Category Archives: Shapeways

Introducing 3D Printed Porcelain & Saying Goodbye to Our Current Ceramics Offering

We’re really excited to share a new, exclusive material at Shapeways: 3D printed porcelain.

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3D Printed Porcelain R&D

For the past year and a half, we’ve been exploring new options for ceramics based on the feedback we’ve heard loud and clear from our community. You told us that you want ceramics that are faster, more durable, more functional, and more colorful. This material didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop us. We created an R&D taskforce who have been working hard in our secret lab to develop a new way of 3D printing beautiful, durable porcelain. This is our first major investment in end to end material R&D.

The new 3D printed porcelain is groundbreaking, with quality and detail that mirrors traditional ceramics processes and the design flexibility of 3D printing. Utilizing a castable porcelain body created by Dr. Stuart Uram of Core Cast Ceramics with the support of Albert Pfarr, we developed an innovative process for producing 3D printed porcelain products. By combining the SLS printers that produce our Strong and Flexible Plastic with an innovative porcelain casting process, we can create detailed and durable products that are fired and glazed just like conventional ceramics. Using the best of 3D printing and traditional ceramics, we’re able to create the sort of quality you could only find in high end, handmade porcelain.

Here’s what you can expect from 3D printed porcelain, only available at Shapeways:

  • Amazing Colors – From cobalt blue to matte black, 3D Printed Porcelain will be available in classic colors that call upon the porcelain tradition.
  • Durable & Functional – Porcelain is dishwasher, oven, and microwave safe. You can even make baking dishes and pizza stones!
  • Gorgeous Detail – Porcelain enables you to design with very high detail and thin, translucent glazes.
  • Big & Bold – The strength enables thick and larger products, so we’ll be able to help you scale to the whims of your imagination.

 

Community R&D and Pilot

To start, 3D printed porcelain will be available in a limited pilot with the goal of improving our process and design guidelines. When we are ready to deliver amazing results to the masses, we’ll open this up as a material available for sale to shoppers in our marketplace.

If you are an experienced designer and would like to be considered for the pilot, Sign up here. We’ll start with a small group and expand as we learn more.

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What does this mean for the current 3D printed ceramics?

You have probably noticed that ceramics has been plagued with problems for a while. For the last several months, our production partner for ceramics has been operating with significant delays. In order to ensure we set the right expectations, we’ve had to increase lead times from 13 days to 18 days to 22 days over the course of the last year.

At 22 days, our production partner was only shipping at 30% on time, which is simply unacceptable. We increased lead time to 45 days in October to set more accurate expectations, but whether you’re creating products for your business or waiting for a gift, these delays are unacceptable.

Given the uncertainty and delays, we had to make a hard decision and, as of today, will stop offering the current ceramics materials for the foreseeable future. Designers selling in ceramics are in the loop and will be key partners for us in the pilot and future R&D. We’re incredibly disappointed to have to take this step, but you deserve better.

Still reading?
Our goal is to make 3D printing affordable and accessible so that you can make amazing products. Unfortunately, current 3D printed ceramics just didn’t cut it anymore. We’re excited to bring an entirely new material to the design community and more than anything else, we cannot wait to see what you make! Here’s a teaser of porcelain in action:


 

Best Gifts for White Elephant & Secret Santa

Finding gifts for White Elephant and Secret Santa is really fun. Within the Shapeways marketplace, you’re sure to find the perfect gift that will earn you the title of most popular Secret Santa around, and make every White Elephant gift pale in comparison (you could even gift an actual 3D printed white elephant!). Shapeways has a wide variety of products, from functional to fabulous, and we are never lacking in fun products. Desk toys, memes and original designs will make you the best gift giver at your next holiday function.

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Elephant by MarkWheadon

Memes

Let’s start with memes. Who doesn’t want to hold a meme in their hand instead of laughing at it on a screen? Grumpy Catdoge, and Creepy Horse Head are some of our favorites at a favorable price point. Find more memes in our Gift Guide.

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Fun & Games

Whether you need a break at work or something to entertain family and friends, our community has come up with games and entertainment for every day. Practice your aim/annoy your coworkers with the catapult. Thanks to 3D printing, the day has come where we can hold emojis in our hands! Show someone you love them emoji-style (because you do that every day anyways) with 3D Emoji Love. Keep your travels entertaining with the Credit Card Chess Set. And finally, who wouldn’t want a viking hat for your finger!?

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Conversation Starters 

If you really have no idea what to get, check out our Conversation Starters section of the gift guide. With original pieces, much like the ones above, you can give a gift you’ve likely never given (or seen!) before! Like Bacon mobius strips, Blowfish Valve Caps, Viking Finger Hats (again), XS Gyro the Cubes, and an amazing Stereographic Projection structure.

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Shapeways is full of amazing products and these are just a few to get your imagination flowing. Check out the Gift Guide for more, and don’t forget to file an unboxing video to capture the gift-revealing moment!


 

Shapeways is an early customer of the new HP 3D printer

Today I’m excited to share that Shapeways is an early customer of the 3D printer HP announced today!

Shapeways is a part of HP’s Open Customer Engagement Program, which means we are working closely with HP, giving them feedback on features, quality, reliability and operational functionality of its new 3D printing technology. We expect to begin piloting the new printers next year, with commercial availability defined by HP’s roll-out plan. During the pilot period we will work with you, our community, to collect feedback to make the machine even better.

