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:

interlocking

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)

aluminum

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)

black

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?