Category Archives: 3D Modeling

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

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

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

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

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

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


CAD (Computer Aided Design/Drafting)

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

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

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

Examples of CAD:

Solidworks: Industry standard CAD software


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


Tinkercad: great for beginners


Onshape: Cloud-based with free option


3D Modeling

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

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

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

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

Examples of 3D modeling software:

Sketchup: Free and popular


Maya: Industry standard for film and animation


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


ZBrush: Professional digital sculpting software


Sculptris: Simpler, free version of ZBrush for beginners

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

Shapeways at Dutch Design Week 2016

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

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

Visitors to Shapeways' Eindhoven factory during Dutch Design Week 2015

Visitors to Shapeways’ Eindhoven factory during Dutch Design Week 2015

Shapeways EXPO | Shapeways Factory | Oct. 22-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wired Life Tiger by Shapeways Designer Dot San

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

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

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

A group of 3D Selfies

A group of 3D Selfies

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

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

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

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

Designer Spotlight: Josh Appleman – Geo Glitz

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

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

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

Any stats on the top-selling states?

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

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

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

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

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

Designer Spotlight: Gavin Rose – Sparkshot Custom Creations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Comic Con Cosplay Roundup

New York Comic Con is four days of comics, movies, video games, and of course, cosplay. Last week I went to the Javits Center to find the coolest cosplay in the Shapeways Community and you guys sure were impressive!

Here are a couple of my favorites:

We started the week by scanning some of the cosplay world’s best artists at the Kotaku io9 Cosplay Ball in New York. Folks dressed in crazy gear, including a 10 foot tall Overwatch Outfit were 3D scanned using the Occipital Scanect. They could then go into our Shapeways scanning shop to order their figures in Full Color Sandstone.

Scanning, photo credit Kotaku and Erik Erikson

Scanning, photo credit Kotaku and Erik Erikson

Scanning, photo credit Kotaku and Erik Erikson

Scanning, photo credit Kotaku and Erik Erikson

After the party, we headed to the convention center to meet up with some of our favorite designers. We found Sarah Awad and Dhemerae Ford of The Laser Girls showing off their amazing Final Fantasy-inspired costumes, complete with full-sized, 3D printed Buster Swords. They’ve been sharing tips on designing for cosplay here, and it was amazing to see the results of their hard work.


Laser Girls Final Fantasy Shapeways 3D printed cosplay armor New York Comic Con

Close up of Sarah’s 3D printed earings, necklace and shoulder piece

Another of our favorite designers, Melissa Ng of Lumecluster, was decked out in her fully articulated, 3D printed Sovereign Armor. We featured her a few months ago when she unveiled this project, but seeing her in person was unreal. Check out the video below to for an interview with Melissa about how she created this armor and her experience at Comic Con.

Melissa Ng Lumecluster Shapeways 3D printed cosplay armor New York Comic Con visor down

Melissa’s Sovereign Armor with the mask down

Melissa Ng Lumecluster Shapeways 3D printed cosplay armor New York Comic Con

Melissa talking about her Sovereign armor

Were you also at New York Comic Con wearing 3D printed cosplay? We’d love to see! Let us know in the comments below.

Tips for Designing in Porcelain

Porcelain is an ancient technology that has been transformed by modern machinery and 3D printing. Designs once impossible to create by hand are now possible using 3D printers. At Shapeways, we launched our very own porcelain process in 2014 that uses your 3D design file to print a mold and cast using our own porcelain material.

As expected with all new technologies, there are limitations. To understand how to optimally design for 3D printed porcelain, it is important to understand the production process as well as the caveats of the material. Read on to learn about each stage of production and find tips on how to design in porcelain to make your finished objects just right.


How is 3D printed porcelain created?

1.  3D printing engineers check your design

Once you place your order, your model file is sent over to our 3D printing engineers who specialize in porcelain. They inspect the model to ensure that the mold of the design can be printed and continue through the production process.

2.  The mold is generated and printed

We have developed software that generates a mold of your 3D file. You can imagine the mold as a shell or the negative space of your design. We will also generate a small funnel that will be used to cast your product.

3.  The mold is cut and cleaned

Once the model is taken out of the printer, it must be cleaned of all residual support material. In order to completely clear out all of the material, the mold must be cut to reach the interior. Imagine the mold as the “skin” of your model or the negative space. The mold and overall design must be able to hold together in order to eventually cast in porcelain.

