Category Archives: 3D Modeling

Designer Spotlight: Daryl Poe

This week we are happy to highlight Daryl Poe, miniature aircraft pro and enthusiast, as a shout out to our presence at the Experimental Aircraft Association event, and to all plane and miniature enthusiasts everywhere!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
I’m a computer engineer in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. Most of my day is very left-brain oriented, so working with 3D designs for Shapeways lets my creative side get a little exercise.

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Day One of 3D Printed SuperFanArt at Comicon 2014 in San Diego

Our 3D Printing partnership with Hasbro has officially hit the floor at Comicon in San Diego as thousands of fans swarmed the booth to get a glimpse at the 3D printed ponies designed by the Shapeways community.  The SuperFanArt section is a relatively small part of the massive Hasbro booth at Comicon, but one that is garnering a lot of excitement among fans, artists and the toy industry.

Superfanart 3D Print at Comicon

If you are at Comicon 2014 in San Diego be sure to drop by the Hasbro Kiosk 3213 (its the huge one) and say hello to the SuperFanArt team.  If you are an artist or designer interested in participating in the SuperFanArt project, please be sure to register your interest to start selling your Hasbro approved 3D prints to fans around the world.

For those who cannot make it, check out some of the craziness that is Comicon.

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Yep, and that’s just the people lined up who pre-paid to be first at the Hasbro stand…


 

Shapeways “Love in 3D” Wedding Contest Winner!

A huge thanks to each and every one of you who entered the Shapeways “Love in 3D” Wedding Contest. We were so excited to look through all the Pinterest boards, read your unique love stories, and be even more inspired than ever before.

Of course, we could only choose one winner, and we believe a congratulations is in order for Bastiaan Ekeler! Not only did you create one beautiful Pinterest board, but your story already started with 3D printing! We were also touched by your desire to create unique, personal gifts for your fiancé to keep your relationship fresh and fun.

wedding-contest-winner

 

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Seeking Designers to Feature at EAA Airventure: Send us your Planes, Drone Parts and Aerospace Models

custom drone
Do you love planes, drones or just aerospace in general? Have you heard of the Experimental Aircraft Association? Once a year they bring together air travel enthusiasts of all varieties at the world’s largest gathering of the sort, EAA Airventure, in Oshkosh Wisconsin. We’ve won a booth through a contest they held for startups and we would love to have you join us, or show off your planes and drone parts in our booth!

The Details:
July 28th – August 3rd
Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA

How You Can Get Involved:
Come say Hi to Dan & I in the booth or join us! If you live nearby or are visiting the midwest and would like talk to fellow aircraft enthusiasts any of the show days, please email Savannah@Shapeways.com and we can coordinate logistics.

Can’t make it to Oshkosh? No worries! Send in any products you want shown off at the show with your designer details, any custom branding you have, and a bit about each product you’re showing. We’ll tell your story and send them back to you after the show if you’d like!

Send Planes, Drones & Aerospace Accessories To:

Savannah Peterson
c/o Shapeways
419 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

More about EAA and Airventure can be found on their website; though this video gives you a nice taste of what is in store.

What would you fly if you could fly anything?


 

Show Us Your Elasto Plastic 3D Prints

We introduced Elasto Plastic as our first 3D Printing maker material back in May last year so that the Shapeways community could have access to a impact resistant, flexible 3D printing material.  The team at the factory in Eindhoven get to see the amazing products you design with this unique material but because it is a Maker Material, and not available for sale as a product on Shapeways, many of us do not get to see and be inspired by your designs.

flexible 3D print material on Shapeways

We would love to see your Elasto Plastic designs shared in the It Arrived forum so that we can all see the range of products you are designing and get inspiration to explore the material in different ways.  We are looking forward to seeing photos of your designs on the Shapeways forums soon.


