Category Archives: 3D Modeling

Better Their Tech With These 5 Gifts

Tech lovers like to stay on the cutting edge. But, traditional mass-produced devices have their limitations. The truly gadget-obsessed require unique accessories and modifications to take their tech to the next level. Thankfully, Shapeways offers hundreds of gifts that can personalize, modify, and improve almost any popular gadget. This week, as we focus on ways to give everyone a Technical Advantage, we’re taking a closer look at five clever add-on gifts for your tech-obsessed friends.

1. Anchor Their AirPods

EarPod attachments for active people by Amznfx

EarPod attachments for active people by Amznfx

When Apple announced those indispensable accessories for the iPhone 7, wireless AirPods, opinion was split on whether it’s possible to avoid losing the tiny devices. Shapeways designer Fernando Sosa decided to turn that issue on its head with his EarPod Attachments for Active People. Help your favorite Apple-lovers hold onto their AirPods with these handy accessories.

2. Make Their Fitbit Wearable Anywhere

Lucas slide for Fitbit Flex by bytten

Lucas slide for Fitbit Flex by bytten

Designer Bytten has some brilliant ideas on how to make the FitBit more useful. This piece, designed by Lucas Goossens, takes inspiration from computer circuitry to create a cover that takes your tracker from fitness tool to fashion statement.

3. Help Them Track Their Tracker

Wallet for Tile (Tracking Device) by Dearborn 3D Design

Wallet for Tile (Tracking Device) by Dearborn 3D Design

The Tile is an ingenious tracker for your most important items, but… how to keep track of the Tile itself (if you want to keep tabs on something other than keys)? This Tile-compatible wallet solves that problem, while providing an efficient, compact place for your money and cards.

4. Keep Their GoPro’s Vision Sharp

Lens Cover for GoPro by 3dprintingdog

Lens Cover for GoPro by 3dprintingdog

GoPro has given us a technology that can go anywhere — but its curved lens can lead to scratches that can ruin the view. This customizable GoPro-compatible lens cover will help your adventure-loving friends protect their cameras while leaving their mark.

5. Give Their Photography a Boost

Bounce Buddy - Bouncer for the internal flash! by Wile's Wonderbox

Bounce Buddy – Bouncer for the internal flash! by Wile’s Wonderbox

The Bounce Buddy diffuses the harsh light of a camera’s flash, creating a perfectly soft look for those times when only a flash will do. This allows shutterbugs to leave the external flash at home and still capture the moment.

For even more ways to help your giftees better their tech, check out the Technical Advantage collections in our Holiday Gift Guide. And, let us know in the comments how you would modify your favorite devices with 3D printing.

Hacking Arts Conference 2016

Last week, Shapeways sponsored the Hacking Arts Conference at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hosted by the MIT Media Lab, the three-day conference brings together students and professionals from technology and the arts to discuss interdisciplinary creativity.

Shapeways’ Community team was there to greet panel goers and give them a chance to get their hands on some of the 3D printed materials and products available in the marketplace.

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The conference also included a hackathon and some amazing performances. Below is a moment from audio/visual artists the Holladay Brothers during the opening ceremonies.

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A video posted by Andrew Thomas (@andrew.s.thomas) on


 

The Hacking Arts Conference was also a great opportunity to see old friends. Artist and Shapeways Shop Owner Bathsheba Grossman came by to play with some of her math-inspired Klein Bottle openers, printed in a variety of materials.

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We had a great time talking to hackers, artists, and lifelong learners at the Hacking Arts Conference. Are you a student combining design and technology? You can sign up for our education program here.

 

Celebrate Giving Tuesday With 5 Gifts That Give Back

Giving Tuesday is here! It’s our annual chance to celebrate the generous spirit of the holidays by giving to our favorite charities. On Shapeways, there are plenty of ways to turn holiday gifting into an opportunity to give back, with many designers passing on their profits to good causes. From breast cancer research to marine conservation, the Shapeways community cares deeply — and their creations make perfect holiday gifts for your friends and family. Read on for five ways to give back this Giving Tuesday.

1. Give a bauble that makes a big impact

The Hate Project: BEAD by The Hate Project

The Hate Project: BEAD by The Hate Project

The HATE project turns negatives into positives, crowdfunding important organizations like Make a Wish and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Your purchase, along with those of thousands others, supports these and other worthy causes. Learn more about the HATE project here.

