Category Archives: 3D Modeling


Ashley Zelinskie’s world where things made of code are made of things are made with code….

C0DE DENS1TY is a collaborative, multi-media show presented by Lightbox, a gallery Space in New York City from July 23- 26. The show highlights work by Shapeways community member Ashley Zelinskie. Zelinskie creates sculpture which are made of numbers drawn from the code of the design file itself. Her work explores the process by which the objects are transformed from numerical data into physical objects through digital fabrication. The code that defines and creates the object becomes part of its physical manifestation…

…its a pretty mind-blowing concept.

The show itself is an immersive experience bringing viewers into the brackish waters of technology and art. Sparse, geometric objects ranging from monumental to palm sized are displayed throughout the space while nearly every inch of wall is used for a projected video that loops geometric imagery as it builds to a frantic pace and glitches out into nothingness. On the second story loft area a small 3d printer farm reproduces out miniatures of the work.

Faces made of 3D printed plastic are part of the show’s vocabulary as well. An interactive piece has several white masks displayed with light projected onto them. Visitors are encouraged to touch the masks, doing so causes the projection to animate boxes emitting out as if from underneath them.

On of the most interesting pieces is also the most personal. A 3D printed portrait of Zelinskie created with 3D scanning, the surface is constructed from a portion of her own DNA.

Zelinskie’s futurist universe invites the viewer to both question how the objects are made and what the implicates are of a world where data and matter can become interchangeable. Far from a dry series of formulas simplified beyond human comprehension, the vision of the Singularity posited by C0de Dens1ty is like stepping into a thunderstorm of information.


Photos: by Ashley Zelinskie.

Developing 3D Printed Assistive Tools For The Elderly

As we age and get older, especially for the elderly, ordinary actions become extraordinarily difficult such as writing, typing, or opening bottle caps. Japanese Designer Tatsuo Ishibashi was aware of these issues and has created 3D printed products aimed for assisting the elderly and people with a loss in muscular functioning.

Tatsuo’s Shapeways shop mizulabo specializes in “assistive technology”, simple and functional designs that lead to lightweight, low cost, and easy handling of functional activities. He models his designs in 123 Design by Autodesk and prints them through Shapeways. Below are some examples of his tools.

The writing assist tool is a tool for helping people write with a ballpoint pen.

Higaki” is the tool to remove caps and tabs from a plastic bottle and a can easily.

The Finger Input device is a for device for making tapping PC keyboard, remote controller, etc easier.

Tatsuo’s designs show that 3D printing can be used to make very attractive tools for assisting people and functional tools can be aesthetically pleasing and useful. What are some attractive 3D printed tools you’ve designed or come across? Let us know in a comment below.

Behind the product: Wimbledon edition!

We talk a lot about inspiration at Shapeways because we’re interested in knowing how the amazing designs we see come to be. Whether it’s an idea that’s been brewing for months or something that just came to you in your sleep, we want to know the story!

Recently, we were introduced to Rob Bartlett of Caxton Rhode. His recent designs were inspired by Wimbledon, and we caught up with him after the tournament to find out more.

Who are you/where are you located?

My name is Rob Bartlett and I am the Creative Director & Designer at Caxton Rhode in Wimbledon. I live in South West London, England.

What is the inspiration and story behind the designs?

Being based in the same town as the most prestigious tennis tournament on Earth, is a great privilege. As my entire business is based around creating exclusive one-of-a-kind designs, I set myself the challenge of designing something Wimbledon related for each of the final seven days of the event.

Please describe the process you use to create the final product.

All of my early ideas start life as a series of hand drawn sketches. I am strong believer in having a solid story in place first, prior to attempting to develop anything further. As this particular design challenge was centered around a very recognizable event, there were already a host of ready-made icons to focus in on. The end products themselves (a tennis racquet bottle opener and strawberry cocktail stirrer) were chosen partly because of their wider summertime connotations, but also because I was thinking consciously about the printable materials and their size constraints. (They also just happen to be really beautiful looking objects too).


How did you learn to design in 3D?

I taught myself this time last year (July 2014). I was staging a return to Tent London, a trade show during London Design Week and wanted a statement piece to sit amid my interior design scheme. 3D printing was the big thing last summer and so I decided to create (and had Shapeways print) a fully functional lampshade for the show. I have always been fascinated with 3D and often dabbled during my 18 years in graphic design. However, it always seemed a graphics package too far. Of course, it is amazing what the looming deadline of a show will force you to do.


Who are some of your favorite designers or artists. Has anyone on Shapeways inspired you?

In terms of traditional media, I am lifelong William Morris and Ukiyo-e superfan. I love design and designers that make you stop dead in your tracks and question, just how on Earth they managed to do the things they did. Especially in context of the time in which they lived.

In terms of designers with their products on Shapeways, Bathsheba’s Klein Bottle Opener is a future Design Museum piece to my eyes. It is a modern classic and the first 3D printed piece I saw and suddenly understood the magnificence of this emerging media.

What opportunities do you believe printing in 3D brings to artists. How is that demonstrated in your work?