 

Designer Spotlight: Kazu and Shing Takeishi

This weeks designer spotlight features Kazu and Shing Takeishi, the minds behind MONOCIRCUS. The Japanese duo have creative backgrounds and have channeled that energy into a shop full of fun and beautiful out-of-the-box ideas turned products.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
MONOCIRCUS began in 2011, started by two of us, Kazu, Japanese architect, and Shing, Singaporean artist. We work from a little bedroom-turned-studio in our home in Fukuoka, Japan, where we live with our two little boys.

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Project Caterpillar: How we’re resolving rejections at Shapeways

At Shapeways, we have a tradition of giving internal projects an animal name that captures its essence. In this case, the problem we wanted to tackle is a big hairy one with lots of sections and legs, across all our teams — like a caterpillar. The problem is: rejections. Our goal is to dramatically improve how we give you feedback when a product you have ordered cannot be manufactured using 3D printing. Historically, you might have received our standard rejection email that said, “After taking a closer look, we cannot print one of the models in order # …”  You probably spent hours designing, or searching for, that one unique product that is not for sale anywhere else and then we had to tell you to start over! We understand that this could be a very disappointing message. With Project Caterpillar, our aim is to turn design feedback and iteration into a positive experience, and watch our caterpillar eventually go into its chrysalis and emerge as a beautiful butterfly.

It has been half a year since we formed a team to tackle this issue head on. The team consists of community managers, operational directors, software developers, customer service representatives, product managers, and supply chain coordinators. It has been all hands on deck to fight what many of you felt is the worst experience when shopping, selling or making products at Shapeways: getting a rejection.

caterpillar

Caster the Curious Caterpillar Ring by designerica

Why is this such a hairy problem?

At Shapeways we always aim to quickly and affordably turn your ideas from digital designs into real products, but due to the limitations in 3D printing, some designs just can’t be brought to life in their current form. To help clarify how to best design for 3D printing, we provide tools on our website that give you the information you need to make the best possible decisions while designing a product, but it’s not always that simple. Usually we know what will print, but we are also learning with our customers every day — you are pushing the limits of the technology, and we’re right along with you, even if sometimes we have to give you bad news that we can’t produce your product as you’ve built it.

But really, why is this so hard? Here are some of the biggest issues:

  • Well, the first thing was to accept that it is OK to fail. We should take chances, and if that means we try it a few times and we still can’t print your product, that’s OK so long as we give you actionable feedback once we figure it out–and then we can keep learning about what works and what doesn’t.
  • For makers in particular, most of the time we have never seen these products before, and we are not sure what you want! Should that really small propeller actually be attached to the plane? Is it OK if you have a ton of powder stuck inside? We are guessing, and need better ways to understand your intentions and communicate.
  • One of the biggest challenges has been consistency: every model gets checked by hand, and we have dozens of production partners who are looking at thousands of models that have been made 5 minutes or 5 years ago in 40+ materials. This is a lot of people and data to coordinate. So a huge part of our focus was around training our 3D print engineers, and on giving you useful, timely feedback.
  • You might have noticed that we publish guidelines and not rules. That’s partially because we want to continue to allow you to push creative boundaries, and also because creating designs with 3D software that also observe rules of physics can be subjective. For instance, a thin wire will work if the rest of the geometry is structurally sound, but a hard “no thin wire” rule would have eliminated this option. So it’s a lot of art, and less science than we would prefer, especially when the technology improves every day.

 

With this in mind and the goal of turning rejections into resolutions, our teams have been working around the clock to surface potential issues with your models as soon as possible, to provide actionable, consistent feedback when there is an issue, and to make the rejection experience less frustrating for anyone that still receives that disappointing message.

Trust us, we know we’re not quite there yet and we will continue to do everything in our power to accommodate your needs. Still, we wanted to take this opportunity, half a year down the line to reflect on where we came from and where we are now.

Some of the steps we took to reduce rejections

#1 Thin Wall Checking and Fixing.