4.  The mold is reassembled

After the mold has been cleaned out, it must be glued back together in order to cast. This creates a seam where the model has been cut and glued. However, this will later be sanded and repaired by hand.

The exterior funnel will be glued to the mold for the next step in the process, casting.

5.  Porcelain is cast in the mold

The porcelain material is poured into the mold through the exterior funnel. The porcelain material within the mold will settle and harden.

6.  The mold is removed

Once the porcelain is fully hardened, the mold will be removed and the porcelain model will remain.

7.  Model goes into first firing

Immediately after the mold has been removed, the design goes into the kiln for its first firing. This hardens the design so that the model may be repaired and glazed.

8.  Model is repaired and hand finished

With the first firing complete, the model is strong enough to repair. There are a few types of repairs that may be performed. First, the porcelain team uses a variety of tools to carefully remove the seam lines left by the mold. Second, if the porcelain has not reached all ends of the mold or has generated any air pockets, these minor imperfections will be patched and repaired by hand.

9.  Model goes into second firing

If your model needed to be patched, the product will go in for a second firing. This cycle of repairs and firings can happen a few times in order to get your design just right.

10.  Product is glazed

Your design will be hand dipped in a liquid glaze. Any excess glaze on the base of the design will be wiped away in order to avoid the glaze from sticking to the kiln.

11.  Glaze firing

Once the base has been wiped clean, the model enters the kiln for the glaze firing. This will solidify the food-safe coating of glaze on the design. In some cases, the model may need to be re-glazed and fired due to unpredictable surface issues, such as small pin holes or patches that were not glazed fully. A re-glaze may cause pooling of glaze on the model.

12.  Finished model

The model is then packaged carefully and sent to the distribution center to be shipped off to you.

What do you need to consider before designing in porcelain?

There are two aspects of porcelain to consider before you begin to design your product. First, the glaze that will coat your design. Second, the properties of the production process.


During the glazing process, your model is dipped in the thick glaze liquid. Excess glaze drips off and the base is cleaned so that it may rest on the kiln shelf without fusing to the bottom. While the model is in the kiln the glaze becomes molten. After cooling, the result is a stronger, hardened layer of colored food-safe glass.


Our glazes run a thickness of 1 to 2 mm. This means that if precise fit and unobstructed holes are important to your model, ensure you have left at least 2 millimeters of clearance on EVERY wall.

In the image below you can see two differently sized holes. The hole on the left is larger than 5 mm wide. This will allow the glaze to coat the inside without closing the hole. The hole on the right displays a 4 mm hole, the glaze will completely obstruct this hole eliminating the ability for clearance.


Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 10.48.46 AM.png

The same logic applies for lids that fit onto containers. The lid should account for the glaze that will be applied as well as the container itself. Meaning, your design should have at least 4 mm of space between the lid and the container.


Details of a design can get lost under a layer of glaze. It is necessary to consider the depth, height, and width of the detail of before submitting your design. On our porcelain material page, we recommend a minimum of 1 mm height and width of detail. If you are aiming for sharp details, consider making them greater than this minimum.

We have published a previous post depicting examples of details after being glazed in each of our color options. As mentioned, each color has a slight variation of thickness. For the clearest text or imagery, please ensure you accommodate for the glaze.



Adding feet to your standing designs are useful for avoiding fully unglazed bases. While designing these decorative and useful features, there are couple aspects to keep in mind:

  • The height of the feet should be greater than the thickness of the glaze. Otherwise, the base will be required to go unglazed.

  • Long spindly feet can break during casting. Please ensure that the height and thickness of the feet are comparable or that the thickness can allow for the feet to fully cast


Sharp edges and rounded edges will affect how the glaze rests on the model after firing. In the images below, you can see how a sharp edge will split the glaze whereas a rounded edge will allow the glaze to roll over the edge. One is not better than the other; they are merely aesthetically different.



All models must be able to stand on their own, as they will be fired with other models in a single kiln. At this time stilts and supports are not included in the production process. This means that the model must have a base or feet to rest on. With designer-selected orientation, you have the power to determine which side of the model goes unglazed and rests on the kiln during the firing process.