2. Pin on a rose gold ribbon for breast cancer research

Ribbon Pin - Design by Debbie Claxton by Shapeways Ribbons

Ribbon Pin – Design by Debbie Claxton by Shapeways Ribbons

For a gorgeous, permanent way to show your support for victims of breast cancer, opt for this rose gold pin. Designed by Debbie Claxton, part of the proceeds from each pin purchase are donated to Pink Ribbon.

3. Show a wave of support for marine conservation with an ocean-inspired ring

3 Dolphins Dancing Ring by Joy Complex!

3 Dolphins Dancing Ring by Joy Complex!

The WDC, or Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society helps protect whales and dolphins aound the world. This beautiful aquatic-inspired ring will show your support while funding the WDC’s valuable conservation efforts.

4. Fight climate change and show your love for the planet with this poignant pendant

Climate Change Pendant by Ontogenie

Climate Change Pendant by Ontogenie

To draw attention to climate change, designer Ontogenie created this melting-earth pendant. Aside from showing your love for the planet, 10% of the profits will benefit the Environmental Defense Fund.

5. Help make racing safer with this racing track replica

Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli by 3D Racetracks

Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli by 3D Racetracks

Based on the Misano Adriático race circuit near Rimini, Italy, the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli track replica commemorates Simoncelli, who died while racing in 2011. All profits benefit  The Roadracing World Action Fund, helping to prevent such racing tragedies.

As you shop for everyone on your list this year, don’t forget to make this Giving Tuesday count with gifts that give back. Let us know in the comments what charities you’re supporting this year.

Designer Spotlight: Tatsuo Ishibashi – MizuLabo

This week, we’re focusing on holiday gifts that offer a Technical Advantage — making tech both better and easier to use. Sometimes, this means making tech more accessible for everyone. Designer Tatsuo Ishibashi’s Mizu Laboratory does just that, developing beautiful, useful assistive gadgets that can help ease our interactions with everyday technology.

"Shippo", Input Assist Device by mizulabo

“Shippo”, Input Assist Device by mizulabo

What inspired you to start creating assistive technology through 3D printing?
Muscle force of the elderly decreases over 50% from that of youth, and I also sometimes feel weakness of grip strength. There are many self-help devices on the market to assist our daily life. But, it is difficult to find a favorite device to use because design and usability are not thoroughly considered. Existing mass-production methods cannot be adopted to make specific structures that satisfy both design and usability for the assistive devices. A 3D printer can do it easily!

Eating Utensil Holder by mizulabo

Eating Utensil Holder by mizulabo

How do you identify the types of products that can be developed to make everyday items easier to use for the elderly (and others)?
It’s a general method that involves product, market, and patent research. Now we can take in a variety of information through networks, so I also often test products in a real market. And there are lots of needs in our daily life. I started from a relatively simple item, a cap and tab opener.

"Higaki", Cap & Tab Opener by mizulabo

“Higaki”, Cap & Tab Opener by mizulabo

While these are assistive devices, they’re also incredibly beautifully designed, so that they’re basically utilitarian art. Tell me more about the design process and how you picked patterns for each item.
It’s a result of trial and error. First I simplify a function of a device. Next, I make a simplified prototype by using a desktop 3D printer. I then evaluate the function and durability. Afterward, I design it based on the simplified prototype. I usually repeat that process until a satisfactory result is obtained.

Finger Input Device by mizulabo

Finger Input Device by mizulabo

Check out Tatsuo’s Shapeways shop here. His gadgets are snazzy little gizmos that are more like life-hacks, suggesting that 3D printing is changing the assistive device game  creating tools that are more useful, affordable, and beautiful than before.

All Aboard With Boxcar Models

Earlier this week, we showed you how to take 3D printed model trains from raw prints to gorgeous finished pieces. It’s all part of our holiday celebration of how our designers and makers bring Tiny Worlds to life. Two of the gorgeous trains we featured in that post were created by Alexander Clark of Boxcar Models.

CNSM 203 - 214 MD by Boxcar Models

CNSM 203 – 214 MD by Boxcar Models

Like many of our model train designers, Alexander’s pieces fill a need not met by the market — and his process for creating them has been a journey of discovery. “Railway modelers always want ‘that’ model that is not available commercially, and that’s how I got started… if I wanted them, I knew I was going to have to make them myself,” he told us.

