Category Archives: 3D Modeling

3D Printed Fashion: Novelty or reality?

Fashion week has officially arrived here in New York City, and while all the large fashion houses prepare to show off their AW16 lines, Shapeways will be taking the week to focus on the ever-growing trend of 3D printing in fashion.

Over the past two years, and however unintentionally, I’ve been submerged in the world of 3D fashion. It has been a truly unique experience to observe how different corners of fashion utilize this technology. I’ve witnessed a range of use cases: from high-end fashion brands using 3D printers to prototype hardware and jewelry, to experimental tech-hobbyists using software algorithms to knit 3D printable garments. While there has been no shortage of obstacles in each sector, one thing still holds true: people keep pushing the limits.

"Poseiden" a sharkskin biomimicry 3D printed garment

“Poseiden” sharkskin biomimicry 3D printed garment – a project from our annual Computational Fashion master class

But why? Why are people (and corporations) so steadfast in getting involved with this experimental market? The barrier to entry is incredibly high, and traditional fashion manufacturing has worked just fine for us thus far. Is there truly a need for change?

Could it be that including ’3D printing’ in your fashion line is alluring simply because of the novelty factor? Or does this tech actually hold some weight to being a relevant form of fashion manufacturing in the future?

In order to answer this question, we’ll have to take a deep dive into what’s actually going on in the world of computational fashion: Who is making what and why? Over the course of the next week, we will be featuring a number of 3D fashion designers to find out exactly that. Stay tuned!

Digitally Handmade gifts that keep giving. Thank you Shapeways!

Friends often ask me what I’m doing these days professionally and it dawned on me this weekend, I have the best job on earth.   Here is why.

For Christmas I wanted to share Shapeways 3D printed gifts with my whole family, so I searched the marketplace for digitally handmade gifts from our community that were perfect for everyone.   In particular I was thrilled to find this cross by Lucas Plus for my step Mom (aka my 2nd Mom!).Lucas Plus cross

For those of you who might not follow Lucas, he has a wonderful story (read it here) and each of his creations is dedicated to reminding us to always have a positive attitude.  Well, Lucas, your creation above has done just that for me personally.

This past weekend, I was a bit overwhelmed with all the STUFF that can get us down in our everyday lives; emails that won’t stop coming, errands that eat up the entire weekend, deadlines at work I think I can catch up on over the weekend, kids to shuttle around, a stray dirty dish that can’t EVER seem to find its way into the dishwasher… you get the picture.   Then my 2nd mom called from a church weekend retreat.   She shared how her Lucas Plus Cross was the rave of the seminar and she just wanted to let me know how many of her friends were now searching Shapeways for their own digitally handmade cross plus all the other amazing things they had found shopping our marketplace this weekend.

Thank you Lucas for sharing your gift of creativity with us here at Shapeways.   Thank you to everyone in our community today and those who join tomorrow.   Bringing your creativity to the physical world through 3D printing is a gift to us all and you never know how many times each design will make someone smile and lift us up when we start to get smothered with silly little daily details.

So,  what am I doing professionally these days?   Helping enable everyone to share their creativity by bringing it to the physical world through 3D printing.   Helping folks discover our community marketplace where many of our designers and makers actually sell their projects.

Join our community of makers and discover the fun of digitally hand crafted projects.  It is way more fun than weekend chores!   Happy Making!  Rebf

Asking for Clear Rules on Copyright and 3D Printed Objects

Yesterday Shapeways joined with Formlabs and Matter and Form to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to bring some clarity to the rules that govern copyright and 3D printed objects (among many other things).  In a brief prepared by Sydney Lakin and Bill Koch at Stanford Law School’s Juelsgaard IP and Innovation Clinic, we urged the Court to settle on a single test for determining which parts of some 3D printed models can be protected by copyright.

The case is the same one I blogged about last year regarding cheerleader uniforms.  The real issue at stake – which is larger than either cheerleader uniforms or 3D printing – is how copyright law should handle objects that mix copyrightable and non-copyrightable elements.

