The Community

Create a custom 3D printed pup with Pupworkshop

From Eleanor: All of us at the Shapeways office were delighted to discover Pupworkshop, a new addition to our Easy Creator Apps that enables users to easily create ultracute custom puppy figurines. I caught up with Tom Rethaller, the creator of Pupworkshop, to discuss how he developed the idea to bring together his love of dogs and 3D printing and the possibilities that 3D printing offers to him as a developer and a designer.

What inspired you to create Pupworkshop?

As a dog lover and 3D printing enthusiast, the idea of designing 3D printed dog figurines had been around for some time. I had several ideas and could not settle on one model, and then I realized I could make a tool to quickly try and preview various combinations of shapes. “That’s my project” I thought!

What was your testing and development process like and how did 3D printing with Shapeways fit into that?

I had been experimenting with Full Color Sandstone (FCS) a little bit and I decided to start designing from the constraints of the medium. I wanted the model to be cheap and hollow, so I went for a round body and short legs. I spent maybe half of the design time on the base body mesh, looking for simple and generic shape that would allow many different parts to fit on. I wanted room for facial features, knowing that this is where most of the fun would come from, so I kept the head big. Most of the parts of the pup do not overlap, so they could be designed and tested independently.

I had more trouble with the colors! For the first iteration of the palette I carefully chose natural, subtle colors – browns and beiges – and they came out washed-out and muddy. Using the “Color Quick Reference” (awesome tool!) I redid the palette with much brighter colors. While not very natural these are what works best on FCS. Next time I’ll try to remember: do not design for the screen, but for the product!

What’s next for Pupworkshop?

So many possibilities! I have several ideas but I want to get some feedback from the community before I decide what to develop next. It could be: adding textures, more shapes, customizable accessories (like dog tags, coats, or baskets). The audience I originally had in mind was parents and their kids building toys together. But the project could take a more “meme” direction, as there seems to be potential for it. There is a feedback forum accessible from the bottom of the page, don’t hesitate to tell me what you think and suggestions are welcome!

In the longer term, I’d love to expand the concept to other series of objects, dinosaurs, robots, spaceships… But there’s so much I can do by myself and at some point I’ll be looking for a partner who can help on the marketing and community management side. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re excited about the project!

What impact do you think 3D printing will have on the future of design and creativity?

I’m pretty excited about customizable objects and parametric design. The question is where you position your product on the “spectrum of personalization.” On one end, the static design: this is the product, buy it as it is. This will probably stay the preferred model for most customers in the beginning.

On the other end, the fully parametric design where every feature, curve, color, is controlled by a parameter, and there are so many possibilities that the user is basically doing the design work.

Let me give an example. One of the early suggestion I got on Pupworkshop was to extend it to all kinds of animals. Why not making it more generic? The answer is that I never wanted to build a general purpose 3D design tool (that’s what Blender is for!) because I find that most people don’t want this level of control. It gets hard to maintain consistency when the user has that much creative power. You want the parametric space to be interesting for them to explore, but not too vast. Clicking at random should produce something at least printable, preferably with some of the original intention in it.

All the variations between static and fully parametric have their audience, and it’s going to be interesting to see how this develops. Also, I get pretty excited thinking about when we can start mixing materials and embedding electronics and software. That’s a future I want to be part of!