I truly believe that 3D printing (and other emerging manufacturing techniques) will have a profound affect on every aspect of our lives. I encourage all of my clients to celebrate personal taste and being able to design and produce products for their own exclusive use is extraordinary. This is without doubt the next golden age in design and the most incredible thing for me, is that we are only just approaching the starting line. When you look back at figures like Morris, you quickly realize that he was someone pioneering completely new techniques and charting new ground in his time. Great design isn’t about standing still and feeling nostalgic. It is and always has been about progress. I genuinely feel that we owe it to the craftsmen and women of the past to do something worthy during our time in charge.

Do you have other 3D printing objects in mind?

3D and 3D printing for me is an integral part of my designers toolkit. Every time a new material is released or a process improved, I instantly start thinking about ways of putting it to use. I am patiently waiting for a ‘multi material, single print’ process to emerge in order to really bring a number of ideas to life.

How did you first hear of 3D printing?

I have been aware of it for years but in all honesty, it was Shapeways that made it make sense to me. I think it is now something that most people have heard of and understand to be possible, but are still yet to experience it’s potential.

Thanks so much for your time, Rob! Be sure to check out more of his work and inspiration over here.

Behind the Product: Glass Vase Mold

Today we’re showcasing Tim Belliveau, a glassblower, digital artist, illustrator, teacher, and business owner. Tim’s creativity and capacity to bring together 3D printing and glassblowing has proven to be a success and this can be seen in his newest work of 3D printed steel molds used to create hand blown glass vases.  We asked him a few questions about the story behind his work, the creation process, and what he sees for the future.

Who are you? Where are you located?

My name is Tim Belliveau, my current home is Montreal.


What is the inspiration and story behind your designs?

Well, the glass piece is a graduate research project in material research from Hexagram at Concordia so I’ll try not to be too wordy. About 2,000 years ago, Roman glassblowers started figuring out how to blow glass into molds and we still use a lot of the same techniques in glass today. I’ve been a glassblower for about 10 years and have been trying to figure out a way to form hot glass with 3D printing and I thought of making molds like the Roman ones. I went to see an exhibition on ancient Roman glass at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York this spring. That exhibit really highlighted the technology of the first century and how the glass is a record of the innovations at the time. I wanted to do something like that with the technologies of today and have tool marks from the mold on the glass too. You can even kind of see the deposition layers on the glass from the 3D printed bronze if you’re nerdy enough to look for them. Since my vase was born from a computer basically, I thought it made sense to have it faceted and kind of low-res-looking but about the same scale as the old Roman ones.

What was the process you used to create your final pieces?

I made the mold in 3D software and tried to get it as thin as possible. I sent that file to Shapeways to be 3D-printed in bronze. Once I got the mold in the mail, I hired another glass artist, Armel Desrues to assist me at Espace Verre studio in Montréal; he held the mold in place while I would gather hot glass, make a small bubble and then inflate it in the mold. The whole process is pretty finicky; I broke a bunch of glass trying to get it right, but eventually it started working and we finished a small batch of glass pieces. Most glasswork requires assistance and teamwork so its great to have that in the studio since 3D modeling can be so solitary.

Was it necessary to post process your mold before use?

I didn’t have to do anything else to the mold which is great because I’m trying to keep this practice minimal by doing it all from my laptop. There’s something surreal about getting a 3D printed glass mold in the mail and then just walking down the street to make glass pieces from it.


Are others in the glass community using 3D printing?

There are lots of interesting projects popping up in the glass community and some that have been around for a while. I’m going to assist with a class led by Fred Metz and team at the Pilchuck Glass School this summer; its focused on interactions between 3D printing and glass. Sometimes 3D printed positives in plastic/wax are used to make a negative mold that fills with glass later in a kiln but there are lots of techniques.

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How are molds for glass blowing typically created? Was 3d printing beneficial to this process?

For this kind of glass blow-mold the ancient way to do it is to make it by hand out of clay/ ceramic. The industrial revolution way was to cast metals (usually very thick) into molds. You can also use carved wood that has been soaked in water for a few days but those degrade faster and don’t have great detail, same with plaster molds- they’ll give you a few good glass pieces but nothing like the consistency of a metal mold. What impressed me with this process was how I could do everything from my laptop and the mailed pieces were ready to use. Its still very strange to me when I finally get to hold a 3D print that I sculpted but never touched until its done. I also have a lot of control over mold thickness and detail so I was able to get away with using very little material for this mold.

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Looking back on modeling your mold and creating your glass-blown vase, what were some integral steps?

You have to be careful about having undercuts as with any mold-then it just gets stuck and won’t open when the glass goes in. Obviously you have to know the 3D software pretty well to do this kind of thing too. in the glass shop, a good assistant is pretty important too, so again, working with Armel was great.

For the next mold, what would you do differently? The same?

I’m hoping to use ceramic/ porcelain for the next piece; which is nice because it leaves a smoother surface on the glass than bronze does. I learned in this project that the glass can get a lot of detail out of the mold so there are lots of possibilities. I want to work a lot bigger of course but I’m not sure the next thing will look like this. I have a short attention span and change my ideas often.

What were your greatest feats throughout each of the production steps?