When we looked into the data for why we had to reject certain designs, it became clear that the biggest issue preventing them from passing our manual checks was in their structural integrity: they had “thin walls” and weren’t strong enough to withstand the whole production process. While a large part of the process your product goes through is just bits and bytes, after a product is taken out of the 3D printer, it is physically touched at least 5 times in cleaning, quality checks, packing, and more. While our printers can produce nearly anything, you can imagine when blasting excess material off your model with high pressured air, your model will need some strength to survive. Soon enough our team decided to surface critical checks of your models on upload; the thin wall checker was one of the first of these tools released on our website. Shortly followed by the thin wall fixer, which in many cases can help solve issues with your models that would have otherwise caused the models to be rejected. We have lots of huge plans for this area, so we can show you the path, right at upload, to producing your model successfully.

See how some of our materials are processed from start to finish in this video playlist:

#2 Print It Anyway.

Another feature many of our most loyal and seasoned community members have been requesting for a long time is the option to go ahead with manufacturing, even if the model doesn’t pass manual checks. Print It Anyway is an option at checkout, that enables you to test your most complicated designs and learn from the actual, physical outcome. Our production crew will always do their very best to ship models in the desired level of quality, and this is no different when selecting Print It Anyway. If a feature on your model cannot make it through the whole production process without slight issues, we would still ship the model to you, so you can hold your model in your own hands, learn from it, and iterate. We learn from your PIAs too!

#3 Detailed Manual Checks.

While all of this work was in progress, our 3D printing engineers have been aiming to provide the complete feedback to slightly adjust your design if it failed thorough manual checks. Instead of surfacing just one issue, they now describe all the issues at once. In practice, this means you would not end up in an endless circle of rejection and updating your model.  If you do experience a rejection, the reasons are also now available on your model edit page as well as in your original email.

#4 Checking Consistency & #5 Print Success Rates.  

We know that the most infuriating thing is to get a rejection of a model that you printed before, and we have paid special attention to fixing that. Indeed we have had a few big hiccups managing these models along the way, but we have improved dramatically, down to < 0.3% of models, and we are still trying to make it better. The consistency of manual checks is continuously monitored and the print success rate of your model is now shown on your model edit page. This way you see the same metrics we look at to judge success through the process.

What’s next?

We’re happy to report that we’ve made some significant progress, reducing by half the number of times we have to tell you that we can’t print your model.  When we do have to give you the bad news, most of the time it’s within 24 hours, and it’s always accompanied by a detailed explanation from a trained 3DP engineer. While we think this improves your experience, we know this is just the tip of the iceberg, especially if you’re someone who still can’t get your product made. We promise that we’re committed to helping you bring amazing products to life, and there are still lots of features and improvements lined up.

This caterpillar is not quite ready to come out of its chrysalis, at least not until we have found a solution that eradicates your frustration and disappointment, but we will continue to listen to your feedback and we will learn from you every day.

Thank you,

Team Caterpillar

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Introducing Print Success Rates: Increasing Transparency in the 3D Printing Manufacturing Process

Before we launched Shapeways, 3D Printing was used for prototyping and rarely for finished products. As more and more of your phenomenal designs have emerged from our factories, we’ve been able to show the world that 3D Printing can be used to create real, finished products that people want to buy.

With this shift, we’ve started to think more about what it means to make sure a product is ready for repeated manufacturing so that hundreds of customers can hold it in their hands. We want to do everything in our power to help you design great products, so we’ve continued to roll out tools to help you understand our design guidelines.

It’s not surprising that our next biggest request we hear from you, our community, is that you want more information and transparency about how your products fare in our manufacturing process. What goes right, and importantly, what goes wrong. That information is critical to run your business.

Our Manufacturing Process

Although we constantly push our machines and processes to their limits, we can’t make everything. Often times, we can manufacture a product once, but the second, third, and fourth runs aren’t always as successful as the first attempt. For example, we might find that a product prints properly but gets polishing medium stuck inside it, or a model may only survive the cleaning process one in five times due to how brittle the wires are.

The first indicator to determine if we can manufacture a product is whether or not it meets our design guidelines. We only check a product against our design guidelines the first time it is ordered. You can already see the result of our “Manual Check” on your Model Edit page, which was the first update in a series of improvements to increase transparency.