This desire led him down the path of 3D design. “Having an engineering background, I knew my way around a drawing and knew how to use a computer, so I learned how to draw a model that could be 3D printed. I started simple and produced what is basically an electrical cabinet. From there, things just grew to more larger and complex models,” he added. Those models don’t come directly from Clark’s imagination, but they aren’t always easy to source: “If I am lucky there is an engineering drawing of the model. If not, I have to either measure the real thing or source endless photographs and make a best guess at dimensions.” That’s when the design work really begins.

When creating the designs themselves, he strives for maximum accuracy, opting to draw his models in true-to-life 1:1 dimensions. Using additive fabrication software Netfabb, he then checks his models for printability, making any necessary fixes manually before scaling them down for printing. The final tweaks come after, when he makes a few adjustments for the material design parameters, “so there has to be a bit of compromise between 100% accuracy and what will actually print.”

Amtrak Horizon Cafe V2 Doors by Boxcar Models

Amtrak Horizon Cafe V2 Doors by Boxcar Models

We’re grateful that Alexander took on this unusual design challenge. Boxcar Models’ exquisitely detailed coaches, freight cars, and accessories not only allow enthusiasts to find models that wouldn’t exist otherwise, they also make for utterly unique gifts for collectors looking for rarer-than-rare finds.

CNSM 250 - 255 Combine by Boxcar Models

CNSM 250 – 255 Combine by Boxcar Models

Check out Alexander’s full range of trains and accessories in his Shapeways shop. And whether you’re looking to recreate the past through scale models or create mods for your favorite miniatures, don’t miss the trains, trucks, figurines, and more in the Tiny Worlds collections of our Holiday Gift Guide. Let us know how your holiday projects are shaping up in the comments.

How to Make It a Model (Train) Holiday

CNSM 741 – 776 Silverliner Series Coach by Box Car Models

The holidays always evoke nostalgia for family traditions. For my family, one of these traditions was to put a model train set around the base of the Christmas tree. It was that finishing touch that said the holidays were really here. This week, we’re offering gift ideas from all the Tiny Worlds our designers create, and I hope you’ll be inspired to make model trains a part of your family’s holiday traditions.

Shapeways offers an enormous variety of model trains that are as detailed as those you’d see on tracks around the world. But, 3D printed models do require a few finishing touches. Model trains are printed in a number of scales and sizes, and generally produced in Frosted Detail Plastic. The post-processing of these trains in Frosted Detail requires a few tools:

  • Acetone or Simple Green

  • Primer

  • Synthetic Paint Brush Set or Airbrush Kit

  • Acrylic or Enamel Paint

  • Matte or Satin Varnish

Once the tools are assembled, you are well on your way to getting your perfect model train ready.

1. Model Prep

If there is any residual oil or wax support material left over from the production process, this can easily be removed using acetone or Simple Green solvent. You can simply dip and air dry the model. Or, using a paint brush, you can lightly spread the solvent on the train and air dry.

**TIP** If you notice an excess amount of residual support material or details are distorted, this may call for a reprint. Please send an image and order number to service@shapeways.com.

2. First Coat – Prime

Primer is added as a first coat in order to provide a uniform surface and offer a stronger hold for your paints. Recommended primer colors include black, grey, or white. Your primer color selection will depend on the colors you decide for your top coat.

In order to keep the finest details visible, it is best to use a thin primer. For example, Krylon Color Master Primer will do the job.

3. Paint

Models can be painted in a variety of ways. The most common methods for painting a high-detail finish include airbrushing and hand-painting.

Airbrush painting is a great method for coating large areas of your design more quickly. This will require a fine-tip sprayer kit and masking to cover the areas that are not intended to be painted.

Hand-painting might be a bit more accessible to those who don’t want to invest in an airbrush kit. For this method, a range of small-sized synthetic brushes are recommended. The synthetic hairs do not fray, have a longer life span, and allow for finer points due to their stiffer structure.

With hand-painting, we suggest using acrylic or enamel model paints. First, add your larger base details using a larger brush. Then, with a smaller brush, use the lighter colors to make your details pop. Once painted, let the material dry completely before moving on to the next step.

4. Clear Coat

The final step to finishing your model train is to add a varnish. This will seal the paints and offer the appropriate sheen. Choose a matte or satin finish depending on your glossiness preference.

The varnish should be thinly applied and set to dry. Once dried, the model is ready to be displayed.