Briefly, purely decorative and non-functional objects (like StuffBySteve’s snowflake ornament) are eligible for copyright protection.  Purely functional objects (like leegreen’s No. 50 Tripod Clip) are not eligible for copyright protection.

Gijs Egg Cup

The question arises when a 3D printed object incorporates both decorative and functional elements (like Gijs’ birdsnest eggcup above). If you extend copyright to the entire thing, you are using copyright to protect functional objects (that’s bad).  If you exclude it from copyright entirely, you are taking protection away from decorative elements that may be eligible for it (also bad).

The theoretical way to deal with this conflict is to try and separate out the functional and non-functional elements and only grant copyright protection to the non-functional ones.  In practice, we currently have 10 different tests to govern the separating.  As you might expect, these 10 different tests floating around make it hard to know exactly what is protected by copyright and what is not.

Fortunately, this sort of “too many conflicting tests trying to answer a legal question” is exactly the type of situation where the Supreme Court is designed to shine.  This case gives them the opportunity to settle on a single, nationwide test for how to think about mixed functional and non-functional objects.

That’s precisely what we are asking them to do with this brief.  At this stage, we are not even advocating for one test over the other. While some tests are better than others, we feel that the most important thing is to have a single test that everyone can rely on.

What happens next?  This is the stage in the process where parties are asking the Supreme Court to take a look at their case.  Many more cases ask for review than are ever reviewed, and the Supreme Court is mostly free to pick and choose to hear whichever cases it wants to.  If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case there will be an opportunity to weigh on the substantive questions presented by it (as opposed to just weighing in that the Supreme Court should take the case).  That is followed by oral argument and, eventually, a decision.

That’s obviously a lot of steps between now and a final resolution. Regardless of what happens, we’ll keep you up to date.  If you have any questions, don’t be shy about jumping into the comments.

Perfect Model Train Scale Buildings Inspired By New England

Upon visiting the Railroad Hobby Show in Massachusetts last week, I was blown away by the range of miniature trains and scenery. One vendor that stuck out of the herd due to the overall level of artistry was Atlantic Scale Modelers run by Hal Reynolds. The detail on his scenes is downright incredible, from the vegetation made from individual pieces of thread to weathered shingles.

See for yourself below:

Dog Bar Light cover

Bridge scale miniature

scale model lighthouse

Cabin railroad miniature

We love connecting with the model train community and learning more about what makes this community excited and motivated to design. With our materials and technology, there is so much these modelers can do to add to their collections and we’re excited to see more amazing scenes at shows throughout the year!

For more scale models you can check out the Shapeways Miniatures marketplace.

The ultimate life hack with 3D printing

Many people turn to 3D printing when they need to create a fast-fix for a product they already own. Whether it’s designing a piece that makes their coffee maker work better or creating a replacement part that isn’t manufactured anymore, 3D printing can really come in handy.

For even the most simple things, 3D printing can come in handy and make life a little easier.

The Ultimate Hack

One group has taken this idea even further and created a “book” that can make water safe to drink for people in countries that don’t have access to clean water. Last year, WATERisLIFE introduced The Drinkable Book. Each page of the book can be torn out to act as a filter when placed in a special 3D printed container. The 3D printed container doubles as the filter holder, which makes it a cheap package that is incredibly easy to use.

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{via waterislife.com}

From 3Ders.org:

“According to its developers, a simple book with twenty pages has the ability to provide enough clean water for a single person for up to a year. ‘The Drinkable Book’s filter paper will revolutionize water purification. It costs only pennies to produce, making it by far the cheapest option on the market. Each filter is capable of giving someone up to 30 days’ worth of clean water. And, each book is capable of providing someone with clean water for up to one year.”

There are no shortage of stories these days that document how 3D printing is saving lives. From prosthetics to organs, the medical field is full of examples on how the technology is changing the world. The Drinkable Book takes this further, as it is a fairly simple use of 3D printing that can change lives around the world. What does this mean for the future? We believe it means that more people will feel enabled to change the world, because they have access to 3D printing. When you think about what the technology and materials can do, the sky is really the limit!