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The new 3D printers from HP are not available yet, but we have seen the specs and the products it can produce. From what we have seen and know, it promises to be a real game changer. The new technology is up to 10x faster than any 3D printer currently on the market, can produce incredibly detailed products, will be able to print in full color (CMYK), and it is capable of printing more accurate and functional parts, even potentially with electrical parts in the future.

The speed improvement by itself is enough to be happy about, since it will enable us to really start turning around your orders much faster. Using existing technology we typically are printing 20-40 hours per tray. With this new technology, the print time could be as low as 4-5 hours per tray.

The much higher speed also means that the cost of printing will be reduced. As you can read in my posts about Strong and Flexible plastic, the time the machine spends printing is a substantial amount of the cost of a part. As this machine is much faster than existing technology, that part of the cost will be less. The higher speed and the initial prices of the machines we’ve seen lead us to believe that we could bring prices down substantially.

In addition to the above, the HP 3D printer will be able to produce true four-channel full color plastic going forward. This is what everyone has been asking for! Not brittle parts, no super glue needed. Real full color plastic with the strength you’d want, so you can create even more useful, full color products.

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It’s really awesome that HP has asked Shapeways to be an early customer for this new 3D printer as it reflects on you, our community, for being incredibly innovative. We have built a platform enabling designers to bring amazing products to life, and as a result, HP decided our community should be among the very first to get access to the technology. They realized that in working with us, they can learn how they should further improve their machines. The new HP 3D printer has a lot of promise, so we can’t wait to get our hands on the machine so we can start testing it and give you full access to it.

Today marks a really big moment for 3D printing. A very big global technology company is entering the 3D printing market with quite an amazing machine and technology. Surely this will trigger a response from the existing 3D printing companies to accelerate their development of their technology, which in the end benefits you! Can’t wait to see what the future will bring.

Pete / CEO Shapeways


 

The future of 3D printing is now: A new factory for Shapeways Eindhoven

Posted by in Shapeways
3Dprinting factory opening

Pete Weijmarshausen cutting the ribbon with Katja Lucas from Dutch Design Week, the Royal Commissioner Wim van de Donk, and the Mayor of Eindhoven, Rob van Gijzel

The future of 3D printing is looking brighter and brighter, as more people design custom that are exactly what they want. As excitement about 3D printing has grown, so has Shapeways and on Monday, October 20 we opened the our new 3D printing factory in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. This is our third location in Eindhoven and the largest so far! We’re so excited because we will not only be able to produce 3D printed products more efficiently at this new facility, but it has plenty of room to grow for the future. It’s a milestone in Shapeways history and we’re excited to be growing in the city where we began.

3D printing factory opening

Pete Weijmarshausen welcomes guests and the Shapeways team to the new Shapeways Eindhoven factory

At the opening Shapeways co-founder and CEO Petere Weijmarshausen kicked off the evening and talked about how Shapeways grew from one office with one chair and desk to a company of 150 with factories on both sides of the Atlantic. We were also joined by very special guests Katja Lucas from Dutch Design Week, the Royal Commissioner Wim Van De Donk, and the Mayor of Eindhoven, Rob van Gijzel who spoke about the significance of Shapeways and 3D printing for Dutch design, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The entry hallway at our new Eindhoven factory

The entry hallway at our new Eindhoven factory

With Dutch Design Week in full swing we were honored that Katja Lucas made time in her busy schedule to talk about how 3D printing and companies like Shapeways are empowering designers to push their imaginations and their designs. The Rob van Gijzel, Mayor of Eindhoven, spoke about the city’s tradition of nurturing technological visionaries and the entrepreurial spirit that Shapeways exemplifies. The Royal Commissioner, Wim van de Donk, said he felt like, “A part of history,” and drew connections to Einstein’s time in Eindhoven and how 3D printing is not only driving our imaginations, but the next industrial revolution.

We also wanted to thank you, our community, for enabling us to bring your designs to life over the past six years. We’re all learning and growing together in this new industrial revolution and are curious to know, what do you think will be the next big thing in 3D printing? What are you looking forward to?

Shapeways Eindhoven 3D printing team

Three cheers for our community and thank you from the Shapeways Eindhoven team!

Want to see more of our Eindhoven factory? Join us on this minute-long, Hyperlapse tour!



 

Shapeways Community at Dutch Design Week

Posted by in Shapeways
Shapeways Dutch Design Week 3D printing

Shapeways staff members David Gillespie and Ruud van Muijzenberg discuss 3D printing with Dutch Design Week visitors

For the fifth year in a row Shapeways is proud to participate in Dutch Design Week, a week long showcase of all that’s new and innovative in Design in the Netherlands held in our European hometown of Eindhoven. Shapeways designers and shop owners also are a big presence at Dutch Design week and had a chance to show off their 3D printed designs, jewelry and accessories. It’s my first time attending Dutch Design Week and I’ve been really excited about the innovation and energy on display, as well as the engagement of visitors, who are all enthusiastic about learning about innovative design possibilities.