I took a risk printing as thin as I did, the glass heat can warp metal sometimes or stick, but I did something right, there. Blender wasn’t originally designed for 3D printing as far as I know so getting accurate dimensions are difficult in parts of the modeling. Glassblowing is a skill that takes years to acquire so combining that with all of these recent developments in 3D printing presented a big enough feat to keep me interested.


Who are some of your favorite designers or artists? Who on Shapeways has inspired you?

I saw an excellent talk by Del Harrow last year. I’ve also been following the 3D printed work of Caspar Berger and Sophie Kahn (I don’t yet know many artists who work with Shapeways). In a bit of a different direction, I’ve been really interested in some of the work and theory Hito Steyerl is doing with digital media too.

How did you first hear of 3D printing?

A friend of mine told me about Shapeways at a party a few years ago; it sounded like the future and I like the future.

How did you learn to design in 3D?

I taught myself from online tutorials. The tutorials are mostly made by kids half my age and way smarter than me. Its humbling!

Do you have a preference in modeling software?

I mostly use Blender for a few reasons. One, is that its free and I work in the arts so I can share it more easily and download or teach it anywhere. The other great thing about Blender is that I can use it for modelling, printing and animation; the extra features needed are usually free plug-ins and the standard render (cycles) engine is kinda nice. Blender does have its limits though, so I have to come up with work-arounds for some of the ideas I want to do in the program. I started in Truespace years ago which isn’t around anymore and then got into Sketchup when it came out; I’ve also dabbled in Cinema 4D, Rhino and 3DS Max and currently I’m playing with some of Autodesk’s mesh repair and layer-cutting software.

What opportunities do you believe 3D printing brings to artists? How is that demonstrated in your work?

My work goes back and forth between objects that I make physically and art work that exist visually instead, which is sometimes hard to decide on. 3D printing is in a phase where it is expanding into all kinds of art and craft practices; its pretty novel now but in time I think it will fall into place with all kinds of other tools we’ve adopted over the years. I hope my work lands uncomfortably between looking handmade and digital – then it would be demonstrating the opportunities in 3D print. A lot of the things I build in 3D are full-scale large sculptures but I can work on them anywhere and store them for free. I think that’s also a big opportunity with this medium.

Do you have other 3D printing projects in mind?

Yes but I have an intense superstition about talking about new work until its done so I have to be secretive! A lot of the other work I’ve been experimenting with though is laser-cut as 2D layers and assembled into 3D sculptures after. Some of my upcoming work is using that process as well.

For more work by Tim:

You can check out his site here:

Or through his collaborative art studio, Bee Kingdom Glass, alongside Phillip Bandura and Ryan Fairweather.

If you are in the Calgary area you can find Tim’s work showing in the ‘Magical Thinking’ exhibition at the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery this fall.

3D-Printed Car: More Than Just High-Tech Transportation


Blog post contributed by community member Brian Wilkins 

In 1979, there were 19.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs, the most in the country’s history, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represented 22 percent of all nonfarm jobs at the time. Today there are only 12.3 million U.S. manufacturing jobs, as recessions, excessive regulations and cheap labor abroad make it more practical for companies to set up shop overseas. But additive manufacturing (3D printing) is about to change all that.

The Strati, Local Motors’ 3D-printed car, has been buzzing all over the internet since one was printed right on the floor at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past January.

The first Strati, printed at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago last September showed the world that a 3D-printed electric car is possible. But a cool-looking, economical vehicle is just the tip of the iceberg as to how direct digital manufacturing is changing the automotive industry and the manufacturing sector as a whole.

Strati Evolution

The first test mule, known as Strati Version 1, consisted of 3D-printed seating, as well as a bonded, fastened-on rear structure for suspension and drivetrain components. “The front suspension was bolted to aluminum brackets that were bonded and fastened to the 3D-printed material,” said Dave Riha, lab manager at Local Motors. “The first mule was fully developed from a functional point of view. It didn’t have styling or a ‘body.’ But test drives proved it to be a very quiet, rigid structure.”

Strati 1.png

 The IMTS Strati was the “mid-model refresh.” The attached aluminum substructures were eliminated in favor of the drivetrain and rear suspension being fastened directly to the 3D-printed structure. Lighting, upholstery, armrests, wind screen and several other features were added as well. The same 20% carbon-filled ABS thermoplastic polymer was used for the expanded body.

The possibilities 3D printing technology brings to the manufacturing industry were put on full display with the updated version. “We changed major design elements very quickly without new tooling,” Riha said. “The refresh followed similar construction and layout to the first Strati, but differed primarily in contours and shaping of the outer visual layers.”

Co-Creation and the Future Of Manufacturing

Disruptive technologies are historically met with resistance from the established power structure. The rapid ascent of personal computers is an example most can relate to.

 There were about 250 devices on Earth that could be classified as “computers” in 1955. The first computer was a giant machine invented by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert in Pennsylvania, according to the University of Rhode Island. You would need a home the size of a warehouse to own one, along with good pest control measures (the term “bug” for computer programs came from these large machines attracting moths). The subsequent decades saw companies like Commodore International (PET), Tandy Radio Shack (TRS-80) and Apple (Apple II) put the power of computing into the hands of the general public versus being monopolized by large corporations.

