Category Archives: 3D Modeling

Call for Blog Stories

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!

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

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(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).”

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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.”

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(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.”

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(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:

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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)

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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)

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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

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:

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

Designer Proposes With Beautiful 3D Printed Crystalized Hearts Ring

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 community@shapeways.com.

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.

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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

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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!

 

 

Announcing the winners of our 3D Printed Miniature Houses Contest

We are thrilled to finally announce the winners of our 3D Printed Miniature Houses contest! In conjunction with the fabulous blog Modern Mini Houses, we invited mini house fans to share the beautiful displays they’ve created that incorporate 3D printed furniture and accessories. Modern Mini Houses blogger Megan Hornbecker teamed up with Kacie Hultgren of Pretty Small Things and Carol Mitcheson of Mitchy Moo Miniatures to judge entries.

I do not envy their position, as all entries were really wonderful (and cute!). But they’ve narrowed it down to the four winners! And the awards go to…

Gold $125 Credit: Otterine
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Silver $75 Credit: Alice Miniatures
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Bronze $50 Credit: Paper Doll Miniatures
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Shamrock Luck of the Draw $25 Credit: Mod Pod Miniatures
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Thank you so much to all the participants and a big thanks to Megan, Kacie and Carol for their hard work and time on this. It’s so wonderful to see a community take so much pride in their work, while incorporating others’ products! Keep up the great work and congrats to all the winners! If you have ideas for more contest, let us know! We love to see all the creativity come to life thanks to 3D printing, but more importantly, thanks to you!

Our Newest 3D Tool: Scaling Your Models for 3D Printing

Today Shapeways is growing our suite of 3D tools by launching the ability to scale your model to different sizes during the upload process. This enables greater flexibility for you to purchase models at the price you want and to remedy common printability problems like thin walls and bounding box errors on-site. You will have the option to scale your model by dimension and percentage in two different locations: the Model Edit page so you can see how pricing changes after scaling and within 3D tools for when you are trying to improve the printability of your model.

Scaling your model by dimension or percentage is easy in 3D tools or on the Model Edit page.

Scaling your model by dimension or percentage is easy in 3D tools or on the Model Edit page.

Scaling empowers you to quickly and proportionally resize models to exact specifications so art, home items, games, and other products can be adjusted without using 3D software and then having to re-upload the model.

Scaling can be used by experienced designers and is easy enough for beginner designers and modelers with limited to no modeling experience. For example, the availability of 3D scanned people, monuments, art, and objects of all sizes available on sites like Sketchfab offer a new source of 3D printable content and inspiration. Now, with the option for simple, straightforward scaling that requires no modeling experience, novice to experienced designers can make incredible scanned data like an ancient statue come to life in a size that can fit in your home – and fit in our 3D printers.

Bringing scanned content to life

Sketchfab designer Nebulousflynn’s scanned model of one of the daughters of the sea-god Nereus from the Nereid Monument constructed in 390-380 BC is well over 5 feet (or ~1.52 meters). Using the new scaling tool on Shapeways, you can reduce its from a statue that would take considerable space in your living room to a stunning miniature in full colored sandstone you can place on your bookshelf. Simply download the model like this from Sketchfab, upload it to Shapeways, scale it down – and we will 3D print it!

Scanned model of one of the daughters of the sea-god Nereus from the Nereid Monument by Nebulousflynn, a designer at Sketchfab

Scanned model of one of the daughters of the sea-god Nereus from the Nereid Monument by Nebulousflynn, a designer at Sketchfab

Printability plays a key factor in determining what size to print a scanned model. If the scanned model contains thin walls, you can increase the size of the model within 3D tools to thicken the walls while checking on the bounding box to ensure you aren’t making it too big to print in your desired material. Increasing the size can also ensure that small details are visible. Humanti’s statue of a woman carrying a harvest, Heykelhigh2suport, presents a great example of bringing existing scanned data to life, while making sure that the model is large enough to show all the details that make it beautiful.

Beautiful scanned model called Heykelhigh2suport by Humanti, a designer from Sketchfab

Beautiful scanned model called Heykelhigh2suport by Humanti, a designer from Sketchfab

Finding the right scanned model to work with when considering file formats, model completeness, licensing and attribution, and other factors can sometimes make 3D printing a scanned model tricky. Check out our tutorial to help you navigate these considerations.

