serious creation, this product has been one of our top sellers in April; starting as a shared issue within a tight-knight community..

Have you created an amazing lifehack that helps fix a simple issue? We want to hear about it! Tell us about it in the comments below, and share it with us on social media by using #Shap3dByMe!

Follow Seth on Shapeways here