3D printing technology will disrupt manufacturing in much the same way, particularly in the automotive industry. One machine can now create a wide range of parts and products without drastically changing processes or needing additional equipment. Additive manufacturing requires a fraction of the manpower needed in traditional factories, can utilize many different raw materials and is much more environmentally-friendly. While 3D printing has been a boon for producing small parts, tools and products, there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to large scale applications.

“One area where 3D printing is still in it’s infancy is Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM),” said Nyko dePeyer, the co-creation community manager for Local Motors. Larger printers require more space, time and of course money to build. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Dutch-design company MX3D developed computer-guided robotic arms that will build a steel bridge over a canal in Amsterdam by 2017. This same type of ambition can change automotive manufacturing and the world at large.

“We could potentially deploy a set of Mobifactories to developing areas, or even areas torn by war or natural disaster, and use our BAAM technology along with our global community and online platform to rapidly design, engineer, develop and print vehicles that could meet the specific needs of the people,” dePeyer said. “While we are still in the early stages of developing the technology, procedures, and plans for this, the potential for BAAM to change lives is just as significant as the potential for nano-3D printers to change our lives.”

Road-Ready 3D-Printed Car

Local Motors, along with its partner Oak Ridge National Laboratory, plans to unveil a highway-ready 3D-printed car by the end of 2016. PROJECTED [REDACTED] challenged the co-creation community to develop the majority of this 3D-printed road-ready car. The winning entry could be the foundation for what will become the road-ready vehicle.

Voting will continue through June 25. All you have to do is create a profile at to vote on your favorite design.


Keeping 3D Scans of the Public Domain in the Public Domain

3D scans of objects in cultural institutions could make them much more widely available.

3D scans of objects in cultural institutions could make them much more widely available.

One of the most exciting things about widespread access to 3D printing is how it has started to push cultural institutions to begin digitizing their 3D collections.  Now, in addition to being able to see free high quality 2D scans of paintings like a 15th Century Italian Pentecost  and 18th Century Japanese Woodcuts, you can see (and sometimes download, print, and modify) high quality 3D scans of the Cooper Hewitt Mansion, Abraham Lincoln’s face,  and Musette the Maltese Dog.  With objects reaching back thousands of years scattered across cultural institutions around the world, it isn’t hard to imagine a future where the world’s cultural heritage objects are available to anyone with a 3D printer (or, say, a Shapeways account).

We've been able to access high quality 2D world heritage items online for years.  (Image from the J. Paul Getty Museum Open Content Program, which is awesome).

We’ve been able to access high quality 2D world heritage items online for years. (Image from the J. Paul Getty Museum Open Content Program, which is awesome).

Why not high quality scans of 3D objects? (image courtesy Met Museum)

Why not high quality scans of 3D objects? (image courtesy MetMuseum)

But a question about copyright is lurking in the background of this glorious future.  Specifically, a question about copyrights in the scans of the objects themselves: are 3D scans protected by copyright?  If the answer is yes, scanning could drag parts of cultural heritage objects away from their home in the public domain and lock them up behind proprietary walls for decades.  That would make it much harder for people to access their own cultural heritage.

Fortunately, at least one court in the United States has found that scanning an object does not create a new copyright in the scan.  That means that scanning a 9th century Hanuman mask doesn’t wrap the scan in a new copyright.   However, a paper from earlier this year by Thomas Margoni illustrates that the copyright status of scans is not as clear in the European Union.  That lack of clarity alone could slow the dissemination of objects housed in Europe’s finest cultural institutions.  Hopefully, the EU will move to clarify that 3D scans of objects do not create entirely new layers of copyright protection.

Remember, in this context we are not talking about copyrights in the objects themselves.  For the sake of simplicity, let’s just focus on the thousands of years of cultural production prior to around 1920 that is well in the public domain.  In these cases we are talking about someone who did not create the original object scanning it and then claiming a new copyright on the scan – and only the scan – itself.

Background: Originality

Originality is a key to understanding why a scan should or should not be protected by copyright.  Originality is a general requirement to obtain copyright protection, although the bar for what qualifies as “original” is famously low.  That being said, while the bar is low it does exist.

It takes a lot of work to put together the phone book.  That doesn't mean it is protected by copyright. (image credit: flickr user James Cape)

It takes a lot of work to put together the phone book. That doesn’t mean it is protected by copyright. (image credit: flickr user James Cape)

Note that in this context originality is not synonymous with “complicated” or “labor intensive.”  Instead, it suggests that the author of the work made creative choices about how to create the work. In a famous US case, the Supreme Court denied copyright protection for the phone book.  The court acknowledged that putting together a phone book takes lots of time, effort, and resources.  But it denied copyright protection because there isn’t room for creative expression in how you assemble a phone book.  The form pretty much dictates that you list everyone in alphabetical order and that each entry starts with a name and ends with a phone number. Given a pool of names and phone numbers, everyone’s phone book is going to look pretty much the same.