3D printed Dutch Design Week products

Daphne Lameris explains the process of 3D printing with Selective Laser Sintering

The Shapeways booth features a wide selection of products that show off the possibilities of our different materials, including Strong Flexible Plastic, Full Color Sandstone, Ceramics and our many different metals, including 3D printed steel and precious metals like silver and gold. An eye catching addition to our booth this year are three clocks by Plokk, which are 3D printed in strong flexible nylon plastic. Created by Henk Hulshof and Gertjan Westerbeke these clocks bring Christiaan Huygens’ pendulum clock, as designed at his drawing board in 1656, to the 21st century. At Plokk’s Shapeways shop you can download a 3D file to adjust and customize the clock face.

3D printed clocks Dutch Design Week Plokk

Henk Hulshof shows off the Caliber 1 Plokk, a fully 3D printed clock

It’s been great to talk with visitors about how 3D printed products are made and many were amazed at the fact you could print complex objects with interlocking, moving parts at one go. They were especially taken with the Double 8 fabric squares created by Vincent Greco and the garment based on the biometrics of shark skin that was made during our Computational Fashion Masterclass.

Daphne Lameris 3D printed jewelry Dutch Design Week

Daphne Lameris displays her 3D printed jewelry

On opening weekend we were joined by Shapeways Crew member Daphne Lameris, an industrial design and engineering student who creates 3D printed jewelry and accessories. Daphne is also an expert on the 3D printing process and jumped right in to answer visitors questions about how 3D printing works. Dario Scapitta also joined us to show off his beautiful 3D printed jewelry. We were also happy to see that Shapeways shop owner Ina Sufeleers had her own exhibit  for Ola, her line of 3D printed jewelry, right near the Shapeways booth.

3D printed jewelry Dutch Design Week

Jewelers and Shapeways shop owners Ina Suffeleers and Daria Scapitta meet at Dutch Design Week

Ola jewelry 3D printed Dutch Design Week

Ina Suffeleers displays off her Ola 3D printed jewelry at Dutch Design Week

We also love meeting community members and seeing what they make with Shapeways. When Felix Mollinga came to our booth and showed us the ring he created from a scan of his face and 3D printed with Shapeways of course I had to snap a picture!

3D printing jewelry Shapeways ring Dutch Design Week

Designer Felix Mollinga shows off the ring he made from a scan of his face that he 3D printed with Shapeways

Our exhibition at Dutch Design Week is open until October 26th and we will also be joined by community members FabMe Jewelry, Somersault 18:24 and Virtox, who has joined us for 5 years at Dutch Design Week! If you are visiting Dutch Design Week this year we’d love to see you!

 


 

Introducing kids and families to 3D printing: Shapeways at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Posted by in Shapeways
3D printed products children's museum exhibition

Shapeways show and tell table at the exhibition opening

Shapeways is proud to be working with the Brooklyn Children’s Museum to introduce the next generation of 3D designers, engineers, scientists and inventors to 3D printing. The exhibition “More than meets the ‘I’” opens today and runs through January 19, 2015. It explores the future of biology, health, robotics and technology and features a display of 3D printed products created by our talented designers and 3D printed by Shapeways, as well as the Ultimaker 2 desktop printer.

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A view of our exhibition case and show and tell table

I worked with Sandra Vanderwarf, Curator and Collections Manager, and Marcos Stafne, Vice President of Programs and Visitor Experience, at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum as a guest curator to select models from Shapeways that illustrate the possibilities of 3D printing and would be fun and engaging for a young audience.

3D printed children's museum exhibition

Preparing the exhibition at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum

The exhibition explores how 3D printed products are made and highlights how 3D printing is used to make complex, custom objects like jewelry, figurines and toys, as well as scientific models like crystals and cells, and practical objects like glasses and prosthetic limbs.

3D printing children's museum exhibition

Showing off 3D printed designs at the exhibition opening

It was a fun challenge to write the text and choose the final objects for this exhibition because 3D printing can be difficult for adults to understand. Sandra and I struggled to describe how selective laser sintering works and other 3D printing processes work. Here’s a sneak peek of what we came up with, “Instead of printing a design in ink, 3D printers use melted wax and powdered plastic, or minerals mixed with glue. The printer stacks tiny layers of these materials on top of each other to build a model of your design from the bottom up.”

3D printer children's museum exhibition ultimaker desktop printer

The Ultimaker 2 with a Full Color Sandstone grumpy cat figurine with full color sandstone powder and an example gypsum, one of the minerals that goes into making full color sandstone

I am really proud to have the opportunity to work on this exhibition, as I started my career as a museum educator and I love museums as spaces to learn and explore. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is a great partner for Shapeways because they innovated the idea of creating a museum focused on children when they were founded in 1899 and have inspired children’s museums around the country and the world!

I’m excited because the kids and families that come to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum today are the innovators and inventors that will push technologies like 3D printing forward tomorrow. What do you think is next for 3D printing? How can kids help? And finally, how would you describe 3D printing to the next generation?

Are you a kid or a parent that wants to learn more about 3D printing? Try out our Introduction to 3D design & printing for kids tutorial. And for design inspiration, check out the work of Zach Tsiakalis-Brown, one of the youngest Shapeways shop owners!

 

 


 

How much does it cost when you 3D print a thousand different parts all at once?