Once your product has cleared Manual Checks, it goes into Production. This process is different for each material, as each material may use different 3D printers and have different post production. If the product experiences a problem along the way (for example: it breaks during the polishing step), the product enters a “QA Review,” where we assess what to do next: attempt to reprint your product, reach out if it looks like you might want the product as is, or give you feedback on how to improve your design for manufacturing.

Today we’ve launched the second change focused on increasing transparency in manufacturing: we are now displaying  Success Rate for each material on your Model Edit page. Each material your model has been ordered in at least once will have a success rate displayed, allowing you to start seeing how it fares during our manufacturing process.

The Success Rate is calculated as follows:

Number of times product shipped successfully / Number of total production attempts

The Success Rate will also include similar materials that share the same processing steps. For example, if your product is printed successfully in Blue Strong & Flexible Polished, this also registers as a successful print for White Strong & Flexible, as the dyed and polished material uses White Strong & Flexible as a base.

When we encounter a design with a low success rate, we pinpoint printability issues and send an e-mail that has a set of suggestions for how to fix your product.

Note: As you can imagine, the success rate may not be incredibly accurate after one attempt, but will increase in accuracy as more products are manufactured.

You can already see the success rate via e-mail when your product experiences issues. Today we’re adding the success rate for each material on your Model Edit page, right next to your automated and manual check results.

Using Success Rate

You can use Success Rate to have a higher level of confidence in your product before making it available for sale. For example, if your product has been printed 10 times successfully with a 100% success rate, there is a very good chance that it will move through the manufacturing process smoothly. If, however, you see a 50% or 55% success rate, you may want to reference any e-mails we’ve sent and then have another look at your design, or reach out to Customer Service in advance to address any issues you (and eventually your customers) might face and adjust accordingly.

The Future

This is the second step in becoming more transparent about how we determine whether or not a product can be repeatedly manufactured. As we continue to learn by printing your models and hear your ideas and suggestions, we will continue to invest in tools that give you better visibility into what’s happening with your product throughout the production process. We hope that this will enable you to make even more innovative products using 3D printing.

We’re excited to share your product’s success rate with you and can’t wait to see what you make next.

-Brad

* Footnote *

Known Issues

While many of our vendors are able to provide us with detailed information on how many times they attempt to print a product before shipping, some can’t. Currently, we don’t have as much visibility into the success rate of the Stainless Steel family as we’d like, so you will see 100% if your model ever shipped successfully, or a 0% if it never did. We are working hard to change this!

 


 

Ultra exciting news for Frosted Ultra Detail

We’re happy to announce that, thanks to a recent machine upgrade, the Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) Plastic bounding box has increased its maximum to 284 x 184 x 203mm, from its previous maximum of 127x178x152mm; a 220% x 3% x 34% increase respectively. This train by our Shapie Customer Service expert Mitchell shows off the new bounding box quite well.

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While most FUD products will still ship within six business days, please allow up to 10 for products that are over 70mm in each bounding box dimension.

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So, what will you be printing in our new, bigger FUD?


 

Inspiring the Next Generation of Creators: Announcing Our Collaboration with Google on Made with Code to Inspire Millions of Girls to Code & Create

I’ve been coding since I was 13 years old. I’d spend hours taking apart computers, putting them back together, and creating worlds of my own. Technology has not only impacted the way I solve problems, it’s framed the way I view the world. First with coding, and later with 3D printing, I found that my imagination was my only limitation.

Today, I’m thrilled to share that Shapeways is collaborating with Google on Made with Code to inspire girls to code. Our goal has always been to give everyone access to the best technology in 3D printing, and we’re now investing in that access for girls — a group that has historically been underrepresented in science and technology.

Made with Code offers fun and simple projects aimed at helping girls take the first step in learning how to code. The premier project of the initiative is a coding project based on Blockly, Google’s visual programming editor, in which girls can create a custom bracelet that we will 3D print in our New York City factory using EOS printers.