Shapeways Live with Bryan Harris

Today we interviewed Shapeways employee and shop owner, Bryan Harris. In this live stream event, we’ll learn about how Bryan came to find Shapeways, and how his work at the company inspired him to learn 3D modeling and ultimately open up his own shop All4u.

Check out the full interview at the bottom of this post!

When Bryan applied to Shapeways three years ago, he didn’t know much about 3D printing, or how it would change his life.

“I came here … loved the atmosphere, the people, and loved watching people’s ideas come to life as objects.” – Bryan Harris, Porcelain Production Lead

Bryan tells us the story about his first few months of working at Shapeways, and how engaging with the magic of the technology inspired him to give 3D modeling a try.

“I started off with basic software, like TinkerCAD … I just kind of dove in, watched tutorials and started trying different things … Eventually someone recommended I try out Blender” – Bryan Harris

Being resourceful and driven to continue making, Bryan took on the task of beginning to learn Blender and working with our tech leads to use scripts to create intricately patterned patterned designs.

Eventually, when his skills were refined enough, Bryan opened up his shop All 4 U.

“All 4 U is basically a feeling. A feeling that as designers, we design not just for ourselves, but for our customers … I’m not just making for myself. I’m making for all people out there.” – Bryan Harris, Porcelain Production Lead

Bryan has not only excelled as a talented 3D designer, he has also come a leader in our company by spearheading the roll out of porcelain manufacturing in our factory located in Queens, NY.

Within our interview, we learn about how Bryan’s experience in porcelain production influenced his design process and eventually lead to a shift in his shop offering, which now features primarily porcelain products.

Want to hear more about porcelain production and some tips of the trade? You’ll have to watch our full interview, where Bryan shares some special insights into how to pick the right glazes, understanding detail guidelines and much more.

Not working? Click here to watch the full interview!

And be sure to join in every Tuesday at 12:00PM EST for our Shapeways Live events!

Brilliant 3D Printed Sculpture Animates Right Before Your Eyes

3D printing has opened the door for artists to create kinetic works. Project Flux, a collaboration of 3 students from Germany used 3D printing to create a physical object that choreographs spinning and light to create the impression of animation.

Inspired by Bloom, a series of 3D printed objects (printed at Shapeways) that use the Fibonacci sequence and carefully filmed motion to create the sensation of movement, Flux takes this concept a step further by using a strobe light that beats at just the right frequency, allowing the animated effect to be seen with the bare eye rather than requiring a camera’s shutter speed to create the illusion of movement.

See for yourself below.

 

Flux from Dieter Pilger on Vimeo.

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2D to 3D Refresher

Posted by in 3D Modeling, Apps

As we talked about last week, the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to learn a new skill. Motivation tends to be high, and it’s nice to distract yourself from the realization that the holidays are officially an entire year away.

While now is a great time to start learning more about the various 3D modeling software programs out there, we know it can feel like too much information to start with. However, one of the best ways to start learning is to…just start modeling!

Luckily for beginners, 3D printing is now accessible to everyone through easy-to-use 3D modeling tools and creator apps. If you are just beginning and haven’t started playing around with any 3D software, try using an image you already love or a drawing you’ve created and convert it to a 3D model using 2D to 3D. Using an app like this is a great way to learn some of the basics of 3D printing, before really diving into the specifics.

Check out the video below to see how 2D to 3D works!

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • What images work best when using 2D to 3D
  • How to upload your image
  • How to scale your design
  • How to pick the perfect material for your model
  • How to order your product

Let’s get started!