The same type of theory can be applied to scanning.  It can take a lot of work and technical expertise to accurately scan a 3D object.  But at the end of the day, the goal is to create as accurate a scan as possible.  Some people may be better or worse at achieving that goal, but the nature of the task does not leave a lot of room for creative interpretation.  Without creative interpretation there is no copyright protection.

That distinction is reasonably straightforward in the US.  However, Margoni’s paper highlights that fact that it is not as clear in the EU.  EU-wide laws designed to harmonize copyright leaves the test for originality up to each member state, and those member states have each structured that test slightly differently.  That means that at least some types of scanning in some EU member countries could be protected by an additional copyright.

Why This Matters

Everyone is sad when cultural heritage objects are locked up. (image credit: flickr user Ania Mendrek)

Everyone is sad when cultural heritage objects are locked up. (image credit: flickr user Ania Mendrek)

It would be bad to protect 3D scans with a new copyright because it adds another wall of rights around the object being scanned.  This is especially harmful in the context of scans of world heritage objects.  World heritage objects are part of our collective inheritance.  Adding additional rightsholders creates a barrier for everyone who wants to access that inheritance.

Beyond copyright’s capacity to simply block use, additional layers of protection also undermine confidence in use.

Copyright lasts for a long time, and copyright rules can make it hard to determine the protection status of a given object.  But, at a minimum, a statue from 1900 – or 1900 BC –  is clearly in the public domain.  “Made by a civilization unfamiliar with electricity = public domain” is a rule of thumb that everyone should be able to rely on without consulting a copyright attorney.  If there is the potential for an additional scanning copyright, every time you came into contact with a 3D scan of a world heritage object you would have to ask a host of questions: Who made this actual scan?  How did they decide to license it?  Will I have to worry about someone who made a different scan suing me for copyright infringement?  Regardless of the answer, the mere existence of each of these questions make it less likely that people will make use of the scans.

World heritage objects belong to everyone.  There are already plenty of people trying to pull them into an ownership box without adding an additional layer of copyright protection to scans.  There is no reason to make it more likely that one person will have a veto over how these objects are used.  The Margoni paper is an important step towards understanding how 3D scanning may be treated in the EU.  The next step is making sure that those rules arc towards openness and accessibility for all.


Learn 3D CAD the easy way with this Kickstarter: 20+ Hours of Meshmixer online training by HoneyPoint3D

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We’re always looking for new ways to educate people about 3D printing and CAD modeling. From the basics of how it’s done to how anyone can create amazing designs themselves, we want to educate as many as possible on how to get started in the 3D printing process. Whether it’s through tutorials, online videos, free apps, etc., we know there are a lot of channels through which people can learn.

We’ve been telling you a lot about various Kickstarter campaigns happening right now that Shapeways has some involvement with. In the spirit of education, today we want to tell you about a new campaign from HoneyPoint3D that is offering to help more people learn 3D CAD modeling through their online courses.

HoneyPoint3D is a company that aims to innovate in the 3D printing market by offering easy-to-follow online classes at a variety of skill levels. They have already taught 5,000 students and are writing MAKE magazine’s next “Getting Started on 3D Printing” book, releasing January 2016. All in an effort to help people with their 3D models from concept to finished product.

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Their Kickstarter is raising money for a full online course that will teach beginners how to create and advanced modelers how to enhance and fix 3D CAD files. HoneyPoint3D has partnered with our friends over at Autodesk to teach the course using their free 3D Sculpting software, Meshmixer. Taking the course will save designers time and money. If the Kickstarter reaches its goal of $8,118, the course will be launched starting at just $20 (compared to $149)!

Make sure to check out this campaign for more information, and stay tuned for more educational content from us!

Call for Blog Stories

Posted by in 3D Modeling

We love hearing all stories that have to do with 3D printing – especially when they come straight from our amazing community. With such a wide range of designers with all different interests, ideas, businesses, hobbies, etc. there is never a shortage of great content. We want to give you the chance to tell us your story! Posts can range from Kickstarter campaigns to tutorials, product inspiration to small business starting stories. We’ve pulled just a few to get your ideas rolling.

If you have a product or story you’d like to tell, fill out the form below and let us know your story. We’ll be in contact if we’d like to feature you!

Designer Matt Smith raises funds to recreate an original sculpture using digital sculpting techniques and 3D technology. Read more »

Small Business Building
Gabriel Prero, a Shapeways shop owner who partnered with a friend to start a totally new business – BioSpawn. Using Gabriel’s knowledge of 3D printing and his friend’s love for bass fishing, the two set out to make fishing lures with more detail than you could find anywhere else. Read More »

Shapeways in the Wild
Shop owner Melissa Ng scans and prints custom masks for the new JiHAE music video featuring actor Norman Reedus. Read More »

Product Features
Artist and Designer Tomoo Yamaji who was inspired by the Transformers cartoons from the 80′s and 90′s has designed a fully functional, detailed, 3D printed, assemble yourself transforming robot. Tomoo felt that there was a need for a grown up version of transforming robot toys and decided to use Shapeways 3D printing to bring this impressive design to life. Read More »

3D printing beautifully disturbing masks for JiHAE’s “It Just Feels”…on a crazy deadline

About six months ago, actor Norman Reedus came to our offices to get scanned. We couldn’t say much at the time (which was incredibly hard) but now we’re pleased to be able to let you know that Shapeways had a part in the new JiHAE music video “It Just Feels.”