Empowering entrepreneurs with greater pricing and model size consistency

For entrepreneurs who are using 3D scanning to capture new models, scaling offers additional controls to price and size products consistently.  Scanned data often introduces a lot of variability, especially when you are scanning people, because every individual is unique. This creates variability in the cost per printed miniature person; with scaling, as long as you maintain the printability of the model, you can adjust the size of miniatures to create greater cost consistency.  Or, if size consistency is more important, you can make each miniature exactly the same height.

Three printed scans of Dan in full color sandstone in different sizes: from front to back, 10.5cm tall, 12.5cm tall, and 14.5cm tall.

Three printed scans of Dan in full color sandstone in different sizes: from front to back, 10.5cm tall, 12.5cm tall, and 14.5cm tall.

To demonstrate this, we scanned and printed one of our team members Dan using Skanect, a 3D scanning software made by our partners Occipital.  Skanect makes it very easy for users to scan and prep models for 3D printing using a variety of scanning hardware, including Occipital’s own Structure Sensor, and allows you to scale your model by percentage when uploading to Shapeways.  Together, scaling on Shapeways and Skanect allow you to confidently and consistently offer and print your scans at the size or price you want. We printed Dan in three different sizes at three different price points to show how easy it can be.

It’s important to remember that changing the size of a model will always impact both the price and the printability of your model. Check 3D tools after you scale a model to ensure that your new model is printable and you are aware of any changes to how your model may be printed.  Also remember that when you scale your model, it will be saved as a new version of your model which will not carry over any printability data.  This means if you scale an existing “For Sale” model, and scale it to a different size, it will have ‘First to Try’ status.

We hope you enjoy this new tool. Upload a new model or use one of your existing models to try scaling today!

3D Print Week Meetup with Shapeways, Formlabs and the Made in NY Media Center

Posted by in 3D Modeling, meetup

Happy 3D Print Week everybody! We’re busy getting ready for a lot of NY-based events this week, but wanted to let our community know about a great meetup happening soon.

Join us on Wednesday, April 15, in partnership with Formlabs and the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, for a meetup focused on bringing together 3D modelers and media makers to share their work, tips for getting started and more. The event will also feature a panel, moderated by our own Andrew Thomas, including Shapeways designers discussing how 3D printing is making media more dynamic and varied. We will have their work showcased, along with Formlabs artist Gilles Deschaud.

  • What: 3D Printing + Media Making: Content, Challenges and Inspiration
  • When: Wednesday, April 15th; 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Where: The Made in NY Media Center by IFP (30 John Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn NY)

 

Panelists:

David Lobser, Creative Coder

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David Lobser is a Brooklyn based artist, animator and creative coder. He had a long career in commercial computer animation and has recently been producing 3D printed work and virtual reality experiences.

Melissa Ng, 3D Printing Mask Maker and jewelry designer

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Melissa Ng is a doodler, entrepreneur and 3D Printing mask maker. She is the founder of Lumecluster, wonderlands for the entrepreneurial mind. She is also a co-founder of Piano Verse, a place to play, learn, and love music in New York.

Peter Zaharatos, Architect

As principal designer for the Second Avenue Subway Line, Peter Zaharatos has established the line identity, and through his multifaceted design strategy, developed signature designs for a new metro which will represent future NYC subway stations. His work has been published in Architectural Record and was exhibited at the Mayor’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2007. His professional work experience has made him a leader in many work environments, while establishing his strong ability to manage design projects through programming, schematics, development and construction document levels.

If you’re interested in attending please register for the event here.  Join us afterward for a reception. Hope to see you there!

 

3DPrintingDog Creates 3D Printed Kinetic sculptures

Some of the best designs we come across on Shapeways are the ones that take advantage of the printers we use to create incredible unique products we’ve never seen before. A Digital design studio called 3DPrintingDog based out of Philadelphia, PA uses the power of Shapeways SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) printing to make 3D printed Kinetic sculptures that come out of the printer with no assembly required. Here are a few examples of the designs that they’re making designed with Solidworks.

Deconstructed Bicycle Freewheel

 

Deconstructed Bicycle Freewheel

What are some of your favorite fully articulated designs you’ve come across on Shapeways? Let us know in a comment below or tweet us @Shapeways.