Pick an image:

There are a couple of images you can upload to 2D to 3D. If you want to create a doodle-style design, draw it yourself on white paper or a white dry erase board. You can also use an image that has already been created, including fonts, shapes, patterns, “pop art” inspired original photos and more. For best results you’ll want to use a simple black and white drawing. Either way, make sure your image follows the following criteria:

  • Simple black and white: The black portions will “pop” and be thickened into your 3D product, while the white represents empty space
  • Cropped to the edges: The viewer measures the width of the image you upload, not the design itself, so make sure to crop your image before uploading

Here’s an example of a drawing that won’t work. Notice how the letters aren’t connected? If you tried to upload this version, you would receive your part in pieces as opposed to one solid product:

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Another one that will be hard to make work because the grey pencil does not stand out enough against the white background:

IMG_1366

(Note: It is possible to make pencil work, but you’ll need to make sure you press firmly and don’t have any gaps in your design.)

Below is the image we used for this post:

IMG_3741 (1)

Upload your design:

Once you’ve picked your image, you’re ready to upload! To start, go to Shapeways.com and click “Make” in the top navigation bar. You’ll see “Easy Creator Apps” in the drop down menu – click into it and then find 2D to 3D under “Easy 3D Model Editors.”

When you’re in the app, click “Choose File.”

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You’ll quickly see your image come up on the viewer and you’ll be able to play around with the thickness and width of the product.

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As you change the thickness and width of your design, be sure to hit “Update View” so that you can preview your final product. When you’re happy with the design, hit the “Buy Now” button to go to your Model page.

Scale your design and pick your material:

To scale your design, click “Scale”

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Put in your desired measurements when the new box pops up. Scaling your design will impact the size of your design, as well as the cost depending on the material you choose.

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At this point, you’ll also learn which materials your product can be printed in. The entire Shapeways material portfolio will be listed, and each will be indicated if it can be printed or not.

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With 54 materials to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming to decide what you want your product to be printed in. If you want to test your product and get a basic idea of what your design will look like in 3D, we’d suggest sticking with our White Strong & Flexible Plastic. For something a little more fun, choose any one of our dyed plastics or even Metallic Plastic.

If you’re planning on creating a pendant or other type of jewelry, we have plenty of metals to choose from. Try Steel, Plated Brass or even Gold! For this design, we chose to go with Polished Brass.

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Order your product:

When you’ve made a decision, just hit “Add to Cart” next to your desired material.

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Your product will then be in your cart and available to purchase!

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2D to 3D is a great way to get started in the 3D printing world. Once you receive your very own 3D printed product that you created yourself, we’re sure you’ll be hooked. Be sure to share you designs with us using the hashtag #shapedbyme on Twitter and Instagram.

Now tell us below – what will you be making with 2D to 3D this month?

Congratulations Stony Smith on hitting $10,000 at Shapeways Marketplace

Today marks a milestone for Shopowner and scale miniature expert Stony Smith earns $10,000 in profit from his Shapeways Shop. Stony works full time as a developer and runs his Shapeways shop (and moderates the Shapeways forums) in his spare time.

  • Stony’s first sale was Feb 28, 2010 of 2010
  • In Apr of 2011, he was interviewed by Wired Magazine because of his Shapeways Shop
  • Stony’s most popular models are:

 

 

Any lessons you have for other designers / shopowners who want to hit the 10K milestone?

Stony : “Do an equal mix of your own interests and interacting with buyers to find out what they desire. You’ll get bored doing just one of them.

Those best sellers.. the automobile frames, were a request from a friend. They’re something that I would never have done otherwise. My general standard is that I’ll tackle any request if the item is “interesting” to me. This whole journey has been “That’s cool.. can you do one of THESE?”

How do you want to reach your next sales milestone?

Even with all this success, I still consider this to be a hobby, and won’t be quitting my day job. I’m more in it for the community, there’s probably a dozen shopowners that I helped get started with making designs.

I’d love to make $20k, but that’ll be another 6 years. My only regret/desire is to figure out some way to do some actual marketing, but MY market is rather closed. I’d have to invest a lot of time in social media (train forums).

How will you use the $10K in sales you’ve earned so far? 