Since informing you all of the big changes in Shapeways pricing, we’ve had a lot of questions about how and why we price the way we do. Raphael, a product manager on our materials team, has led this project, and can explain the thought process behind our pricing, and the complex and intriguing analysis that’s gone into building the pricing structure we announced a few days ago. For more on the Selective Laser Sintering process for printing nylon plastic please read Pete’s blog post here

This blog post is about showing you how we got here, and why these prices are the most accurate reflection of reality we ever been able to build. The way we calculate pricing isn’t about random transformations or math tricks,  but is a model built to reflect the years of experience we have in producing millions of 3D printed parts.

3D printing build, Netfab, 3D printer tray

An example of a 3D printer machine tray containing 100s of parts

There are several components to pricing, but by far the most difficult to calculate is machine space. Machine space is a huge portion of the manufacturing cost of a model, more than 50% on average. Interestingly, machine space isn’t actually just the cost of the the 3D printer. It has two components: the cost of the machine itself, and the cost of the powder that is in the machine and can’t be recycled after running the machine.

The reason that calculating the machine space cost of your part is difficult is because we don’t print each part individually. Every time we run a printer we are printing hundreds of parts in a “build.” We use a lot of software to pack all those parts as closely together as possible, leaving the necessary space to keep parts from fusing. The geometries of the exact parts in that tray dramatically change how efficiently we can nest them together, and therefore how many parts we can fit in any given tray. Sometimes we can print a part one day, and then print it again the next day, and the second print takes 5 times as much space in the machine simply because of the mix of parts around it. It’s an interesting problem, but at the end of the day when you order a part, you don’t know what other people are ordering.  We need a way to price your part based on the average space it will take up in the machine regardless of what other parts are in the machine. That way we can quote the price ahead, and you get the same price every time you order.

How much space does your model take up in a printer?

How do you do that? First, you need to control for all the chaos happening around your part. There’s two ways to think about that: 1) you simulate every single possible combination of trays, and then you average the space your part takes up, or 2) you build a model of how much space your model would take up in the machine if you had a huge set of parts to pack around it and you could pack them perfectly. Since the first option is impossibly complex to calculate, we went with option two. We established the basic rules for the tightest we would ever be able to pack parts based on manufacturing and part mix constraints, and we built a set of model transformations that estimate the least amount of space a part can ever take up in a tray using these rules. The rules that dictate the smallest space that your part will ever take in a printer are surprisingly simple:

  1. Every part is packed separately to allow each part to be oriented individually to maximize part quality, and to allow flexibility in allocation across machines
  2. Holes in objects that are below a certain size can’t have objects packed into them
  3. Parts can be packed no closer together than 1mm to prevent fusing during printing

These rules are then translated into 3 transformations that are performed on each model:

  1. All non-interlocking and unsprued parts are exploded and each is individually analyzed. The model machine space is the sum of the individual part machine space.
  2. The surface of the model is expanded and then contracted in order to smooth it and close holes of less than 1.5” (38.1mm). This size was chosen because parts smaller than this are generally put into protective cages to prevent loss, and because after a series of tests it best matched our real-world ability to pack parts.
  3. The resulting surface is then offset outwards 0.5mm to capture the share of the spacing between parts attributable to that part.
An example of "wrapping" an object

An example of a model and the space it takes up in a printing tray

The volume of the shape we produce with this operation (or the sum of them in the case of multi-part) is the machine space of that part. What this means is that machine CCs (Cubic Centimeters) aren’t actually the number of CCs used in the machine today, but instead the least CCs that could theoretically be used in a machine in the future. Today, unfortunately, we manage to fill up less than 15% of the volume of the tray with these machine CCs. In other words, we’re at less than 15% of theoretical maximum packing density. Even though we’re not yet able to pack that densely because of limitations on computing power and available part mix, allocating machine cost based on perfect packing is by far the fairest option. Common alternatives such convex hulls and bounding box, do not accurately reflect space in the machine and disadvantage L-shaped and U-shaped models, respectively. Concretely, our average part is about 100 machine CCs or 500 bounding box CCs, and has about 720 CCs of space inside a printer allocated to it.

Calculating machine space in a 3D printing

Comparison of different methods to calculate space in the printing tray

What are the different cost components of producing a part?

Alright, so if this is the best way of measuring how much space a part takes up in a machine, then how exactly do we turn that measurement into a useful price? How much does one of these machine CCs cost? Conceptually, it’s important to separate the cost of running the empty printer, including the cost of the powder that can’t be recycled after cycling through the printer, from the marginal cost of sintering a CC of powder in that printer. In other words, we need to calculate two things: how much would the space your part used in the machine cost if your part was empty, and then how much additional cost is there because of each CC of solid part that is added to this empty space. Thinking about the components in this way allows us to accurately capture the complex interaction between space in the printer and model volume in two very simple components.

How much does it cost to run an empty printer?

Focusing on machine space, the first thing to note is that running a printer with no parts in it actually has two costs: the time it takes the machine to lay down the layers of powder, and the cost of the portion of the powder that can’t be recycled. Powder that’s been heated and cooled has been slightly damaged by this process and will make less consistent prints. To save costs but maintain quality, we mix together 60% recycled and 40% fresh powder and use this to fill our printers. The recycled powder is itself 60% recycled, and that recycled portion is 60% twice recycled, and so on. This makes the math a bit tricky, but it can be calculated. After calculating the effective amount of fresh powder in the printer, and the price of raw powder, you can figure out how much the powder in the empty machine effectively costs. And based on the machine lease you can determine the direct machine cost for the time used to print the empty tray. Finally, you add the labor, utilities, rent and other overhead required to run the empty machine. Now you’ve got the complete cost of running an empty machine.