HO scale 1:87 CSX SD40-3 Wabtec Cab by Boxcar Models

This year, we hope you’ll make model trains a part of your holiday tradition, whether you make and give them as gifts or set them up for all to see. Who knows? Maybe hand-finishing model trains can be your new favorite family holiday pastime.

And, for everyone on your list, make sure to check out our Holiday Gift Guide. It’s also full of ways to bring all kinds of Tiny Worlds to life.

Do you have any tips or tricks to finishing your model trains? We would love to hear them, so please share them with the community on our forum or in the comments below.

Designer Spotlight: Dmitry Ustinov – Forpost D6 Miniatures

As we take a deep dive this week into the Tiny Worlds our makers bring to life on Shapeways, we’re taking a closer look at a designer whose miniatures add dimension to tabletop gaming. Dmitry Ustinov of Forpost D6 Miniatures focuses on Warhammer, 40000 Mordheim, and Necromunda, designing incredible characters, tiny accessories (from milk jugs to helmets), cannons, and war vehicles.

1/100, 1877 de Bange cannon, 155mm by Forpost D6

1/100, 1877 de Bange cannon, 155mm by Forpost D6

How do you find inspiration for your more creative models?
In the first place, I look for models that are in-demand by miniatures collectors and game players. Most of my models I originally created for myself and some were made at the request of other people. It’s an interesting challenge — to combine the desired appearance, printability and practical shape-form. Many good ideas come from searching custom models, which are produced by conventional methods such as resin casting. Some models were quite simple to remake using 3D modeling, and some (such as people’s faces and bodies) become challenging. Of course, when you hold the printed model in your hands, you get a better idea of how to improve the design and which new products will turn out better next time. Sometimes users of Shapeways suggest interesting ideas, but it’s difficult to make the designs by myself and I have to hire third-party modelers. I’ve commissioned designs of Cultist Chan, for example.

What’s your process behind creating miniature tanks? Do you base them on historical models?
The process of model tank design begins with a studying of the drawings, blueprints, and photographs. To begin, you have to determine the size of the vehicle which depends on material consumption and the amount of detalization. I usually make the body hollow and without a bottom panel to reduce the cost of production. Some tanks I design with movable turrets, but in a small scale, this is usually not required. The main problem is the representing of machine gun barrels because printing rules requires them to be thick. But otherwise, 3D printing technology competes with the traditional casting process.

For the majority of “railroad” scales such as 1/220, 1/160, 1/144, I do historically accurate models. For tabletop scales such as 15mm and 28mm I mostly make fictional vehicles.

1/144 Renault FT tank (3 pieces) by Forpost D6

1/144 Renault FT tank (3 pieces) by Forpost D6

You said you have a long to-do list of requests from people. What are some of the most popular requests you get?
I get a lot of requests to make a model on a different scale. So now I’m trying to publish a design at multiple scales. I’m often asked to make a head to create an unusual conversion for their Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard armies. Also, they ask to make weapons for action figures. A long list consists of requested historic tanks and artillery pieces. Sometimes people need to alter the model for easy copy-casting.

One of your models is not like the others. What’s the story behind Peter the Piglet and his tractor?
I am interested in challenging myself in different subjects, not just miniatures. I have noticed that there are popular memes printed in colored sandstone. Peter the Piglet is one of the Russian internet memes. It was originally a character from a children’s book, to which a blogger came up with their own story, changing the essence of what is happening in the pictures. Somehow, one of the pictures became widely spread among Internet users. Thus the image of a piglet Peter has become a symbol of the emigrant who leaves their country for whatever reasons (political, economic), taking with him something of value (in this case, the tractor).

Peter the Piglet and His Tractor by Forpost D6

Peter the Piglet and His Tractor by Forpost D6

Discover more miniatures in the Tiny Worlds collections in our Holiday Gift Guide. And, to learn more about miniatures in general, Dmitry suggests joining the Facebook group where folks share game and collector miniatures available on Shapeways. Members not only share their own creations but also post things they’ve found while clicking around the site. We also encourage you to check out the array of awesome miniatures in Dmitry’s Shapeways shop.