Stony: “I will use the money to buy more trains !!!! A hobby that funds itself is a good thing :)

In case you missed Shapeways Live with Raymond McCarthy Bergeron

 This is a recap of our weekly Shapeways Live interview. To watch next week’s chat check out the Shapeways Live page.

Ever wondered what it would be like to use 3D printing to make a film? Multi-media artist Raymond McCarthy Bergeron used Shapeways to create his short film Re-Belief and its now available to to watch online. The results are incredible, check it out below.

 

re÷belief from Raymond McCarthy Bergeron on Vimeo.

 

I also talked to Raymond about this and other projects on or weekly Shapeways Live interview. If you didn’t catch it live you can find it below or on our youtube channel in the Shapeways Live playlist.

 

New Year, New Skill

It’s that time of year again, where we scramble to list out those all-important resolutions for the New Year. We have the typical suspects of NY resolutions: read more, meditate often, build healthy habits. However, here at Shapeways, we’re thinking of something else you might want to do in 2016: Get started with 3D printing.

Here’s a few tips on how to get started making with 3D in 2016.

1. Give yourself an easy project to start with. The sky is the limit when it comes to what you can create with 3D printing. However, when you’re first beginning to learn this skill, it may be best to think of a design that’s easier to create. A great way to do this is to find a simple silhouette and use our pendant creator to bring it to life, or for something more complex, consider watching some tutorials and get started with OnShape.

2. Set aside some time each week dedicated to 3D modeling. Even if it’s just an hour a week, setting aside time dedicated to learning each week can take you a long way. Plus, once you get started, it’s easy to get into it and keep going! Pro-tip: Schedule this time as a repeat event on your google calendar, so you’ve always got a reminder to get you going.

3. Get active on the Shapeways forums. Our forums are the heart of the Shapeways community. If you’re ever looking for a source of inspiration or have questions about getting started, you will without a doubt find your answers on this section of our website.

4. Open up a shop. We’ve noticed that it becomes a little bit more difficult to forget about your New Years Resolutions when you incentivize yourself with making money. Having a single product in your shop is a great start to earning a little extra cash for the weekends… and you may find yourself motivated to add more to your collection over time!

6. Keep an eye on our Meetup page and attend local events in your area. Meetups are a great way to meet people who have similar interests – it’s also an opportunity to connect directly with employees at Shapeways and learn hands on about what’s possible.

5. Be a Boss. Set the vision for your goals and don’t let up. You, and only you are in charge of the outcome of 2016. If you set your mind and time to accomplish something, you will achieve it!

Learning something new can be tough, but luckily at Shapeways, we are armed with an amazing community of makers to get you through the learning curve. If you have ideas, now is the time to bring them to life. And don’t forget about all the amazing materials we have to offer. Who knows what new things we’ll come up with in 2016!?

Behind the Product with Corinne Whitaker

Today we are showcasing, Corinne Whitaker, a pioneer in the digital arts. Whitaker got her start in the digital arts in the early 80’s processing irrational equations through various programs to see what forms would appear. After more than 3 decades, her work has grown to include massive 3D printed sculptures, catalogs of digital designs, and paintings. Whitaker has exhibited her work at galleries and museums around the world.

corinnewhitaker

Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

I am based in Foster City, CA., in the heart of Silicon Valley, at the
epicenter of the “Can Do” ethos, surrounded by innovation and optimism. I
started working/playing with computers in 1981, when I became fascinated
with the patterns and colors they offered, realizing that they could see
millions more colors than the human eye. I was also intrigued by the idea
that I was entering unknown territory, where few had ventured before me.
There were lots of questions, few answers, and no rules (my kind of
place). That’s why my recent solo show at the Peninsula Museum of Art in
Burlingame, CA was titled “NoRules”! This meant that I didn’t have the
ghosts of Ansel Adams on one shoulder and of Picasso on the other. It was
both exhilarating and scary.

gr_blackpearl

Where does your experience in 3D modeling originate?