During the upload process, a render is provided to select the top and bottom of your design. Arrows may be selected to rotate the design in the proper orientation. Top and bottom indicators are located on the render image. NOTE: The orientation in the render will be the orientation in production.

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 9.37.10 PM.png




The bounding box for porcelain states the limits of how large or small your design can be. These limits are important to consider before taking the time to completely design your item.

Minimum: 40 × 40 × 10 mm

Maximum: 125 × 125 × 200 mm


In order for a model to cast completely and reach the very edges of the design, walls and wires must be thick enough for the comparable length.

The smaller the model or shorter the wire, the thinner it may be. This is demonstrated in the image below. If the model is 2 mm thin and very short, it is easier for the porcelain to make it to the end of the mold. Otherwise, if the design is long and thin, it is nearly impossible for the porcelain to fill the mold completely.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 11.27.27 AM.png

With extremely thin wires, holes, and walls, cleaning out the mold by hand can cause breaks with insufficient thickness. So it is especially important to consider making these features larger than 3 mm for the best result. This does not increase pricing greatly as porcelain is priced by surface area. Adding thickness does not increase price as it does with other materials.


Elevate your porcelain ideas by using these tips and techniques. Let those details shine through and make sure your design glides through the production process. Once you’ve printed your design, you can begin selling on the Shapeways marketplace!

Designer Spotlight: Erin Winick – Sci Chic

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Designer Spotlight: Igor Puškarić – Iggy Design

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


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

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

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

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

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


Discovery Channel Star of Big Giant Swords and 3D designer Team up to bring Awesome Minifigure Swords to Shapeways

One of our favorite things about Shapeways is that we’re a digital maker space for creative minds to meet and collaborate. One exciting new project we’ve seen is between designer Nate Ryan and Swordsmith / TV star Mike Craughwell aka Michaelcthulhu. They teamed up to recreate Mike’s huge metal swords as 3D printed toys for mini figures

Mike Craughwell MikeChthulhu Big Giant Swords Discover Channel 3D printing Shapeways lego minifigures

Mike and Nathaniel reviewing some models over Skype

How did this project get started? What inspired you to work together?

Nate Ryan: ”I was watching Irish Mike’s show on Discovery Channel called Big Giant Swords. I was so inspired from Mike, this guy living his dream and sharing it with the rest of us. The swords were impressive to say the least, but for me I was more inspired with Mike, the person. You can tell he is authentic, a great father and husband so for me those qualities drew me in even more than the swords. I created Dragonsbreath as the first prototype and reached out to Mike on Twitter and Facebook that I could make 3D models of his swords. I was so excited when he responded and from there we have had several Skype sessions to talk about designing swords on a smaller scale where fans of the show that couldn’t buy a custom build at actual size might want a small scale version. The idea was to make replicas of the swords on the tv series scaled down to a size that would fit into a lego guy or other figurines.”

How did you get started with 3D design for 3D printing?

Nathaniel Ryan: “I use Blender 3D for all my modeling and used the swords to also learn how to print them, it took some trial and error, but have been extremely satisfied with the quality and precision that Shapeways printing provides. I have also been doing 3D modeling for several years as freelance. you can find some of my work at ArtStation, Pinterest, Facebook, or FullyCroisened.

What are the challenges you find in recreating Mike’s swords for mini figures?

Nate Ryan: “Due to the small scale, to maintain thickness, etc, sometimes I need to take some liberties on the actual details of the 3D printed versions. I try to get as close as possible to the original giant swords. Also before we enable it to the public, we print several versions until we get it to a quality level we are happy with. That process can take some time, but we want to get a repeatable and reliable print design before we make it available for purchase.

For me, I love the metal options but the plastic ones are safe for children and putting them into a lego man or some other figurine is too much fun!”

Check out the great video by Mike out on Youtube promoting the store:

Mike Craughwell MikeChthulhu Big Giant Swords Discover Channel 3D printing Shapeways lego minifigures

A collection of the swords printed in various materials

Mike, how did you feel when you saw the swords printed as miniatures for the first time?

Michaelcthulhu:I get a massive kick out of seeing the tiny swords, obviously. Not everyone can afford a massive sword, so it was cool to finally have a small piece of Mikemorabilia that people could actually afford. The wonders of the age we live in or whatever, even if I could make small stuff with this fine of detail (which is questionable when your primary tool is an angle grinder) it would still be out of most peoples price range cause of the time it would take me to do it. I’ve gotten messages from people who have bought these for their kids, warm cockles etc. They’re so much cooler than a Michaelcthulhu T-shirt or Mug, in my humble opinion.