So how much does one of our machine CCs cost? Using the methodology above, we calculate the cost of running every single machine tray that we’ve printed in the last year, as if those trays were empty. Then for each tray, we assign the cost of running that tray across the machine cc’s of the parts in the tray. Now you’ve got the price of a machine CC taking into account model mix, packing density, machine mix, and all other relevant factors.

If you sinter one additional CC in a tray of parts, how much does it cost?

So we now know how much powder goes into each tray if it was empty, and we know how much powder we’ve used. By looking at each tray individually, we can then figure out the amount of powder that was used in the tray because the parts in it were sintered – this includes both the models themselves, which are much denser than surrounding powder, and the powder directly adjacent to the parts that is damaged and can’t be recycled. This gives us the marginal cost of sintering the parts in the tray, for each tray. Since we have thousands of trays and data on the individual models in every tray we can then use a regression to establish the marginal powder usage per CC of model volume, and therefore the cost.

How much does it costs to plan, clean, sort, polish and dye your part?

The other component, Labor, is less conceptually difficult, but just as hard to accurately calculate and measure. The labor the problem comes down to data. To start with, we knew how many people work at the factory… and not much else. To properly price labor we had to work from the ground up. We built up a team in each factory that took hundreds of measurements of every single step in the SLS process from orienting through dyeing, and after in-depth analysis used this data to build a model of exactly how long a part takes at each step based on key attributes such as model volume, model size, surface area and complexity. How do we define a part? An object that can be picked up, sorted,  or polished on its own. If your model was sitting in front of you, think of how many times you would have to pick up different pieces to put it into a bag and make sure it was all there. Thats exactly what we do when we sort your part, and we have to re-sort it after every post-processing step.

Tiny 3D printed chairs

Using these additional variables allowed us to much more precisely fit our labor models, and then to use the millions of data points of model sales we have to accurately attribute labor cost to different materials and models. You would think that this would mean that labor price is impacted by many model attributes, but it turns out that after all of this analysis we found out that the vast majority (~ 90%) is directly attributable to part count. With this in mind we made one, very careful sacrifice in accuracy. Instead of building a pricing structure with labor spread through all the components, we choose to average that last 10% across model mix, and standardize on simple, clear labor prices per part per material. Yes, this means that you model may be over or underpriced on labor by up to 10% of the labor cost, or $0.15 per in WSF. Other than that, every bit of this new pricing structure is a direct reflection of the most comprehensive and thorough model of SLS production costs we’ve ever built, and to our knowledge the most advanced in the industry.

The last step: we add a (small) margin

One last thing: Our margin. Yes, we add a margin, but we keep it as slim as possible. We’re a business, we need to grow, this is the only part of our business where we have a margin. The 3.5% that you see on marketplace sales are the credit card fees we pay.

Machine space and material have the same margin, meaning that absolutely any size and shape of model has the exact same margin. Simply put, it’s as fair as we can possible be. Here, again, we made an exception with labor. We know that part count pricing is a painful transition, and we chose to take a much lower margin, and even a negative margin in some materials, on the labor / part component of the pricing. In our old pricing structure we lost money on models with more than a few parts. With the new one we almost never lose money on an individual part, but we have carefully and critically choose to take a lower margin as part count increases to lessen the impact on you, our community.

Developing this pricing model has been a long, exciting, and intellectually challenging endeavour. I hope that this explanation helps to clarify how we think about pricing, and why we’ve built the structure we have. Please, comment and ask questions, and I’ll do my best to keep up.


 

Shapeways Launches SVX, a Voxel Based File Format for 3D Printing

Shapeways has created a new SVX format for transmitting voxel data for 3D printing. After much research we found no existing format that satisfied our requirements. Our primary design priorities are simple definition, ease of implementation, and extensibility. There are plenty of things you could dislike about the STL format, but it’s brevity and simple implementation are not one of them.

svx_large

A voxel is a 3D dimensional pixel. Most 3D printers work internally with voxel like representations. Your 3D model is sliced into 2D image slices, each pixel represents a dot of material that the printer builds your object with. Voxel formats allow direct control over those dots. One promise of 3D printing is that complexity is free. Sadly with STL files we’ve had the disconnect that more complexity equals more triangles equals larger files. Above a certain limit you just can’t use triangles to specify the details you want in a 3D printed model. Whether that information be material allocation, density, RGB color both internal and external or a custom id that could be used for another variable, not yet available in the 3D printers on the market.

Another area that is interesting for voxel usage is in making printable objects. A mesh for 3D printing needs to meet certain mathematical properties. It is easier to write voxel software that meets these demands. This makes the barrier to entry much lower for writing creators and its especially easy to include 2D imagery into your designs. See ShapeJS for some examples. One area that is typically tricky is turning voxels into triangles. We’ve worked hard to provide some nice routines for much high quality conversion to triangles when necessary. When you upload a voxel model to Shapeways you’ll be leveraging that work, just concentrate on making the voxels right and we’ll handle the triangles if needed.