Initially there were almost no art programs, let alone 3D, so I began by
entering irrational equations into science programs to see what would
happen. I love accidents, and I still work that way. At the start, desktop
computers had neither parallel processing nor multi-tasking, so creating
in 3D was more than challenging. (ie, 48 hours of down time, ending in a
frozen screen and no image!). Eventually I worked with a Canadian company
(Alias Sketch) whose software offered organic possibilities combined with
excellent customer support; unfortunately they were bought out and
discontinued.

gr_alienincoming2

What is your preference in modeling software and why?

Computers at that time were essentially edge-based and geometric, whereas
I have always been drawn to the organic. This continues to influence my
choice of programs today.

gr_wynkenred

What are your designs inspired by? Could you please share the story behind your sculptures?

My designs are influenced by my conviction that the human species is due to expire, either by self-destruction, exhaustion of natural resources, or cosmic intervention (are we the dinosaurs, after all?) so I create as though I were out in the cosmos somewhere, free of gravity, and speculating on what the next creatures might look like.I am also convinced that a new visual language is necessary to reflect the change in viewpoint that NASA gave to us with its explorations in space. Basically they freed us from Renaissance perspective and introduced a cosmically-based view of living matter. The next group of creatures will almost certainly be based on something other than carbon: what happens if they view us with dismay, if they do not want to acknowledge us as their forebears, if they cannot even figure out what humans were used for? Being unseen in history is a terrifying thought (although one familiar to women artists, but that’s another story).

gr_blynken

What was your first interaction with 3D printing & Shapeways?

Shapeways has played a large role in my success. It is a leader and
ground-breaker in the industry, enabling me to experiment with life-sized
3D printed figures where other were afraid to try. Its professionalism is
admirable and its customer service a joy. 3D printing allows me to bring
to life the swirl of designs that populate my visual realm. As an industry
it will definitely revolutionize many fields of endeavor.

gr_jive2    gr_finian

Could you describe your process for creating your sculptures?

My thought process is one of letting go and traveling through ideas. It
involves the challenge of putting your ego aside and letting yourself go
crazy to some degree. As artists we have the luxury of knowing that
although we share the wild territory of the insane, we have a round-trip
ticket back to what is commonly called sanity. I like to say that we are
willing to touch the thorn barehanded in order to know the rose.

gr_blackswans              gr_dervishgold

At the moment, the biggest difficulty in creating 3D printed sculpture
remains the software. It presents a steep uphill learning curve.
Familiarity with standard 2D software does not translate easily into 3D,
and each 3D program tends to have its own vocabulary. Eventually we will
do away with the software entirely.

But if you love challenge, if you love exploring the new and unfamiliar,
if you love experimenting and want to taste tomorrow, this is the place to
be!

gr_3Dblobs

For more with Whitaker:

You can find all of Whitaker’s work on her website, www.giraffe.com

To learn more about her history, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corinne_Whitaker

Current Exhibitions:

On view at Vargas Gallery, Mission College 3000 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95054 December 1st – December 19th

“Virtually Solid: Digital Fabrication as Sculpture” at Wilson Center of the Arts, Florida State College 11901 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, FL January 2016

On view at Paul Mahder Gallery 222 Healdsburg Avenue Healdsburg, CA 95448 (http://www.paulmahdergallery.com/artists/whitaker/corinne_whitaker.htm)

Publications:

Four catalogs of CAD models and poetry, all titled “If We Are Erased”

www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=corinne+whitaker         www.giraffe.com/gr_catalogs.html

“It’s like putting a microscope inside my brain to illuminate the origins of my new species.”

BotFactory Develops 3D Printed Hardware with Shapeways

This is a guest post by George Kyriakou of BotFactory

With Shapeways we suck more, literally. Imagine if every time that you wanted to make a change to your website or app, you had to wait for two weeks to see the results. This is the reality in the electronics prototyping world. My name is George Kyriakou and I am the COO of BotFactory, where we make Squink, a Desktop Electronics Printer that can create the sort of PCBs to power any device, from drones to watches. We use Shapeways in order to get high precision and quality parts without having to order thousands of units.