The music video was directed by film director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, with words and music by Leonard Cohen, Dave Stewart and JiHAE. Agnieszka came up with the amazing mask concept for the video and worked with designer and shop owner, Melissa Ng of Lumecluster,  to create five masks for the music video – one for the artist and four for Norman.

What an amazing opportunity, right? Well, the only catch was that they all needed to be designed and printed in just three weeks. Anyone familiar with 3D printing knows that the process can take a little time, so Melissa was definitely up against a crazy deadline. Being the pro she is, she tackled the challenge with grace and created amazing masks that are featured in the music video.

Below are a few excerpts from a piece Melissa wrote on her blog Lumecluster. Definitely check out the full piece to learn more about her process (and what she did when the deadline turned from three weeks to three days!).

“This was a new challenge I wasn’t sure I was ready for. I also still felt like a newbie since I only spent a few months learning how to 3D model in Blender and was active in the 3D printing world for a little over 10 months. All I kept thinking was, “This is impossible for me. I can’t do this.”


(From left to right). Lumecluster style Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough in white, strong, flexible plastic. It Just Feels Demonic man mask in full color sandstone (not at all my usual style). Photo courtesy of Melissa Ng.

“One mask down, four more to go. We’ve got time, right? Wrong.

A few days after Thanksgiving, Agnieszka told me the bad news. It turned out we only had THREE DAYS to complete the four masks for Norman Reedus (not counting the days required for 3D printing).”


3D printed full color sandstone JiHAE mask. Photo courtesy of Melissa Ng.

“The second day, after endless Skype conversations and iterations with Agnieszka, I finally pulled together some skin texture mockups for the four masks. While we were making good progress, there was one big problem…we still didn’t have Norman’s measurements.

On the third day, the four masks were only 50% complete and we needed Shapeways to start 3D printing them the next morning. We only had one shot.

There was no time to waste. Agnieszka knew what she needed and she was trusting me to help bring this vision to life.

JiHAE also miraculously managed to bring Norman into the Shapeways office (despite his crazy schedule). Soon enough, Savannah got me the 3D scans and photos I needed to ensure these masks would fit and match his skin tone. Again, the scan wasn’t super clean but it helped me correct my measurements on Norman’s masks.”


(From left to right). My mask sculpt over Norman’s 3D scan and Savannah Peterson getting reference photos at Shapeways headquarters. Photo courtesy of Melissa Ng.

“Within about two weeks, I had grown immensely and learned more than I could have imagined when it came to building skill, trusting myself, and trusting others. Shapeways also really came through for me and I can’t thank them enough.

Learning to love (and overcome) the challenge comes down to whether or not you are willing to identify and strengthen your weak foundations. In the end, dreams thrive or crumble depending on how far you choose to venture out of your comfort zone.”


(Clockwise starting from the top left). Norman Reedus mask, JiHAE mask, Angry man mask, Demonic man mask, and Arrogant man mask. Photo courtesy of Melissa Ng.

Congratulations on such amazing designs, Melissa! We just love the concept that Agnieszka created and are so happy we were able to help you both with that vision. To read her full account on the process make sure to check out her site.

Introducing new pilots: Aluminum, Interlocking Metal and Black Nylon

We’re always working on new innovations –everything from new materials and new website features, to 3D tools and partner programs. Today we are launching 3 new pilot materials available for testing: Interlocking Metal, Aluminum and Black Nylon 11.

Over the past year, we’ve introduced various pilot programs that have allowed our community to experiment with our newest materials, features and more before they are offered to the public. Today, you can learn more about these programs and sign up through our new Pilots hub, our new destination for 3D printing innovation and boundary-pushing design.

When you visit the new Pilots page, you will now see all the pilot programs available for designers to participate in. Some pilots are open and available for sign-up, while others have a waitlist based on manufacturing capacity. We currently offer Porcelain, Full Color Plastic and RUSH pilots. With the official introduction of Pilots, we are also opening up three brand new programs:


Interlocking Metal: We are experimenting with the process and ability to make new, unique and complex designs in our most popular cast metals; Silver and Brass. While you can currently design products with interlocking parts in our Strong & Flexible, this will be the first time you can create interlocking parts with some of our metals. (Product: Platonic Progression Earrings by HypatiaStudio)


Aluminum:  This new material is a lightweight, strong, high tolerance metal capable of interlocking parts. Being a part of this pilot provides access to expensive new technology at the lowest prices in the market. (Product: Invertible Cube by aryser)


Black Nylon 11: Different from our current Black Strong & Flexible, Black Nylon 11 is actually printed in a black powder. This material has slightly different properties than the former because it is a different type of Nylon (our White Strong & Flexible is a Nylon 12 and this one is Nylon 11). (Product: Mobius Nautilus by joabaldwin)

So why pilot programs? Pilots help us help you. At Shapeways, we are always working on new innovations – everything from new materials to partner programs. Pushing the limits of what’s possible with 3D printing helps us enable you to make anything you can imagine. You can test a new material, tool or service and provide us with your thoughts and feedback so that we can continue to improve the offering.

