What do You Want to 3D Print That You Cannot Due to Materials Available

We have a new 3D printing material waiting in the wings ready to launch and we recently introduced Elasto Plastic as our first Maker material but as we think about which material to introduce next, we first want to ask you what you would like to make, but cannot with our current range of materials?

Let us know what you would like to 3D print, and the material properties required to make your design successful.

Email your responses to duann+materials@shapeways.com and the materials team and I will investigate the what 3D printing materials will best fit your requirements.

If you have an image or a URL for your design please share that with us in the email so we can better understand your material requirements.

We do already have some very interesting materials planned for the rest of this year, but we are excited to incorporate more into our 3D printing material selection on Shapeways. 


  1. Aeroengineer1

    I have some small detail parts that I would like to make that would need to have a heat deflection temp >140°F but can print details as small as .010″, though down to .005″ edge would be fantastic. The build volume does not need to be that big 3.5″ x 2″ x 1″. It is preferable that the material is paintable. I do realize that this is a pretty tall order.

  2. Heiko Allis

    I would love to be able to print in clearer colors, sharper and more definition.
    some kind of multi-material print would also be great (action figures, articulated models with springy joints)

  3. joe

    What about a really transparent material? Clearly transparent plastic.

  4. Guido

    A stereolithografic print method would be very nice. Just like “prime grey”.

  5. Duann

    Thanks for the responses so far, but what do you actually want to make?

  6. howard

    I will 3rd the ‘very clear plastic’ request… for prototyping lenses and non-imaging lightguides. To obtain a very clear item, a very smooth surface finish is required, which likely would require some post-processing by the vendor or buyer.. which is OK if the materials and procedures are well-defined, which is not presently the situation.

  7. howard

    As for the ‘stainless’ material (stainless/bronze composite), it would be nice to print thinner than 3mm – for various small-to-tiny parts for which 3mm is way too thick.

    It would be nice to also have the choice of hardened or annealed in this material – I’ve gotten parts in each heat-treatment, and they each have their merits and drawbacks.

  8. A. Square

    I’d also like a clear plastic material. I want it for mechanical models so that the internals an clearly be seen, as well as for electronics enclosures, for similar reasons.

    I’d also love a metal with more precision and smaller details for making mechanical parts.

    (By the way: thanks for using my cuff links picture! :) )

  9. howard

    Further to my comment above, and the request of keith m for for sheet metal jewelery tags… maybe laser-cut stainless sheet (and/or other materials), for thin-section parts.. I know that there are already other vendors doing laser-cutting, but the Shapeways business model (up-front automated quoting, flat-rate shipping) is favorable for small orders and one-time buys.

  10. Adi

    A Material for printing heatsinks for LED-Lighting applications. Therefor the material needs to have very good thermal conductivity properties..

  11. howard

    More comments on laser-cut sheet metal:
    – it is well suited to mechanical parts because high strength and precision finish on the ’2D’ faces comes with the raw material, at low cost
    – identical parts can be stacked together with registration features to obtain thicker sections (intermediate between sheet metal and printed stainless), for example to make gears, cams, and toothbelt pulleys.
    – it would be nice to be able to get high-precision cutting (e.g. +/-0.001″).. if the added process cost is significant, maybe offer an option of regular or high-precision

  12. howard

    Adi, the investment-cast silver material has a higher thermal conductivity than almost anything else. The cost is high, though.

    It would be nice if we could get aluminum made with the investment casting process.

  13. Graeme

    Not so much a new material, as a new post-print process: more S&F colours, and unglazed ceramic, please. Hmm… maybe green (dried, but unfired) ceramic too? (Yes, that would require more delicate packaging for shipping purposes.)

    But since you mention materials… A few other lost wax metals would be nice, including but not limited to some softer metals like babbitt, brass, bronze, and copper. Multi-colour and flexible (a la Z-Corp?) would probably be fairly popular. It would be nice to see glass make a comeback but it was before my time, so I’m not sure why it was dropped in the first place.