You can view the new format specification at: SVX Format. We’ve added support for voxel uploads at Shapeways so you can start sending full resolution voxel files now!


 

The New Shapeways 3D Printing Factory in Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Today we have some awesome news to share. After almost four years in our factory and office in Eindhoven we are moving to a new location! It’s much bigger, even more amazing, and in the center of the city!

Want to see it? You can! We have teamed up with Dutch Design Week to celebrate the opening! We’re offering public tours of the factory from Tuesday, 21 October – Friday, 24 October so you can check it out yourself.

Shapeways new factory entrance

Inside the new Shapeways factory.

Some background: when we first moved to our current location in 2010 it was a great step up from our first office at the High Tech Campus. The office was bigger (although we were sharing with two other companies) and we had a massive space for our own distribution center. We even had plenty of space for our own printers.

Now, we have grown out of the current space. After adding 30 people to the team, many tables to our distribution center, and 12 3D printers we are in need of something even bigger!

What we wanted for our new office and factory was a great location to enable even more community members to visit, more space for our office, and plenty of room to expand. We have found it! The new Shapeways factory is right in the middle of Eindhoven on the Kanaaldijk, has plenty of space, and the location has quite some history. It started as a DAF trucks factory, then it was used as one of the offices of Diesel jeans, and most recently by a marketing company. With such a colorful mix of history we feel right at home.

Over the last three months our team in Eindhoven and the landlord and his team – thanks Bob – have moved mountains. The factory is now in use! We’re still moving in some equipment but we’re almost done.

The Buildout of Shapeways new 3D printing factory in Eindhoven

The Buildout of Shapeways new 3D printing factory in Eindhoven

Looking back I can still remember when we moved in to our previous location. It gives me the perspective to see what can be accomplished in just four years. I can’t wait for the next four.

Are you interested? To visit the factory during Dutch Design Week, go to our meetup page and sign up!


 

A Day of 3D Printing and Politics in Washington D.C.

On Wednesday September 17th 2014, politicians, lawyers and 3D printing experts will converge on Washington to discuss the intellectual property challenges facing the 3D printing ecosystem as it matures, and enters mainstream culture.

3D Printing Politics Shapeways

Speakers will include

  • Bill Foster Congressman, 11th Congressional District of Illinois,
  • Rep. Tim Ryan Chair of the Congressional Makers Caucus,
  • Vikrum Aiyer Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary for IP, U.S. Department of Commerce
  • Andras Forgacs Co-Founder & CEO, Modern Meadow, Inc
  • Mark Hatch CEO & Co-Founder, TechShop
  • Michael Weinberg VP, Public Knowledge
  • and even Duann Scott Designer Evangelist, Shapeways

Topics will range from the Economic Impact of the Obama Leadership, to the intellectual property challenges & the changes to culture driven by bottom-up, peer-to-peer, democratized manufacturing.

If there is anything you personally think needs to be addressed, please comment on the blog and I will see if I can integrate it into the discussion at my panel, The Growing Global 3DP IP Market & How Much is at Stake.


 

September Shapeways 3D printing events in New York City

Here at the Shapeways headquarters in New York City we’re buzzing with excitement about all of our September events. With MakerCon and Maker Faire just around the corner and factory tours, workshops, talks and meetups for designers, educators, and 3D printing enthusiasts galore, September is a great time to come out and get involved with the Shapeways community in New York City! Here’s a rundown of what’s happening and how you can join us:

Screenshot 2014-09-10 13.42.22

September 15, 5 to 7 pm: Getting Started with 3D Printing for Custom Fashion Design in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Part of the BKStyleCon event.

September 17 & 18: MakerCon, a professional conference by and for makers held at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen will give a talk about 3D printing your favorite brands and the real future of product design at 11:20 am on Wednesday, September 17. We will also be hosting factory tours at our Long Island City factory on Friday, September 19 for attendees of MakerCon. You can buy tickets to MakerCon here.

September 18, 12 to 1 pm: Making dreams into reality with 3D printing and Shapeways hosted by QNS Collective in Long Island City, Queens. Melissa Ng, creator of Lumecluster: wonderlands for the entrepreneurial mind, will share her creative design process and walk participants through the process of creating 3D printed products and works of art with Shapeways. Reserve here.

September 18, 6 to 8 pm: Pre-Maker Faire 3D Printing Meetup with Shapeways + Ultimaker hosted by Shapeways at our Long Island City factory. Come and learn how you can use your Ultimaker together with Shapeways, share your prints and take a look around the factory!

September 20 & 21: World Maker Faire New York. Hosted by the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York come find Shapeways in the 3D printer village! At 2pm on Saturday, September 20th join Shapeways Crew and community members for a community meetup. Meet at the Shapeways booth to explore the fair together, attend a talk and a happy hour to follow at 6pm at LIC bar in Long Island City, Queens.

Screenshot 2014-09-10 13.46.50

September 24, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Meetup: 3D Printing in Public Libraries. Hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library at the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons at the Central Library. Libraries are on the front lines of innovation and providing access to and understanding of the latest technologies, including 3D printing. Join members of the Shapeways and staff and community members of the Brooklyn Public Libraries to discuss how they are using 3D printing in library programs and services and how 3D printing can fit into public and educational programs at libraries and schools.