3D printing is a technology that will continue to evolve for a long time. As we learn more and update our services, we want to make sure that what we are offering is the best that Shapeways and the 3D printing community can find. In order to get to that place, we need to test, test and test some more. That’s where pilot programs come in – and why they are designed to be experimental. By inviting interested designers to partake, we are:

  1. Allowing excited and engaged community members not only a first look but a first try with our newest materials, services, etc. With our pilot programs, you can be one of the first to start designing in various new materials
  2. Getting a sense of what can and cannot be done when it comes to design guidelines. You are all constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be done, and we want to know from the beginning if a new material can support your creations
  3. Cutting down on rejections. You are helping us perfect the design guidelines for materials that could eventually be available to customers, potentially turning experimental materials into finished product materials

One of the most important aspects of pilot programs to remember is that not everything will become a public material or service. If the pilot does not seem to be working no matter how hard we try to improve it, we won’t make it public-facing. We never want to offer something that won’t work for our entire community (including shoppers); having these testing periods allows us to keep from doing so.

When a new pilot program begins you are either free to sign up or allowed to sign up for a waitlist. Designers on waitlists will be added according to manufacturing capacity. This will allow our community team to provide more personal and thorough support to those in the groups. All of our pilot programs are managed by Shapeways employees who are available for questions, concerns, etc. We also have forums dedicated to each program so you can chat with others about your designs.

We’re so excited to launch more pilots and see what amazing designs you come up with. We’ll get these rolling, but in the meantime, tell us what pilot you’d like to see next? What’s your dream material?

Turn your selfie into a customizable figurine with Insta3D Maker

Posted by in 3D Modeling

Insta3D is a new, free mobile app that makes an animated avatar. They took that app a step further and created Insta3D Maker, a web service that is currently connected to Shapeways for 3D printing where you can turn yourself and friends into customizable 3D printed figurines – all you need is a selfie! We sat down to chat with the creators of Insta3D Maker to hear about where their idea came from, what challenges they faces and how they got into 3D printing.

What was your original idea with this app?
For most people, 3D technology is not easily accessible – it is very complex, time-consuming and expensive. With Insta3D Maker, our customer can get a customized and printable 3D model without any 3D modeling effort. And, anyone can get their avatar 3D printed in color with just one selfie on the website.

Maker screenshot 1

You mentioned that 3D printing was not part of the original plan – how did it evolve into the final product you have now?
For our Insta3D mobile app, our original plan was to use the cute avatar and sell the accessories by IAP (InApp Purchase), including hairstyle, movement, apparel, etc. During the first demo with our Japanese customers, they were highly interested in printing themselves as a figurine. They even suggested us to change the style from 5 heads to 3 heads in order to make the figurine cuter and less realistic. We were able to update and make that happen within one month, and now Japan has been selling their figurines via our mobile app for couple months. I believe Insta3D is among the first CG (Computer Graphic) and printing combination apps in the world, and customers can play and print as they wish straight from their personal smart phone. (Currently available in Japan, and wish to deploy it to US market via Shapeways in 2 months)

How did you learn 3D modeling? What other technology did you know/use to create the app?
Our core technology is in the cloud, we need one photo to generate the face, and basically, we collect the feature spots in everyone’s face, send and compute the data in the cloud.

What challenges did you run into while creating the app? What challenges did adding 3D printing add?
Honestly, we learned that 3D Printing and CG is very complicated. The numbers of polygons are totally different! We can only play the avatars with less than 10,000 polygons on mobile smoothly. For printing, we need to upscale polygons to at least 300,000 polygons to get the high quality figurines. We overcame the problem and made this happen in the past year after we established Speed 3D.

Have you promoted your app? You mentioned it getting up to #5 in an app category – how did that happen!?
Several popular bloggers and social media influencers shared their Insta3D avatars on their social media sites. Magically Insta3D became a fab on the Internet overnight. So we know the power of social media and we can leverage that and build up a community to promote our mobile app to get more user feedback.

Maker screenshot 2

How has 3D printing changed how you plan next steps for your business – if at all?
Currently Insta3D 2.0 is very popular in the US already, but it is only the CG mode. We plan to launch a new version Insta3D 3.0 with newer 3D engine, and it will be available for both CG and printing mode within one app. Customers can make the figurines they see in the CG mode and go to print; it is a big project for us and we wish to co-work to Shapeways to fulfill the printing part.

What updates do you see for Insta3D Maker in the future?
We are collecting more user feedback to make the next steps of Insta3D maker, I think it is very early-stage now and wish to work together with Shapeways to get customers feedback to fine tune the products.