  14. felix

    I’m in robotics research – we use Shapeways a lot to make robot parts (quad-copters and other flying robots, gears, linkages, etc.). WSF is the usual choice due to the relatively high robustness and thin wall-thickness (to keep the weight down), and we’re also quite interested in the new flex-material for impact-absorbing parts. Our other choice of material is carbon fibre composites… (using other manufacturing methods)

    Regarding new materials, what would make a really big difference is anything that gets closer to the strength/weight ratio of carbon-fibre – is it possible to make fibre-filled plastics? Low minimum wall thickness would be important. We’ve made designs with a strong “rib-cage” for structural strength, skinned with a 0.7mm hull – if that could come down to 0.5mm or even thinner that would be great, provided it won’t rip easily. Traditional aircraft are often skinned with a plastic film that is only a few micrometers thick – printing a fine skin of 0.1mm or less could be interesting :)

    Another “big one” would be an affordable, precise laser-sintered metal. Some places offer titanium with 0.1mm detail and 0.4mm thickness, but the price tag is far too high. As even the price for WSF does not seem to reflect the bulk cost of the material, but rather the machine amortisation and work costs, would it be possible to offer aluminium, steel or titanium at a comparable price (i.e. same order of magnitude)? What I mean is that a kg of plastic costs less than 1/10 of the $1000+ a 1kg 3D printed part would cost, so even if metal powder costs more than plastic it would possibly only be a small factor in the final price, provided the machine and printing time are somewhat comparable (for some reason it’s very expensive at the moment, but I don’t understand why).

    Finally, an Objet multi-material print would be very interesting, particularly if the soft parts can be made airtight (to combine pneumatic actuators with rigid parts).

  15. MrNib

    Seeing as I’m trying to develop pen stuff up I’d like see several things to be used with tube shaped prints. First of all for pen bodies how about a material that can be better handled without getting dirty or requiring a user applied coating such as lacquer for protection? A less porous plastic like ABS or bakelite would be great or a SF material with a colored water-proof lacquer coating option from the factory could work. Metals more pedestrian than silver would be nice if they could have finer detail patterning than stainless steel and thinner walls.

    For pen blanks (as opposed to pens) something as highly porous like alumide is actually a great thing since it sucks up CA glue allowing the blanks to be sealed and glued to the internal brass tubes of pen mechanisms in one shot. The bad thing about alumide is the frustrating design rules requiring thick walls and the large dimensions for the embossing/engraving rules which seem to be somewhat excessive when all I really want is subtle decorative surface patterning as opposed to legible text. Something like WSF or FUD with porosity to allow complete saturation with liquids would be helpful.
    example: http://shpws.me/oo2j
    I might add that I’m on the edge of fabrication ability for pen kits that have some of the thickest walls out there using alumide. Being able to have thinner walls opens up the opportunity to use a myriad of other pen kits available on the market. Even a standard FUD that is completely opaque and colored would also be a welcome addition.

  16. Ash

    I want something I can EAT. Preferably chocolate.
    So I can make custom Easter eggs.

  17. Nate B

    I’m looking at 3D printed liquid handling systems so the ability to make my own valves would be amazing. These parts usually require some of elastomer but the new elasto is not smooth enough to create good liquid seals. Being able to print this kind of plastic using an SLA method would likely allow me to print really small flexible parts which were functional.

    I also second the very clear components so that I can look at integrating optic into devices.

    Lastly, multi material printing would be amazing especially if the two materials were functionally different like the a flexible material and a solid material so we could print say systems with seals inside internal cavities etc.

  18. jkhoylman

    I would love to see some form of custom mold creation. You send in your model, and then Shapeways analyzes it and creates a negative mold of it. Then the creator has the option to either have it shipped to them for personal injection molding, or have Shapeways hold on to it for the purpose of producing the model with injection molding when ordered. This molding service would therefore provide numerous advantages. A lot more customization of the material would be available, since a lot more materials are suitable for molding, the creator can better tweak density, transparency, elasticity, etc. Also, the possibility of high volume production of products and therefore the possibility of less expensive models for customers. This can be done by the creator purchasing multiple molds, and allowing for production rates nearing those of printing. Also, this is advantageous to Shapeways itself. The maker revolution is gaining speed, and with the advent of low cost filament printers capable of moderately high resolution, such as the Makibox (starting at $200), and the decline in price of extremely high resolution printers with resolution moving into the microns, 3d printing is becoming more publicly available. Therefore, people may be less likely to want to go to an online store, and pay for profit, shipping, and tax. However, at this point, injection molding remains largely reserved to large companies for mass production, but many hobbyists would love to benefit from a relatively low cost professional injection molding.

  19. Jay Mann

    Chocolate. I’d love to order a model of, say, Jim Parson’s face and bite right into it.

  20. Jonas

    Please consider adding DMLS Titanium that can be used in structural parts. High resolution and surface finish is important!

  21. Paul Doman

    Thanks for asking:
    1. I’d like to see brass without the gold (to replace model ship fittings in cast white metal)
    2. In general, thinner cross section ability across all materials

    All the best

  22. PassPose

    Higher resolution strong & flexible. The current material is good but I’d love a more detailed smoother Prints. Secondly if I was really really lucky I’d want to be able to print that material in full color. Sandstone is great but very brittle. Here’s hoping.

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