September 25, 7 pm. Designers + Geeks: Lasers and Internet Memes – 3D printing for all. Hosted by Huge in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Shapeways Designer Evangelist Lauren Slowick will illuminate the 3D mysteries under the all the hype. She will also share tips to help you get started designing your own products with software tools you probably already know how to use. Designers + Geeks features talks from experts on design, technology, startups, and all manner of geekery. Purchase tickets.

September will be a great time to be inspired and expand your 3D printing network. We look forward to seeing you!


 

3D Print in Nylon with Selective Laser Sintering – Part 3

This is the last post in the series about Selective Laser Sintering Nylon. In this post I’m going to address the challenge of the cost of 3D printing in nylon and how to minimize it. Yes, we want to make it as affordable as possible for you to make your awesome designs come to life!

If you haven’t read the first and second posts, I would highly recommend that you do. I’m assuming you know some of the concepts introduced there.

To understand the costs involved in 3D printing using SLS, lets have a look at the process, which can be broken down into the following steps:

  • Checking the design
  • Planning the printing trays
  • 3D printing
  • Extracting the parts
  • Cleaning the parts
  • Sorting the parts
  • Postprocessing (tumbling, dyeing, sorting)
  • Shipping

Each of those steps has associated costs in labor involved in the process, machine cost and material cost. Let’s go through the steps and have a look at the cost drivers.

Checking. At checking, we need to evaluate every new file ordered to see if we can make it. We use automated checks, but a final human check is still required to get the best results. It’s actually not every file, but we check every part in a file since we are printing physical products and each file may contain multiple parts. As discussed earlier, some files contain hundreds of parts and you can imagine the amount of work involved. The cost involved here is labor, namely the time spent checking each part.

Example of multiple parts in a file

Individually checking the 55 parts in KidMechanos “New! ModiBot RhinoNychus: Reptobeast

Planning. After checking, we need to plan all checked parts in the 3D printer trays. We want to plan as many parts as possible in a tray, since the cost to run a printer is pretty much fixed regardless of the amount of parts. Today, we run over 20 printers every day and each print on average has over 100 parts per tray, so you can see how packing becomes a challenge. However every extra part we can cram in the tray, reduces machine cost. The packing process itself requires an hour or two of of work and some 10-20 minutes of computer calculations to optimize.

The cost involved in planning is labor, or the time spent selecting the right parts for each tray

SLS Tray ready to 3D print

62 models packed into a single tray of our smallest printer

3D printing. Step 3 is the printing process. When a printer finishes it’s previous job,we make sure we are ready to quickly remove the ready tray, clean the machine and refill the powder. Ensuring the printer starts running as soon as possible after it’s previous job is complete reduces cost further. The printer costs money whether you use it or not (from a business perspective this is called depreciation), so running it all the time and thereby maximizing the amount of products made every month is the only way to reduce cost. The complexity of the products or the size has almost no impact on the print time. The most important driver of the time a build needs is the height of the tray. The machines can print roughly 1cm (or 0.4″) per hour. To limit the time it takes to print we try to build trays that are no higher than 25cm. This conveniently means we run the printers with 1 job every day.

Another element of the print cost is the amount of powder used. If the printer is completely empty it would still build layer upon layer of powder. As the powder is heated it ages. The industry standard is to run each build with 50% new and 50% old powder. Each tray has roughly 5% of volume in parts so after each build you are left with 95% old powder. Of this old powder you can re-use 50% in the next build. The material cost is the new powder. Obviously using more old powder reduces material cost, but the problem is that too much old powder will cause the parts to look less defined and sometimes they discolor (orange peel). We (everyone using SLS) need to figure out how to make it possible to reuse all powder since this is the most wasteful part of the process. The cost involved in 3D printing is some labor to clean the machines before each run and mostly machine and powder cost. To calculate actual cost per part is quite difficult, since it depends on the other parts in the tray. Amazingly, if we print a part one week, and then again the next week, it can cost twice as much the second time only because of the other parts in the tray along with it. One of the reasons that we’ve never charged for machine space before is that we had to build up a huge amount of experience to properly control for this and charge you the right price.

Cooling, Cleaning & Sorting. After printing, the tray needs to cool as much time as it has printed (again typically 24 hours). And then the break out, cleaning and sorting starts. The costs here are mostly part based since every part needs to be dug out of the powder, cleaned and then made sure it goes into the right box. The cost involved is labor per part. Each part needs to be broken out of the powder, cleaned and then sorted.

Models with many similar looking parts are among the hardest to track and sort properly

Post Processing. The polishing and dyeing process again are mostly labor. The tumbler is fast and can polish many parts a time, so there is almost no machine cost involved. The cost involved is mostly labor. To put the parts in the polisher, remove them and then sort. Or dyeing the parts for a few minutes, remove, let the parts dry and re-sort. Much of the cost of post processing isn’t the processes themselves, but constantly combining and re-sorting the parts at each step.

As you can see, the cost in making a product using SLS can be broken down into 4 main categories:Fixed cost like utilities and rent of the factory; Labor cost to do the actual work involved; Machine cost to pay for machine depreciation; and material cost, based on how much is used.

