How To 3D Print at Home with an iPhone and a Magnifying Glass (VIDEO)

UPDATE: It seems like our experiment worked for one day only, Happy April Fools Day.

While looking for a way to recycle our excess Nylon powder we found a way for anyone to 3D print at home with an iPhone and a magnifying glass.

how to 3D print at home with iPhone thanks Shapeways

At Shapeways we recycle most of the Nylon powder from our industrial 3D printing process but sometimes the powder does not meet the standard required for use in our 3D printers.  We were looking at the testing process when we made a really exciting discovery, with a tightly focused beam of light you can solidify the Nylon powder into a solid.  

We did some experiments and discovered a way that anyone can 3D print at home using an iPhone and a magnifying glass with our Nylon powder.  Take a look at the simple video below and email and we can send you (for the cost of shipping) some of our excess Nylon for you to try at home.

In a relatively simple step by step process that almost exactly replicates the way in which our industrial 3D printers work it is easy to 3D print a basic form with an iPhone with a ‘Torch’ app, a strong magnifying glass, a ruler and some fine Nylon powder.

  1. Prepare the Nylon powder to around 3mm thick on a clean flat surface.  The smoother this first surface the better quality your 3D print will be as this is the foundation of your entire print. (This is the same way that our 3D printers prepare for your 3D prints)
  2. Use the Torch App to activate the flash on your iPhone and a magnifying glass to focus the light into a tight beam. You will need to experiment to fid the perfect distance from the Nylon and the time it takes to solidify the powder so that you do not burn the Nylon.  (Our industrial machines use much the same process except with a laser to speed up the printing time and give greater accuracy)
  3. Use a ruler or other straight flat item to gently cover the first layer of your 3D print with around 0.5mm of Nylon powder, you will be printing your part from the bottom up, tracing the existing layer to ensure the melt together. (Again, this is the exactly the same process our SLS 3D printers use, except the layer of Nylon is in the Microns yet still building objects from the bottom up)
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to print your object, ensuring you melt each layer to the layer below, as you gain confidence you can try to 3D print simple interlocking parts like a chain. (please note: The strength of the part is reliant on the uniformity of the bond between Nylon particles, we do not recommend you use this process for any parts under stress.  The industrial 3D printers Shapeways use are high precision machines that 3D print high quality parts. Home 3D printing with this process is an experimental process for fun more than function.)

Take a look at the video below to see our results, if you want to try this yourself at home contact us and we can send you some Nylon (for shipping costs) so you can try this at home too. 

Good luck with you home 3D printing experiments, we can’t wait to see the results.


  1. Youknowwho4eva

    Works with my Droid too!

    1. Duann

      Awesome, it will most likely work with white or blue laser pointers too, I doubt the red ones would work.

    2. Monique Scott

      Hey there. We would love some of the powder so we can do exactly what Duann did with iPhone , magnifier and the powder. Duann knows my address if not he could send to our folks place. Thanks. Monique scott

  2. Todd Blatt

    Great work Duann.

    I understand that since the powder is lying around the factory that it might become contaminated with other particles. I was wondering if you could ship the grains of nylon powder to me individually wrapped so that I can be sure I get a pure print. I’ll send the $6.50 for shipping right away.


    1. Duann

      Hey Todd, we have a lot of super clean, filtered powder, the issue is not contamination, but the lowered melting point that although bad for our machines, is perfect for home use.

  3. KGB

    I hope they don’t censor this comment like they always do!!!!
    But, I used to print with Shapeways ALL the time! Now I use this EXACT method to do all my prints AT home FOR CHEAP! I’ve saved LITERALLY dozens of dollars this past year doing it this way an have no more use for Shapeways. It is a shame. The should do more to innovate, because soon EVERYONE will print their stuff THIS WAY at home and Shapeways will go out of business! Hahaha!!!

    1. Duann

      Hey KGB,

      I am glad to hear you are already using this process at home too, it is fun and you are right, it can save dozens of dollars. Thanks also for your kind words.

  4. Glenn

    Hahahahahaha…… does every country in the world have an April Fool’s Day?

    1. Duann

      That was fast, what are you going to make with it?

    1. Linda

      Definitely believe that which you stated.
      Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware of.
      I say to you, I certainly get irked while people think about worries that
      they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  5. Nektares

    i thought this was so dumb but when he got the perfect cubic shaped moving parts i lol’d, nice one!

  6. Eric

    can i still get some powder i would love to experiment with some lower quality nylon sls powder
    no seriously if you would like to send me a bunch ill pay for shipping and some extra.

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