4 Ways to Bring Tiny Worlds to Life

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It’s like traveling back in time. Or shapeshifting into a much tinier form. Miniatures are empowering and magical, and they capture our imagination like almost nothing else. Whether it’s a scale model of a train that hasn’t existed since the 19th century, a reborn dinosaur that stalks your desktop, a lightning-fast slot car, or a micro-scale camper and tent setup just like the one Dad used to have. This week in our Holiday Gift Guide, we’re celebrating the Tiny Worlds you bring to life, and helping you share the miniatures magic with your loved ones this holiday season. Read on for four ways to make the little things count this year.

1. Help them take a custom flight into the past with this Paint-It-Yourself N Scale Cessna by Stony Smith Designs

Cessna 172 - N Scale by Stony Smith Designs

Cessna 172 – N Scale by Stony Smith Designs

2. Build Their Train Set with this ultra-detailed Chicago Car by Traction Scale Models

3000/6000 series Chicago Cars - HO Scale 1:87 by Traction Scale Models

3000/6000 series Chicago Cars – HO Scale 1:87 by Traction Scale Models

3. Satisfy their love for Dinos with this adorable/creepy Compy Desktop Figurine by VFXguy’s desktop toys

Compy dinosaur desktop figurine by VFXguy's desktop toys

Compy dinosaur desktop figurine by VFXguy’s desktop toys

4. Join the Race to the Holidays with this model AC Cobra by 3DCerebro

AC Cobra by 3DCerebro

AC Cobra by 3DCerebro

More than just perfect gifts for imaginative loved ones, many of the creations featured this week wouldn’t exist were it not for the ingenuity of our community of designers. With their incredibly detailed scale models, Shapeways designers are miniaturizing things that have never before been recreated, satisfying unique interests in ways that would never have been possible without 3D printing. Discover more of their Tiny Worlds in our Holiday Gift Guide, and let us know in the comments what scale models you want to see more of on Shapeways.

Thanks to You

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We wouldn’t exist without you, our makers. Inventors, designers, artists, hobbyists, and, of course, all our small business owners that keep the printers running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And, we’re equally indebted to our shoppers for supporting these independent makers. So, this week, we want to say “Thank you.”

Thank you to our designers, for opening shops on our platform, creating microbrands, and for making our marketplace the world’s destination for the unique, wonderful things you can’t find anywhere else. And thank you to our shoppers for helping bring our designers’ visions to life by supporting their small businesses.

We know that there are a lot of options when it comes to holiday gifting. Thank you for choosing to make your gifts on a platform where craftsmanship, originality, and ingenuity are in our community’s DNA.

Together, we’re shaping and bringing these ideas to life, from 3D renders to amazing finished products — many of which would never have existed without digital manufacturing. Thank you for being there, every step of the way. We look forward to seeing all the incredible things you’ll make in 2017 and beyond.

We 3D Scanned a Famous Brooklyn Pig — And It Was Oinkredible

The team took a short break from holiday gifting magic this week to take a field trip to Crest Hardware in Williamsburg — and visit their resident Garden Keeper, Franklin the potbellied pig, and his dad Joe. The mission of the trip was to 3D scan Franklin while documenting the experience on Facebook Live.

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Franklin’s a beloved local celebrity. He’s often mobbed by fans, and his 2.4k Instagram followers are increasing their ranks every day.

The team had an amazing time hanging out with Franklin and his dad while we scanned both of them at once. Keeping Franklin still was surprisingly easy while he had some pig food to eat, but he also liked to wag his little tail and lift his head to check out what we were doing.

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Despite being famous, Franklin was great to work with. Some of the challenges we encountered were the typical obstacles involved in working outside (meh lighting and spotty wi-fi) and trying to capture a scan of the leash between Joe and Franklin. We captured a few scans of the two of them standing near each other, but it was tricky capturing the two of them both in still poses. All things considered, we managed to snag some decent scans and are hoping to mesh a few scans together.

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 2.07.44 PM Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 2.09.26 PM

Sad you missed it? No worries! You can still catch the adventure (and questionable pig puns) here! What else would you like to see us attempt to 3D scan? Let us know in the comments!

New Dieselpunk Miniature Robots Kickstarter

This week, we’re going full geek to bring you the best 3D printed holiday gifts for the gamers, roleplayers, puzzle masters, fantasy builders, and meme makers on your list. Some of the best geeky gifts are those that let giftees paint, customize, and play. Enter Noah Li’s miniatures. To help expand the options he can offer into full kits, he’s set up a Kickstarter. Read on to learn more.

A few months ago, we featured an awesome design by Noah Li, the miniature Russian Walker tank.