Mike Craughwell MikeChthulhu Big Giant Swords Discover Channel 3D printing Shapeways lego minifigures

Mike Inspecting and using the sword

Also bonus for me: Nate did all the hard work! The 3d modeling work done by Nate is just as baffling to me as what I do is to most people. Let’s say Nate had never sent me his Rahab model pictures, at some point it might have occurred to me to pay some random guy to make the model, uploaded it to a Shapeways account and prayed it all worked. But if there was a problem with the model? Or if I wanted to modify the model in some way later on? Not a hope, I would have been totally stuck. These little swords only exist because of Nate. Is there a moral? Keep sharing your stuff with people I guess?

Also I have always secretly wanted to be an action figure far more than a real person, and this lines up with that nicely. Mike action figure– Nate get on it! (although that might be just the lack of sleep talking I went to bed at 6am).”

We love hearing about how designers are teaming up with other creative people. You can find their swords available for sale here. If you’re had a cool collaboration, let us know in the comments below! If you’re looking for a partner to work with, check out our designer for hire page here.

NYC Open Source Documentation Night on October 25

Here at Shapeways we are big fans of Open Source Hardware because it makes it easier for people to collaborate on inspiring 3D printable things.  That’s why, as part of Open Source Hardware Month we are happy to join with the NYU Law Technology Law & Policy Clinic, Kickstarter, Fat Cat Fab Lab and the Open Source Hardware Association to host the New York Documentation Night.

Documentation Night is an opportunity for the community to take some time to document some of the projects we have been working on.  This makes it easier for others to learn from them, as well as build upon them going forward.  Participating in Documentation Night will help you unlock the cool stuff you’ve been working on for the rest of the community and register for the official Open Source Hardware certification program.  We’ll also be able to share best practices from some leading open source hardware documenters.

Documentation Night will be October 25th at Fat Cat Fab Lab from 5:30pm to 9pm.  While everyone is welcome at this free event, we do ask you to RSVP in advance here.  And if this sounds like fun but you can’t make it to NYC, check out this page with other Documentation Nights in your area.   If there isn’t one already planned near you, you can even host your own.


Gravity Sketch Launches a Kickstarter Campaign

We’ve been huge fans of what the Gravity Sketch team has done to make 3D design more accessible to everyone through their iPad app, Gravity Sketch iOS, which is being used by thousands of creators across the world.

As a result of all the user feedback from the app, the Gravity Sketch team embarked on developing a more advanced tool to even further lower the barriers to 3D literacy by creating a desktop and virtual reality version and have just launched a Kickstarter to fund the project.

The new experience offers users a “what you see is what you get” interface where users can interact with 3D creations in real time, in a truly three dimensional space. The team was inspired to extend this fully immersive creation experience, allowing you to tap (literally) into simple tools that enable you to create complicated shapes in seconds– all of which are sketched the exact size as you see it.

Ready to take 3D modeling into your own hands? Gravity Sketch is ready to make this possible with this VR experience. As a fun bonus, for a limited time, backers that support the Kickstarter campaign for about $19 (£15), you’ll be able to pick and receive a Shapeways 3D printed ornaments that was designed by a Gravity Sketch artist, right in time for the holidays! Check out the gorgeous options below, they’re printed out of strong and flexible plastic, with some nifty little interlocking parts!


The Lasergirls Cosplay Tips: How To Choose The Right 3D Printing Material For Your Costume

The lasergirls have designed some of our favorite fashion and cosplay items, and we’ve been running a series of blog posts with their tips on using Shapeways to design for cosplay. Below are their recommendations for using Shapeways materials.


Convention’s are always in season, and with New York Comic Con just around the corner, you may have been inspired to hop on the cosplay train.

3D printing cosplay is a great project for those of you either looking for a fresh new challenge, or if you are just starting out, since the processes of printing and modeling are so scalable and versatile.

Before getting started though on your 3D Printed Cosplay Journey, be sure to review your event’s weapons policy and make sure that your creation fits within any size, material, and/or safety regulations.  Use the same discretion and sense of context (as we mentioned in our last CCC post) when choosing printed materials.  Make sure to review the MSDS, Food Safe policies, and other disclaimers on materials you plan to use.