BotFactory aims to reassess the way we think about Electronics and hardware prototyping. Instead of waiting a couple of weeks procrastinating while your board is being manufactured and shipped, BotFactory inkjet prints your traces in a jiffy using silver-based nanoparticle electroconductive ink. Instead of searching for interns to burn your freshly cooked wafer, BotFactory solders and picks and places for you. And all that through a single device that sits on your desk: Squink.

As COO I manage our supply and manufacturing chain, which means I also serve as the janitor, packer, shipper, assembler, purchase manager, etc. My long-term goal is to make sure that BotFactory can scale production effortlessly and meet our big vision to have Squinks on everyone’s desk. From the early days, we designed and 3D printed all of the parts for Squink on our handy Makerbot Replicator 2X. We felt that we could scale with only one machine – how wrong we were!

Final Squink Pics - Above view 2000x2100 Empty

Continue reading

Mysterious Jedi used 3D printing to make his Star Wars TIE fighter toy into a Drone

A user on imgur who goes by Woodpiece (via Gizmodo) recently took his new Hasbro TIE fighter and, using some elbow grease and 3D printing, turned it into a remote controlled drone. The results are remarkable, from the gif you can almost hear the sound it would make as it tries futilely to defend a backyard Death Star trench.

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Woodpiece disassembled his non-flying toy, removed its innards and replaced them with 3D printed motor mounts. Overall the process looks like it took some work but would be repeatable through his instructions found here.

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Woodpiece isn’t the only one modifying and building cool drones, shopowners on Shapeways have been doing the same for years. Below are a few great examples of what you can do to customize your drone with Shapeways.

3D printing the Future of Space Travel

Alex Kuehn of Xair Robotics recently shared his new working prototype for a solid fuel rocket engine, printed at Shapeways. Shapeways is no stranger to 3D printing for Space exploration but this engine is a novel invention. Alex describes it to be, “to the best of our knowledge this is the FIRST EVER in the history of mankind, 3D Printed Reusable Solid Fuel Rocket Engine and the components were printed by Shapeways out of the nickel plated stainless steel material.”

Alex is a young engineer and founder of Xair. He currently is also cutting his teeth designing production tooling for jet aircraft design professionally at Cirrus Aircraft. Xair is a passion project with lofty goals: “The underlying dream here is advanced vehicles for the everyday person at a price they could afford. ”

Continuing, he notes “It’s taken 9 months of hard work, countless iterations, and many prototypes to get to this point and it’s really very exciting, however there still is a great deal of work to do before we will be able to bring our hobby motors to the public in the form of a refined product. ”

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“The XR58 (the engine in question) was first tested on October 31st of this year and has since been tested a total of five times proving its validity as a reusable design. The motor is as simple as pouring the fuel in and bolting the nozzle on and has an operational cost 97% cheaper than a disposable motor with the same quantity of propellant. We are now working adamantly on a way to adapt what we have learned with this program to build an engine that can be sold to the hobby and enthusiast market. ”

“We knew nothing about rocket propulsion when we built our first little engine and here we are nine months later with a fully reusable 3D printed rocket engine. We hope to scale the knowledge we’ve gained through this program to build larger motors, with our next batch of motors hopefully being large enough to fly a small manned vehicle to prove the safety and reliability of our engines, with the ultimate goal being to produce a manned suborbital launch vehicle akin to the availability, presence, accessibility, and affordability that can be found in home-built aircraft today. ”

“For myself and Paul Adelgren [friend and partner in engineering duties for XAIR] we’ve both always wanted to go to space and that is where our rocket motor program sprouted from. We knew we would never get to go if we had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it and besides, where was the fun in just going for a ride on someone else’s rocket as a tourist? We dreamed (and still dream) of going to space on our own personal space vehicles and that is where this is all headed should it be in the cards.”