Since he shared that design with us, he’s been hard at working expanding the tank’s options into a series of interchangeable, customizable kits of parts for these robotic war machines. To finish the project, he’s raising money via a Kickstarter, which you can support here.

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Noah set out to create a series of customizable miniature tanks inspired by a science fiction, dieselpunk setting. Representing designs in an alternative World War II reality, each tank is based on a different country. The parts are totally interchangeable, allowing for endless creative combinations.

Below are some process photos documenting Noah’s post-processing and painting of his French- and Russian-themed tanks.

First, the raw Strong and Flexible Plastic is cleaned of any remaining powder:

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Then it gets a base coat of paint:

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Finally, metallic paint is applied to show wear, and brown tones are rubbed on to show dirt, giving the impression of a well-used machine:

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The final parts are interchangeable and can be assembled and mixed together:

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Examples of how the tanks can be assembled:

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And reassembled:

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The obligatory banana to show scale:

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For more check out Noah Li’s shop and Kickstarter campaign here. Looking for more paint-it-yourself pieces to satisfy the miniatures lovers on your list this holiday season? Check out our Paint it Collection here.

Designer Spotlight: Jady Swinkels – Swinks

This week, we’re celebrating the many ways that Shapeways lets us geek out this holiday season, whether it’s by creating (and gifting) D&D game pieces or developing arcade game mods. Jady Swinkels’ shop Swinks is a perfect example of how a designer is using 3D printing in innovative ways to do just that — creating accessories and modifications for pinball machines. We wanted to find out more about how this pinball wizard got his start.

Congo Pinball Hippo (Schleich 14681) Mount by Swinks

Congo Pinball Hippo (Schleich 14681) Mount by Swinks

How did you become interested in pinball machines?
I was part of the era in the ’80s when there were pinball machines in the arcades near the movie cinemas and fish & chip shops here in Australia, and I really enjoyed playing them. Then, in 2010, I discovered that lots of people bought them for their homes, so I purchased my first game.

Over the last six years I have bought eight different games, but at the moment I’m back down to two games, which are the first two games I purchased. The first was a 1976 Gottlieb Surf Champ, a surfing pinball game, and the second was a 1992 Bally Creature from the Black Lagoon which has great art and is a fun game with a cool drive-in movie theme in which I have produced many different custom designs for.

How do you determine the types of accessories and add-ons to create?
Custom accessories in the pinball world are known as pinball modifications (shortened to “mods”). They’re accessories that enhance a feature of a game that it could be lacking, usually by adding a 3D touch or more character. Many people like to personalize their own games with mods. I strive to design a mod that has a purpose and looks cool, but is fairly simple to install. A good mod is one where people are wowed by it and comment that the game should have had the mod as a standard feature when the game was made, though this is personal and hard to achieve as everyone is different. A good mod is also one that is removable and allows the game to be reassembled back to original if desired.

Then there’s another side to pinball parts, which is that older games often suffer from having no parts available anymore due to stock running out and then not being remade. So, in some cases, fellow pinheads have asked if I can help them out with a replacement part. I like to help them and others where possible to keep an old game playable — it’s rewarding.

How personalized or custom-designed can one make a pinball machine?
Some people like their games to stay stock/original. Others like to personalize it with a few quality features, and some like to fill it up. It really is a personal taste thing, and that’s the great thing about pinball mods: there is variety out there. Currently, at a rough guess, there are probably 40-50 people around the world designing quality pinball mods, each with a unique flare or game preference, from older games to newly released games and certain themes. Some specialize in casting, others in decals, and some experiment with 3D printed parts while others prefer machining parts. Some games are really popular for mods, and people could spend above and beyond $2k on mod accessories for their games when a game itself costs $5-6k.

CFTBL Tail Light Mod - Tail Light Lens by Swinks

CFTBL Tail Light Mod – Tail Light Lens by Swinks

Are there any modifications you’re particularly proud of?
Custom Flipper Bats are one of my cool designs as traditionally pinball machines have a cast, one-piece fixed-length bat. I wanted to approach it differently. Traditionally, the bat’s post passes through the playfield and is fastened to a mechanism. For a beginner, it’s a component that stays in there for years as the bats are awkward and sort of a pain to change out. My solution has 3 benefits:

  • It’s still is a pain to change out the first time, but now the bats can be swapped out in a few minutes instead of an hour for a beginner, all without lifting the playfield due to the designed-in square drive .