And with that, let’s dig in!

lasergirls 3D printed cosplay ring FUD frosted ultra detail shapeways comic con

Rings printed in Frosted Ultra Detail, then primed for painting

Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) and Frosted Extreme Detail (FXD)

​​FUD/FXD has many elements that could make it a cosplayer’s dream: the clear, smooth surface is easy to paint, its lightweight nature makes it more practical from a wearable point of view, and its lower price point means you can print more pieces to test on or iterate design.  In regards to detail, the name speaks for itself; the strikingly high resolution is unique to other materials, even down to half a pea-size.

Another huge plus to using this material is the dedicated community surrounding it; primarily used by model train and miniature artists, there is a vast amount of content centered around finishing and post production at a truly masterful, borderline perfection sort of way.  Its power really lies in being a precision material, so if you are looking to replicate something exactly, FUD/FXD may be a good fit.

However, the extremely disappointing con to using this material is the maximum bounding box dimensions, or the maximum size object you can print.  For FUD, it is a mere 11X 7 X 8 inches and FXD, even smaller at 2 X 2 X 8 inches, which cuts down on what you can use it for.

But for those special, smaller pieces that really need to make a statement, this material can pack a punch.  As mentioned before, its level of detail makes it great for replicas and pertinent complex details.  It can also be used as an alternative for jewelry pieces if metal and steel are not in your budget, since it is easy to paint. If you are working with LEDs or other lighting in you cosplay, FUD/FXD’s semi transparent material can be used in its raw form as orbs, pendants, or other pieces that need light to pass through them-just make sure your light does not burn too hot, for this material will warp by heat!

In a Nutshell:

Best for: Filigree, keychains, jewelry, small replicas,

Examples: Cersei’s pendant, Final Fantasy VII Materia, Elsa’s hairpins

Resolution: High to Extreme

Pros: Easy to paint, can print more delicate parts, large community surrounding it

Cons:  Orientation not guaranteed, mild skin irratant, Small bounding box, Dries and becomes flaky quickly, no flex, very un-archival if not maintained

lasergirls 3D printed cosplay nails strong and flexible plastic shapeways comic con

3D printed nails in various Strong and Flexible colors

Strong and Flexible Plastic

Shapeways’ most popular material, the Strong and Flexible family provides cosplayers with a great base for larger scale pieces in a crisp rainbow of shades.  With a print platform of  25 X 13.7 X 21.6 inches, scale is fairly limitless, and combined with its lightweight nature that exhibits a bit of flex, SF is a great option for those larger armor pieces and weapons.  Headpieces, such as crowns and hair clips are also perfect for this material due to that flex.  The material also comes in both a polished and unpolished finish, so if you are looking for either something more streamlined or something with a hint of texture, you have options.  The dyed colors are bright but flat, making them great bases for further finishing/weathering, or for those more cartoon-like interpretations.

Going with color though brings up some potential issues: the dying process only penetrates the material with color to a certain thickness, meaning that the majority of your model is white. With that, be careful if you are sanding or carving into those materials, for if you cut too deep you will hit a white core.  The dyed SF is also only available in polished, meaning you will have to dye the pieces on your own if you are looking for a different surface quality.  And although that sounds like a ton of work, SF is widely known to be easily dye-able (the popular recommendation is RIT dye, accessible, safe and inexpensive).

On the subject of finishing, it is important to be mindful SF’s porousness, which is great for dyeing, but may not be ideal for hand painting or spray painting without a bit of prep beforehand to prevent feathering. bunching, or unevenness.  We recommend for acrylics.  Fine details as well may also get washed out by the texture of the material, so model with design and material intent.

With all that said, if you are making body armor, weapons, staffs, and other grander scale pieces that require a practicality and streamlined surface, SF is the perfect base, and with the right finishing, can become .  As a cost cutter, print your main, larger pieces in SF then inserting or adding atop of that base with other filigree printed in other materials, like steel or even PLA.

We would not recommend direct to skin contact with SF, for its sandy film can be irritating to your dermis; instead, either line the piece with a fabric, or wear an undergarment as a barrier.

 Prototype for a Bridal Comb Sarah made in Strong and Flexible Plastic; Check out the finished (metal and SF) product here!