It’s really amazing to hear about this process and especially wonderful to see two techonolgies merge so seamlessly. The team of Insta3D is clearly working on some wonderful things in the 3D world, and it’s great to see that just a section of their business can be fully run by 3D printing. Customizable, personal figurines are not only fun to make “yourself” with no 3D modeling skills required, but make great gifts for graduation, wedding cake toppers, Mother’s and Father’s Day and beyond! Help them with user feedback by downloading the app and creating your own, customized avitar. We’ll patiently wait here in the US (and Europe!) until we can get our very own figurines. Check out the video of Dan, one lucky Shapeways employee who already got his own 3D avitar!

Are you working on an app that uses 3D printing? Tell us about it!

Local Opportunities for 3D Printing and PR

Keep your eyes open for opportunities to share what you do with 3D printing and get press in your local community news!

A couple months ago a regional news station on the Delmarva Peninsula reached out for people using 3D printing via their Facebook page. Station WBOC16 wanted to know how people in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are using 3D printing, and tattoo studio owner and Shapeways designer Matthew Amey was featured in the news story! Click the video below to see Matthew talk about how he uses Shapeways and 3D printing to elevate his work as a tattoo artist:


You can see more of Matthew’s work on his site.

Designer Proposes With Beautiful 3D Printed Crystalized Hearts Ring

Posted by in 3D Modeling, Community, DIY

When the love of 3D printing meets the love of another person, a marriage between the two usually occurs. Belgian designer Kurt Drubbel recently proposed to his long time girlfriend with a gorgeous 3D printed engagement ring he designed. This unique piece is covered with tiny crystalyzed hearts (visible up close only). The ring was prototyped in alumide and finally printed in polished silver.

Kurt and his fiancé have a 2 year old daughter together. He presented the 3D printed ring to her on a ferry on a rough sea at night, between the islands of Malta and Gozo. The answer was an overwhelming yes.

Here are some photos of the ring printed in polished silver

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Video showing the prototype and final ring

On behalf of the Shapeways team, we want to congratulate Kurt and his fiancé on their engagement! Do you have a 3D printed love story to tell? We’d like to hear it. Shoot us a email to

Introducing the 3D Manufacturing Format

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You may have heard the news that a new 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF) was announced recently at Microsoft Build. We’re excited to have a part in this news and wanted to come here to tell you more about it. The announcement today was in regards to the 3MF Consortium we are a part of. Seven leading companies in the global 3D printing sector have come together and will release the 3FM specification, which allows design applications to send full-fidelity 3D models to a mix of other applications, platforms, services and printers. The first version of the specification is available now for download at no charge!

We’re in great company as the other members of the 3MF Consortium are: Dassault Systemes S.A.; FIT AG/netfabb GmbH; Microsoft Corporation; HP; SLM Solutions Group AG; and Autodesk. For additional background, the 3MF Consortium is a Joint Development Foundation project. The Joint Development Foundation is an independent non-profit organization that provides the corporate and legal infrastructure to enable groups to establish and operate standards and source code development.


The mission is to deliver a 3D printing file format that is:

  • Rich enough to fully describe a model, retaining internal information, color, and other details.
  • Extensible so that it supports new innovations in 3D printing.
  • Practical, simple to understand and easy to implement.
  • Free of the issues inherent in other widely used file formats.


While modern 3D printers, including lower-cost models, are capable of printing items that are otherwise difficult to describe using existing formats it was definitely time for a change. The 3MF specification eliminates the problems associated with currently available file formats, like STL (which was originally designed in 1989!). It resolves interoperability and functionality issues, and will allow for further innovation in the industry.

Sounds great, right?

So how did this all start? It all began with a discussion among industry leaders regarding the best way to enable all of our various products to work well together. The group determined that the best approach would be to create a new 3D file format and support it through a collaborative effort with broad industry involvement. Accordingly, Microsoft donated its 3D file format work-in-progress as the starting point for the 3MF Consortium’s further development of the specification.

We’re honored to be a part of this amazing group and hope the 3D printing community is excited for what’s to come. We’ll be sure to keep the community updated as things progress and new versions of this specification are released!

Shapeways and DJI Take Flight


Today we are excited to announce that we have partnered with DJI, the market leader in easy-to-fly drones, to further enable the Shapeways community to create unique 3D printed accessories for drone products. DJI hand-picked some of their favorite drone accessories on Shapeways for a special curated list to show support for the current (and future) maker community.

Why is this so exciting? It’s the first time a major brand has supported the maker community in this way. By acknowledging the unique creations Shapeways designers are making for their products, they are truly showing their support of the maker community and the innovation that is produced on a daily basis. Check out this page to see the amazing DJI-curated accessories!

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We’re also thrilled to announce that Adam Savage (host of Mythbusters!) is working with us and DJI to show his support of the 3D printing community. An avid DJI drone fan, Adam has been making his own modifications for years. He is a fan of 3D printing with Shapeways to bring to life durable, custom add-ons, creating more drone accessories that build off the incredible design of DJI drone products. He will be working with the Shapeways community of designers to create more accessories to offer to drone fans around the world.

Fresh off the announcement of their new Phantom 3, we’re excited to see what new designs and accessories show up in the future. We’re so glad that DJI is further supporting its customers’ passion and innovation by highlighting some of the best community-designed accessories and opening up co-creation to its whole fan base.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more exciting news and collaborations between us and DJI. In the meantime, keep creating amazing products!