  • People can put in standard-length bats, shorter ones to make a game harder, or longer ones to make a game easier.

  • People can customize with custom colors or features.

Designer Jady Swinkels of Swinks

Designer Jady Swinkels of Swinks

Check out Jady’s shop and see the way he’s totally pimping out people’s pinball machines with his custom modifications. If you’re a pinhead, leave a comment here and let us know of your dream mod!

What is a Möbius Strip?

Our Holiday Gift Guide is full of creative versions of the Möbius Strip. What is this magical shape, and how did it get its name? Thankfully, mathematician, guest blogger, and Shapeways Shop owner Henry Segerman is here to reveal the secrets of the strip. Henry’s new book, Visualizing Mathematics with 3D Printing explains beautiful mathematical ideas using 3D prints made by Shapeways!

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stop4stuff’s Twin Rail Mobius

What is a Möbius Strip?

Möbius (or Moebius) strips are a popular subject on Shapeways, from Joaquin Baldwin’s Mobius Nautilus and Bacon Mobius Strip, to stop4stuff’s Twin Rail Mobius, The Magic Shop’s Moebius Cup  and 8 bit Nirvana’s Super Mario Mobius Strip. But what is a Möbius strip? And where did it come from?

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The Möbius strip is named after August Ferdinand Möbius, a German mathematician who discovered it in 1858. In case you don’t happen to have a 3D printed one handy, you can also make one from a strip of paper by taping the ends together, after adding a half-twist. The Möbius strip is an example of what mathematicians call a “surface” — a geometric object that is essentially two-dimensional: if you look at a small patch of it, it looks the same as a small patch of the two-dimensional plane. Of course, any paper or 3D printed model has to have some three-dimensional thickness, but a perfect mathematical surface has zero thickness.

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8 bit Nirvana’s Super Mario Mobius Strip

Famously, the Möbius strip has only one side: if you start painting one side of it, you will find that you end up painting the “other” side as well. If you are Mario, for example, running around 8 bit Nirvana’s Level 1-1, you run around the loop twice before you get back to where you started, passing by on both sides of each patch of surface that makes up the Möbius strip. Perhaps less well-known is the fact that the Möbius strip also has only one edge. The ground that Mario runs along wraps all the way around the one edge of 8 bit Nirvana’s strip. It might look like the top of the flagpole is at a different edge from the bottom, but the ground is also at that edge, on the back side of the strip!

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Mind Eversion’s Hopf Ring

What about different numbers of half-twists? If you don’t put any twist in your strip before you tape the edges together you get what mathematicians call an “annulus”, from the Latin word for “little ring”. It’s the curved part of a cylinder, or the cardboard tube inside a roll of toilet paper. You could also put in two half-twists, as in Mind Eversion‘s Hopf Ring. Or three half-twists, as in Mind Eversion’s trefoil Moebius Pendant. If you put in two half-twists, you again get two sides and two edges, just like the annulus. And, if you put in three half-twists, you again get one side and one edge, just like the Möbius strip.

In fact, thinking about the surfaces themselves, rather than the way Mind Eversion chose to put them in three-dimensional space, they are the annulus and the Möbius strip. If Mario is stuck in the two-dimensional world of Level 1-1, and he can’t see out into three-dimensional space, it turns out that there’s nothing he can do to tell whether the strip he lives on is twisted one half turn, or three half turns, or actually any odd number of half turns. So, from the perspective of the surfaces, they are all just copies of the Möbius strip. On the other hand, Mario can tell if he’s on a strip with an even number of half-twists, because that surface has two sides, and he would never be able to get to the other side.

Bacon Mobius Strip by Joaquin Baldwin 3D Printed Designs

Bacon Mobius Strip
by Joaquin Baldwin 3D Printed Designs

So, why do people like the Möbius strip so much? Maybe part of it is that there is twice as much space to draw or write on than for an ordinary annulus ring. 8 bit Nirvana’s Level 1-1 print would have had to be twice as long if they had used an annulus. But I think it’s more about the surprise and the paradox, that a twist in a surface can make it have only one side.

For more on how math can be used to create incredible 3D designs, check out Henry’s new book.