It’s our challenge to reduce these costs by automating certain parts of the process, make sure the machines are always running, and are run at close to maximum capacity, and that we re-use as much powder as possible. It’s also clear that our cost is based on labor per part, cost of the amount of space the part utilizes in the machine and the amount of actual material consumed.

Next week I will cover how our current price model covers these costs and how we can optimize.

As always, let me know if you have questions or suggestions. In general I like to hear from you!

Pete / CEO Shapeways


 

Tusen takk, Norway!

Only a few days have passed since we returned from our visit to Trondheim, Norway. It was our first visit to a Scandinavian Country and therefore we felt obliged to not come empty handed. We brought along a Dutch treat “Stroopwafels” to share amongst the people of Trondheim. This brought on a smile on many people’s faces young and old. We got people even more excited when we started talking about the world of 3D Printing and what it means for Shapeways to be a part of it.

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Our trip started on Thursday with a meet up, where we got to know one our Norwegian Shapies even better. So first of we would like to say thank you to Daniel Liljar for telling us about the in’s and out about Trondheim and for showing us around a bit. Me and Adela were very much impressed and felt privileged to be in a place with such beautiful landscape. Not forgetting off course the generosity and the friendliness of the people as well. It was great to hear that our visit inspired Daniel to do more with 3D printing in the future. So be sure to check out his shop and stay tuned.

On our second day was the Maker Faire kick off. This took place in the town square in the center of Trondheim ,with over 70 projects on display. The 70 projects were ranging from coffee makers to 3D printing and with almost everything in between. Me and Adela were joined by Daniel  where he got to show off his work as well.

Trondheim

The visitors of the Makerfaire were very pleasantly surprised that Shapeways made the trip all the way to Trondheim. Some even said that us being there made the Makerfaire even more exciting. As they were amazed by our work and the simple fact that they could finally get their hands on the wide variety of products in different materials. This off course was music to our ears for the simple reason that they also love what we do. Let’s keep Sharing the Spark, as we say. Hopefully we have inspired the large designing community in Trondheim to come up with more beautiful products for the future.

 Be sure to stay tuned! Next stop Shapeways is attending the 3D Print show in London this week.

 Ryan & Adela


 

Full Color Plastic 3D Print Material Torture Test Video

We are testing Full Color Plastic 3D Printing at Shapeways and what better way to test than with material torture videos.  We 3D printed a few basic parts to test for strength, flexibility, water and fire resistance.

Take a look at the video above to see the material under all of the different torture tests (oh, I was gentle as I wanted to test some of the parts in real world applications).  Overall while the material is not as refined or durable as SLS Nylon, which is the benchmark to which I compare all 3D printed materials, you can still do interlocking parts AND it is in almost full color (CMY, no K).
Shapeways Full Color Plastic 3D Printing is Flexible ish

The material is not as strong as our popular Nylon SLS material but is definitely less brittle then Full Color Sandstone.  At 3mm thickness the material is relatively stiff with only a small amount of flexibility (depending on geometry) yet at 1.5mm thickness the parts flex quite easily, to the point where the material may fail after just a few cycles of bending.  At 1mm thickness of wires, the prints can be very easily broken with very little effort so I really recommend at least 2mm walls/wires unless you never, ever intend to  touch your 3D prints.

Shapeways Full Color Plastic 3D Printing is machinable

I also gave the material a quick grind with a Dremel which the full color plastic held up fairly well to.  If you have a printed part that fits on an existing component that is too tight, you could easily and reliably grind away excess material with a clean finish.  I imagine it would respond to sanding with similar success as the color is impregnated approximately 2mm into the surface of the 3D prints, you could smooth the parts without removing all the color as long as you are not too heavy handed.  I am still experimenting with the parts in a tumbler to see if we can automate the smoothing process.

Shapeways Full Color Plastic 3D Printing is Waterproof

I am quite excited that the full color plastic is entirely waterproof, after soaking for over 24 hours there is no bleeding of colors, no degradation of material strength, stiffness or any swelling.  I have not had a chance to really UV test the pigments but as far as moisture is concerned this could be used for outdoor applications.

Shapeways Full Color Plastic 3D Printing is flamable

Another concern may be exposure to heat, the material feels as though it will deform under high temperatures but it definitely catches fire easily and stays alight emitting a terrible smell. So please do not expose you full color plastic 3D prints to exposed flames.

If you have any other tests you would like me to do to our Full Color Plastic, please leave a comment in the blog.


 

You Have Until September 8th to Submit Your Designs for the Next Round of SuperFanArt

If you have 3D prints you would like to submit to be part of the Hasbro + Shapeways + You = SuperFanArt extravaganza, you have until September 8th 2014 to be part of the next round.

hasbro-blog-home

SuperFanArt is now accepting anyone to submit their 3D printed designs based on Hasbro owned IP including:

  • Dragonvale
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • G.I. Joe
  • Monopoly
  • My Little Pony
  • Scrabble (to be sold in US and Canada only)
  • Transformers

Full details and instructions for both new designers, and existing designs can be found on the Shapeways SuperFanArt page.

Most importantly, when you submit your design, please be sure to include the tag SuperFanArt so that we can find and include your submission.  For inspiration, take a look at some of the submissions that we have received so far.