Welcome Michael Weinberg: Shapeways General Counsel and IP Expert

Hi Shapeways!  I’m excited to be joining the team as the new IP and General Counsel around here.  3D printing is obviously amazing for all sorts of reasons, and one of those is how it gives people an opportunity to rethink their relationship to intellectual property law.  3D printed objects and files do not fit as neatly into intellectual property law as things like music and movies.  This gives the 3D printing community a chance to redefine the relationship between creativity, creation, and intellectual property law (among so many other things).  Law certainly has an important role, but a healthy community does not rely on law alone in order to thrive.

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For the past few years, I’ve been working on public interest technology policy at Public Knowledge.  While there, I wrote a few whitepapers on 3D printing and intellectual property law: : It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw It UpWhat’s The Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing3 Steps for Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff.  I also helped to organize 3D/DC, an annual 3D printing policy conference in Washington, DC.

I’m excited to join Shapeways and to try and put some of the ideas I have been working on for the past few years into practice.  As the leading 3D printing service and marketplace, Shapeways is uniquely positioned to help establish and model the ways in which we interact with the 3D printed world.  Doing things right here at Shapeways means proving to the world that we can avoid some of the fights that have held back new technologies in the past.

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Fortunately, Shapeways already has a track record of doing things right.  We have partnered with Hasbro to create SuperFanArt and pioneer a new model for collaboration between existing IP holders and their most devoted fans.    We have also taken a community-first approach to defining and implementing our content policy in order to make sure that Shapeways works for the Shapeways community.

I know that these great initiatives are just the beginning.  The best thing for Shapeways and the Shapeways community is to create a space that works for everyone.  That means respecting rights and creativity, and encouraging experimentation and new models.  It also means continuing to be strong advocates on behalf of 3D printing and the 3D printing community.  We’re still at the beginning of this process, and look forward to continuing to develop new methods of fueling creativity in the future.

Of course, part of trying new things is sometimes getting things wrong.  Fortunately, the best way to respond when you are getting something wrong is to make it right.  In that spirit, if you see us doing something wrong or you have ideas of ways that we could be doing more right, send me an email at mweinberg@shapeways.com or a tweet @mweinberg2D.  I can’t promise that I will be able to answer everything, but I’ll do my best.  Of course, you can also send me emails and tweets if we are doing something right.

Finally, I look forward to connecting with the Shapeways community through this blog and other channels.  Shapeways works because it works for you, and I know that sometimes changes (especially changes that involve legal aspects, and even if they are good changes) can be disruptive.  I will strive to be as transparent as possible about what we are up to.

Until then, keep making great things!

 

 

Behind the product: Pocket Clip for Fitbit Flex

We love to hear all about the amazing products we see here at Shapeways. What was the inspiration? How many times was it printed before it was perfect? This series is about exploring the stories behind the creative and unique products that go through our printers.

The Pocket Clip for Fitbit Flex has been a popular product since it was introduced. It’s the perfect example of a product that fulfilled a market need – something that really can’t be found anywhere else. We caught up with the designer, Tom Felker,  to find out more about how the idea came about and how he works with customers to create various versions and improve upon the model.

Where did the idea for this product come from? 

I think this fell into the “necessity is the mother of invention” category. My job’s health insurance program gave everyone Fitbits as part of a fitness incentive, but I already wore a watch and didn’t want two bands. My friend and I were talking about it, and we thought maybe we could 3D print something. The way it snaps in was sort of inspired by how the Fitbit USB charger works, though that snaps in a little differently and uses a spring.

I think I just got sort of lucky in that the problem I solved is shared by lots of Fitbit users, and there are quite a few of them out there.

Walk us through the iteration process? How many designs did you go through?

I iterated the design on paper a little bit before even making a model. At first I didn’t have a great idea for how you’d take the Fitbit out, and I was thinking about having a bendable tab you’d push or something. I decided to figure that out later, make a model and sent it to Shapeways to be printed.

When I got it, I put the Fitbit in and it snapped in perfectly – but I forgot that I had no way to get it out so prying it out was quite a project. Around then I had the obvious-in-retrospect idea to add a hole in the back so you could just push it out with your finger. First I just used a rasp to add the hole into the model I had, and then I changed the 3D model and ordered version 2. I think I made one more version with some minor changes to the geometry to make it snap harder.