Jewelry From the Future

Fashion’s love affair with geometric design shows no sign of letting up, making geometry-inspired pieces perfect holiday gifts for the fashionistas in your life. At Shapeways, we see a lot of incredible geometric jewelry from our designers. The 3D design process makes manipulating mathematical shapes a natural fit. But, sometimes, a designer comes along who takes a simple idea — the polygon — and uses it to make a fashion statement that seems to come to us from the future.

Ring Poly One by AKK

Ring Poly One by AKK

AKK designer Aleksandar Kovacevic’s Poly series of rings, bracelets, and earrings started from a simple place. “In the beginning was the Polygon … the whole idea was about entering the world of jewelry design and 3D printing with a collection developed from one single polygon,” he told us.

Bangle Poly Nine by AKK

Bangle Poly Nine by AKK

“I wanted to design statement pieces for all individuals who aren’t afraid to show that they are different,” Aleksandar said of his “harmonic compositions” of polygons. Whether worn as multiple cascading, stacking pieces, or alone, the rings and bangles in the AKK shop seem to have a life — and a movement — all their own.

Earrings Poly Eleven by AKK

Earrings Poly Eleven by AKK

The groundbreaking look of AKK’s 3D printed pieces is no accident. “Without today’s 3D printing possibilities, having my own jewelry collection would still be just a thought. 3D printing technology really helped me express myself the way I could never imagine.” We hope you’ll be as inspired by Aleksandar’s creations as we were, whether you’re shopping for cutting-edge holiday gifts for stylish friends, or looking to try your hand at 3D design.

And, for even more gifting inspiration, dig into our Holiday Gift Guide, where you’ll find hundreds of ways to help your loved ones express themselves all year long.

15 Ways to Say ‘You Do You’ This Holiday Season

Each of us is different, and during the holidays, this basic fact can make gifting a lot harder than it needs to be. But at Shapeways, our diverse community of independent designers — and their limitless creativity — means that no matter how picky, quirky, or eccentric your loved ones might be, we’ve got thousands of gifts that celebrate their unique personalities. This week, we’re helping you say, “Express Yourself” to everyone on your list with 15 collections for explorers, cyclists, music snobs, bee lovers, and many more. Because holiday gifting is all about showing how much you know and love those closest to you, whatever they’re into.

Dig right in to this week’s collections, or get a sneak peek, below, of four gift ideas that will satisfy some of our favorite kinds of friends.

1. For Friends of Felines: The Kitty Cat Pendant by rustylab

Kitty Cat Pendant by rustylab

Kitty Cat Pendant by rustylab

The perfect mix of adorable and design-conscious, the moveable Kitty Cat Pendant from our Friends of Felines collection will help stylish cat ladies show their true colors — and its moving parts may prove irresistible to playful fur babies.

2. For That Hipster Life: Wired Life Rhino by Dot San

Wired Life Rhino by Dot San

Wired Life Rhino by Dot San

Finding décor and personal accessories for the perennially hip can be a challenge. But for anyone you know who’s living that Hipster Life, this geometric statement piece by Dot San will set their space apart.

3. For Your Steampunk Buddy: Steampunk Chess Set

Steampunk Chess Set by unrealchess3D

Steampunk Chess Set by unrealchess3D

Steampunk is more than nostalgia; it’s a way to reimagine the past. In that same spirit, unrealchess3D’s Steampunk Chess Set reimagines chess pieces, reducing them to wiry, whimsical forms. And, for true steampunks, it’s a fittingly old-fashioned way to bring the aesthetic home.

4. For the Fashionista: Brass Triangle Earcuff by 3different

The Brass Triangles Earcuff by 3different

The Brass Triangles Earcuff by 3different

They’re daring, making sartorial choices the rest of us will take years to catch on to. So, when you set out to shop for them, it’s best to think outside the box. From our Fashionista collection, this Brass Triangle Earcuff by 3different will help the trendsetters on your list keep a step ahead of the crowd.

Don’t miss all 15 Express Yourself collections this week, including The Bees Knees, Animal Lovers, For the Explorer, Accessorize His Holiday, For the Love of Bikes, Bookworm, Music = Life, Popular Science, Tiny Tools, Fashionista, Steampunk, Hipster Life, Friends of Felines, and CustomMaker. With so many creative minds in our community of designers, there’s no reason to settle for standard-issue gifts this holiday season.

For even more gifting inspiration, check out our full Holiday Gift Guide, and don’t forget to build your own wishlist — so your loved ones will know just how you like to express yourself.