In a Nutshell:

Best For: Armor, headbands, bracelets and bracers, masks

Cosplay Examples: Lightning Returns’ shield, Opal’s Bow/ Arms (Steven Universe), Princess Zelda’s crown

Resolution: Medium to High

Pros: easy to dye, lightweight, durable, slightly flexible, larger print platform, smooth surfaces

Cons:  Rough texture, not certified skin safe, painting can be hit or miss if not properly prepped

the laser girls 3Dprinted cosplay metal brass Shapeways

Pyrite brass nails

Precious Metals and Steel

From nickel to gold to platinum, Shapeways has a large pool of options for steel and metals .  This variety gives cosplayers a number of looks to choose from. With a maximum bounding box of roughly four inches, exceptionally large pieces are out, but for those pertinent jewelry-sized replicas, you can’t really beat this .

The most important aspect of 3D printed metals to be mindful of when modeling is their shrinkage rates; as the materials heat and cool throughout their creation, they will change in size.  Shapeways does have those tolerances listed on the material description pages, so make sure to model with these in mind, especially if they are being worn or inset into other pieces.

Obviously some of Shapeways most expensive offerings, these materials are best suited for those special, meaningful elements, but could also beautifully elevate armor, crowns, and weapons as insets or decorative flourishes.

In a Nutshell:

Best for: hardware, jewelry, decorative inserts/small details

Resolution: Medium to High

Examples: Star Trek insignia, Power Ranger Power Coins, Sailor Moon jewelry,

Pros: Durable, weighty, “real thing”

Cons: Be aware of skin allergies, price , Striations in steel, high maintenance (precious metal and plated metals)

lasergirls 3D printed cosplay full color sandstone princess mononoke shapeways comic con

Mask, Full Color Sandstone, photo by Joanne Lee


Full Colored Sandstone

Full Colored Sandstone is a beautiful material; its textural finish combined with the printer’s 255 color capability makes it a great choice for pieces that need to have a “handmade” look to them or a less industrial finish that plastic can generate.  Full color sandstone can even be made watertight if coated with resin afterwords; this process also gives the material a nice surface finish.

In general, we would recommend this material for those who need to print large, complex and full color pieces, which is why Dhemerae chose it for her Princess Mononoke mask.  Masks in general, tend to have a handmade look to them which is why they’re so great when printed in this material.  Sandstone would also be great for carvings and engravings on hilts for weapons and even headpieces. Sandstone is also very affordable compared to some of the materials.

Keep in mind though, this material is quite brittle.  Among the more delicate of 3D printed materials, Sandstone will shatter if dropped, bleach if touched by water, and alter color under certain lighting condition (i.e. if it is left out the sun or under a UV light, the color will change). However all Sandstone prints are treated to a Cyanoacrylate bath to bring out the color and make the print more durable.  But obviously, you still want to treat these prints with some extra TLC.

Regarding color, flat, primary colors will print most accurately to what you see on the computer, but be aware that you will most likely not have a perfect color match.  If you are printing with a flesh or red toned palette, we recommend doing color tests, since these tones are the most difficult for the printer to execute.

Full Colored Sandstone is still a great material for cosplay, if utilized strategically and handled particularly.  For those focal point pieces and elements that will not be at the center of a ton of action, this material will shine, and has the potential to elevate your cosplays in a unique way.

 In a Nutshell:

Best For: small props/familiars, masks, pendants

Examples:  Link’s Ocarina, Tobi’s Mask, Sprited Away bath tokens

Resolution: Low to Medium

Pros: Look and Texture, prints directly in color, potentially less finishing (depending)

Cons: UV sensitive, color bleaching upon water contact, delicate/shatters easily, price


But wait, There’s More!
Stay Tuned for Part II, where we talk more materials, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Love & Robots: Truly Unique, Customizable Jewelry (Hint: Perfect for Gifting)

It seems early, but we promise it’s not too early to start thinking about your holiday gifts. And as if 3D printing weren’t amazing enough, there are lots of designers who are taking their ideas to the next level; they make an amazing product, and then let you customize it just for yourself or the lucky receiver. We’ve highlighted our Pendant Creator and Mymo so far, and today we are featuring the lovely Love & Robots who have some amazing personalizable products available. Between earrings, pendants, bow ties, wall art and more, they’ve created an easy, fun process of creating a truly unique piece. Our favorite is the jewelry, which has so many fun options.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 1.14.56 PM

The most unique piece we came across was the Windswept Collection (pendant or earrings). An animated render of the product sits on the left waiting for you to personalize. On the right you have different options to fill in; location, date and material. “Choose any location in the world and watch as the wind in that location changes the movement of the cloth. Pause it to create a uniquely draped windswept pendant.” What! So good! The results are seriously stunning and I found myself racking my brain for every important date I could think of just to play with it more!