Somewhere along the way, I also tried different materials. I found that alumide was too stiff, and I knew the UV resin materials would be a little too brittle but WSF worked great. I had tried rubber and realized I would need a very different design to make that work. Much later, I tried a different design to work with metal but I haven’t gotten too far with that yet. I also tried a version my friend printed out on his hobbyist FDM printer in ABS, but it wasn’t dimensionally accurate enough and was way too stiff – and didn’t look too good.

How important has customer feedback been to you?

When making the first proof-of-concept model I wasn’t talking to customers yet, but later I was. There was a customer who wanted to put it on a pendant, so I made that variant for her and have sold a few of those. Another wanted the pendant loop to go the other way, and so I modeled that, then added a ring to it so you’d have a choice, and at that point you might as well add a chain, and the keychain version was born. Somebody was asking about a version you could use to make a paracord bracelet, so I did that as a beta model. I also ended up strengthening the clip on the pocket clip version due to customer feedback.

What have you learned about the 3D printing process through this product?

I think a lot of what I’ve learned has been more about selling things. The power that exposure can give you. The need to be very clear when communicating to customers.

Do you think gadget accessories will continue to be a popular category for 3D printing?

I think gadget accessories will always be a pretty big part of 3D printing. I come from an engineering side of things, and I probably don’t have a good understanding or appreciation for art (or a lot of budget or space to spend on purely artistic objects), but when you have a dealy-bob and you really need a widget holding bracket for it, 3D printing is perfect for that.

Thanks for the insight into this popular product, Tom. We’re excited to see what else you come up with in the future!

 

Easy steps to get started 3D printing right now

Dain Penman is a member of Shapeways Crew and the owner of the Madasu Designs Shapeways shop

This blog outlines what you need to do to start 3D printing, based on my own experience.

The first thing you will need (aside from an idea) is a design program – unless you would like to use one of Shapeways Easy Creator Apps. I am currently using Autodesk’s 123D Design which is a free 3D design program I downloaded (http://www.123dapp.com/design). Autodesk also have a number of associated programs such as 123 Catch which is a 3D scanner using a smartphone and Meshmixer, an editing program where you can update textures, combine models and generally play around with 3D models.

To create a design, there are 3 main methods I use (often in combination):
Working with functions such as using 3D objects like cubes, spheres and cylinders. I then modify these objects to end up with a 3D model;
Create 2D sketches using 2D objects like squares, circles and lines and make them 3D by applying a thickness, or;
Importing 2D sketches from the internet.

The process is best explained using an example of a pair of cufflinks:

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I started by importing a 2D image (which I found on the internet and converted to a .svg file), as below:

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The imported file becomes a 2D sketch, to which I applied a thickness – so I then had a 3 dimensional object shaped like the above. The picture was quite large (about 20cm across), so I used a scale tool to reduce the size down to around 2cm across. The program has a grid, so I estimated the size against the 5mm grid the object was placed on.

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I then checked the thickness by using the measuring tool as I wanted a more precise measurement for the height. I made it 2.5mm high.

To make the backs for the cufflink I created two cylinders. When I create the cylinders I specify the radius of the cylinder and the height. I created one short, wider one for the back piece and a taller, thinner one for the piece joining the front and the back.

I then filleted the edges on the cylinders to create smooth edges. Where the angle is external, it trims away and makes a smoother edge. Where the angle is internal (like where a wall meets the ceiling), the rounding ‘fills in’ to make a smoother corner, much like a cornice on a wall/ceiling join.

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Once all this was done and a single cufflink was complete, I duplicated the design to make the pair. I then exported the file in a .stl format which contains the model data including the size of the model.

The file is uploaded to Shapeways on the design page where the model is automatically checked against a number of characteristics to check it can be printed.

The requirements differ between different materials, so you should have an idea what materials you are designing for before you start.

Once it is checked, Shapeways gives you prices for different materials and you can then order your model! You can also select materials to sell and set the price. You can add tags, categories and a description for the model, to get the final product:

get into 3D print pic 4What was your first 3D printing project? What inspired you to get started and what resources were helpful?