Made with Code and Shapeways

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Getting more from less: using negative space in your 3D designs

by Richy Swalberg

From Eleanor: Richy Swalberg is a Shapeways Crew member and a mechanical engineer based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was recently featured on our Designer Spotlight and runs the Stinger shop on Shapeways.

I’m sure anyone who has uploaded their own design for the first time on shapeways has experienced the realization that using more volume of material can really add up the cost. This can be disappointing after working hard to design a new model that, in the end, is not very cost effective. But, you don’t have to throw out that great idea that was too expensive to have printed. One skill that Shapeways designers can use to their advantage to save money on their designs, and give a unique look, is the use of negative space.

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Pushing the Boundaries of Design & Manufacturing in 3D Printing

“Computers cannot solve for human problems.”

Vladimir Bulatov, Shapeways 3D Graphics Researcher, said this as he explained why our newly launched 3D model Wall Thickness Tools were such a challenge to build. “I am a 3D modeler and when I first started thinking about automatically measuring and fixing a model’s wall thickness for 3D printing, I thought the problem was unsolvable.” How can designers continue to push the boundaries of design with 3D printing, unhampered by manufacturing guidelines? This challenge was too large for us to ignore, and we set off close to four (4!) years ago to solve what seemed impossible.

What are the Wall Thickness Tools?

3D printers, like any manufacturing tool or machine, have limitations on the minimum distance between two points, known as ‘minimum wall thickness.’ Designing with minimum wall thickness in mind is important but difficult, so giving designers feedback on their designs is critical, especially as 3D printing becomes more accessible.

Wall Thickness Tools are two innovations by Shapeways that are available for free to the entire 3D design and 3D printing community.

  • Wall Thickness Visualization automatically identifies the areas where your model might need adjustment in order to meet minimum wall thickness to survive 3D printing and post processing.
  • Wall Thickness Fixing automatically thickens your model’s walls to the minimum recommended thickness for a specified material. Fixed models can be printed or downloaded for further adjustment.

We don’t have the silver bullet, but we do think the tools will make a significant impact. As with other creative industries where feedback is critical, giving 3D designers immediate feedback is a leap. It was a substantial undertaking, so we’re sharing why it was such a difficult challenge, our discovery process, how it works, and ultimately how we hope it will impact the 3D print community.

 

 

Why is wall thickness such a difficult challenge to solve? 

The goal was to create tools to help designers identify and fix potential problem areas prior to 3D printing. The solution had to provide accurate and relevant data, in order to help 3D designers speed up the design and iteration cycle.

Man vs Machine

Take, for instance, a triangle: at the very tip, the wall thickness gradually becomes zero. The same concept applies to the edges of a blade of grass. The wall thickness will eventually get below the minimum wall thickness requirement for 3D printing. Yet these objects are printable and a 3D Printing Engineer would know that. But is it possible to create an algorithm that provides exact wall thickness measurements only when it is a problem?

Measurement Complexity 

Another challenge is measurement complexity. For example, imaging drilling a hole into one side of a 1x1x1cm solid cube, but stop short just before the drill goes all the way through the other side. Looking at this model physically would not reveal that the bottom of the hole is too thin to be 3D printed. Thus, even if you were using software to measure wall thickness point by point, you would need to know to measure that particular point.

Furthermore, we see a lot of complex 3D models, designed by our community, that push the boundaries of design. In order for us to accept every creation by any designer, the Wall Thickness Tools can not be limited by complexity.

Our Discovery Process

The ideas of Alexandru Telea and Andrei Jalba, published in the academic paper, Voxel-Based Assessment of Printability of 3D Shapes were our starting point in developing the Wall Thickness Visualization Tool. Over the past four years, we developed three versions of the Visualization & Fixing tools, each building on the learning from the last.