Don’t forget to check out their whole range of products, as well as all apps you can play with. Share your designs with us @Shapeways, we’d love to see what you make next (from scratch, or with a little help!)

DJI and Shapeways Announce the Search and Rescue Design Contest Winners

Early this summer, Shapeways and DJI challenged designers to create 3D printed modifications ​for Phantom 4 drones to ​aid first responders in search and rescue efforts. With over 100 entrants, we were incredibly impressed by the quality of submissions and the innovative ways in which designers used 3D printing to create life-saving modifications that may have otherwise been unexplored.

After much deliberation, we selected the winning designs and demoed the modifications at Maker Faire NYC this past weekend (video here). So without further ado, we’re pleased to formally announce the winners of the Search and Rescue design challenge!

Runners up:

Self-Releasing Rescue Delivery Capsule by Designerr shapeways DJI Phantom 4 Search and Rescue Design Contest

testing the Self-Releasing Rescue Delivery Capsule by Designerr

Self-Releasing Rescue Delivery Capsule by Designerr – Cary Lucier of Designerr brought his incredible design to Maker Faire to show us first hand how it works. the  MATILDA (Missing And Trapped Individuals Location Delivery Assistant) attaches to both legs of the Phantom Drone in just seconds without the need for extra tools or fasteners. This device can carry any number of precious items as part of any rescue mission including first aid supplies, medication, rescue instructions, and more. When MATILDA reaches her destination, the drone is able to self-release the precious cargo without ever touching the ground.


Search and Whistle" drone attachment by Fusion Imaging  shapeways DJI Phantom 4 Search and Rescue Design Contest

presenting the Search and Whistle” drone attachment by Fusion Imaging

“Search and Whistle” drone attachment by Fusion Imaging – A specially tuned low pressure whistle array that clamps onto the 4 arms of the Phantom 4 directly under the propellers. By full throttling, the whistle generates a loud and persistent whistle which aids ground rescue crews to pinpoint the victim’s location once they have been located by the drone from the air.


Dye Marker Bomb/Buoy by Functional Prototype, LLC  shapeways DJI Phantom 4 Search and Rescue Design Contest

the Dye Marker Bomb/Buoy by Functional Prototype, LLC

Dye Marker Bomb/Buoy by Functional Prototype, LLC – This is an air-deliverable dye marker bomb/buoy for drones, providing an easy way for a drone operator to mark a location in the water using fluorescent dye, making the area highly reflective to visible and ultraviolet light used by S&R and first responder units. The buoy is filled with the brightly colored dye and glued together with water-soluble glue– ensuring release upon hitting the water after being dropped from the Phantom 4.

 Grand prize:

EXO 1-- Search and Rescue Exoskeleton by FrostDesign shapeways DJI Phantom 4 Search and Rescue Design Contest

showing off the EXO 1- Search and Rescue Exoskeleton by FrostDesign

EXO 1– Search and Rescue Exoskeleton by FrostDesign – Combining aesthetics and functionality, the Exo 1 turns the Phantom 4 into the Swiss Army knife of search and rescue tools. This rugged, lightweight exoskeleton allows for increased drone visibility, ability to carry a payload, and assist with water rescues by allowing for the additions of searchlights, extra cameras (whether heat vision or infrared), and/or a waterproof bag to carry supplies for water rescues. This exoskeleton addresses all these capabilities in the simplest way possible while enabling a great deal of flexibility and options for customization.

 Congratulations to all the winners! We recognize the incredible talent of the maker community and are excited to continue seeing their innovation rise to challenges like these! We’ll also be donating a drone to Joseph Novelli of the Fire department in California and sharing these modifications with first responders so they can start implementing these new tools in the field.

Discover even more drones

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 3.41.51 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 3.43.11 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 3.44.10 PM

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