The simplicity of the tool is deceiving, as the algorithmic power required to run the tools against a constant stream of 3D models require up to 25 computer servers running simultaneously.  We host more than one million 3D models, receive thousands of model uploads per day, and, as a result, manage the biggest 3D printing database in the world. The breadth of 3D models uploaded by our community plays a critical role in our discovery process, as the designs span organic, geometric, architectural, parametric, and sculptural 3D models, representing a huge range of design complexities and needs. We run the wall thickness tool algorithms across thousands of uploaded models to validate the tool’s performance against actual printability as determined by our 3D Printing Engineers.

How it Works

Now let’s circle back to the question of: “Is it possible to create an algorithm that provides exact wall thickness measurements only when it is a problem?” We answered this question by changing it.

We shifted the question from “What is the wall thickness and is it too thin?” to “How do we enable designers?” The information that is valuable to a design isn’t necessarily the exact thickness of the wall, but to the visual identification of potential problem areas. When designers have information about potential problems, they’re empowered to decide whether it’s a problem worth solving.

The Wall Thickness Visualization Tool does this by automatically measuring the distance between two points, in real-time, through the entire model. It then classifies areas as ‘safe’, ‘suspect’, or ‘unsafe’, for the designer to determine which areas should be fixed (such as a thin wire) and not be fixed (such as details or edges).

The Wall Thickness Fixing Tool creates a ‘thin walls skeleton’ for area suspected of not meeting minimum wall thickness requirements. It then inflates this skeleton to what the minimum wall thickness should be (known as ‘fixes’ or ‘delta geometry’). The fixes are combined with the original model to create the ‘fixed model’.

Fixed models are just one way to adjust a model to ready them for 3D printing, but not necessarily the ideal way for the needs of the designer. The images below demonstrate how the the tool thickens a thin wall, but creates a potentially undesirable protrusion on the flat surface on the right side of the model. Thus, the tool’s value is in providing immediate guidance on preparing a model for 3D printing, as well as the fixes themselves, and are meant to empower designers to update their designs as needed and much more quickly.


 

3D Print Your Next Masterpiece with Adobe Photoshop & Shapeways

Exciting news! Adobe Photoshop is making it even easier to create and modify designs for 3D printing, particularly in full color.

Adobe’s latest release of Photoshop Creative Cloud lets you create full-color 3D models right in Photoshop. You can design from scratch or refine an existing 3D model while using the Photoshop CC tools you’re already familiar with. Then upload your design to Shapeways and 3D print in over 40 materials

The brand new Photoshop Creative Cloud includes these powerful 3D printing features:

  • Use the standard Photoshop toolbox of brushes, gradients, filters, and bump maps to add color and texture to your existing 3D model then export to 3D print with Shapeways. It has never been easier to add color and effects to 3D models.
  • Create new 3D models from 2D images using extrude, twist and pinch tools while adding texture with bump maps to create truly unique 3D models ready to 3D print.
  • Automated mesh repair and wall thickness repair to ensure your designs are ready to 3D print in all of the materials on Shapeways. Simply insert your 3D file as a 3D layer on Photoshop then choose the Shapeways material in the “3D Print Settings” dialogue box along with the detail and scale, then select “3D Print” and Photoshop will voxelize and repair your file, prepare the print for upload and estimate the cost in your material of choice.

This latest release of Photoshop puts incredibly powerful 3D tools into the hands of everybody running the software. It lowers the barrier of entry and increases the reliability of your designs being ready to 3D print with Shapeways. We’re super excited to see what people create! Adobe is also offering a free one-month trial so you can test the tools for yourself. 


 

More 3DP Resolutions: Make your first 3D model with TinkerCAD

Hard to believe we’re about halfway through January! So, how are those are #3DP2014 Resolutions coming along? If you still haven’t tried to design anything, it’s okay, we forgive you. But now’s a great time to step up your 3D print game. And with TinkerCAD, it couldn’t be easier.

Why TinkerCAD?

    •    It runs right through your browser—no need to download anything.
    •    It’s video game-esque…you embark on a series of quests to design cool stuff.
    •    You’ll learn about the software as you use it.
    •    It’s FREE! (Unless you upgrade to the paid option.)
    •    You get confetti when you complete a design.

To start designing, just select a Lesson.

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