New 3D Printing Software Toolkit

We are happy to announce the beginnings of a new Open Source
toolkit for 3D printing, called AbFab3D. Shapeways is already the host of a wide set of tools that enable you to create and customize products without the need of 3D software. We call them creators. AbFab3D is designed to help speed
the development of these creators and other 3D printing tools.
The goal is to make software development of 3D creators easy. We are curious to see what
sort of creators people will want to create. Can you make the first creator
to fab a million products?

Why are we doing this? Shapeways is looking to accelerate the 3D printing revolution. AbFab3D
greatly simplifies the creation of 3D creators and printing tools. These 3D creators (made using AbFab3D) will enable a
new class of Makers and Shapers to take the
next step on the way to transforming manufacturing. Using an
Open Source model allows the community to reuse common code together.
Shapeways is releasing this code to kick start the community of editor creators.

Image Creator

As a part of the toolkit, we’re releasing a sample creator for you, called the Image Creator.
This creator takes a base shape, embosses or engraves an image and then applies
a connector. The creator is good at creating custom pendants. By
customizing this creator you can easily make it work for Dice, Phone Covers, LightSwitch Covers,
Drink Coasters and Trivets. Perhaps you’d like a jewelry box with a custom top? All
of these variants are easy to create with the toolkit.

Inspired yet? It’s quite easy, grab the toolkit and start creating new editors. Make something
cool and then open your own shop at Shapeways.


Here are some items we’re working on next for the toolkit:

  • Hollow Out – A set of tools for hollowing out a model.
  • Remove Unattached – Remove parts of a model that will fall off.
  • Automatic Upload to Shapeways – Calls to the Shapeways API to upload models, get price etc.

Come visit the SIGGRAPH 2011 Web3D Tech Talk on the exhibition floor this Wed 5pm – 6pm to see
the new toolkit in action (near the Shapeways booth #816)

The name you ask? Let’s say I’m a fan of British Comedy.

The project is hosted here: AbFab3D Site

The Java code is LGPL licensed and hosted at Github


  1. Michiel Cornelissen

    This sounds so cool!

    But the ‘it’s quite easy’ line isn’t meant for people like me. Could we have a little more explanation for web-illiterates such as myself, on how this could work, what kind of people you need to make this work, what is possible, what will be possible – etc.?

    Hope to hear more, Michiel

  2. giles7777

    The toolkit is initially designed for programmers. Someone with a few years under their belt should be able to take a creator and modify it. Making who new creators will take more experience.

    Over time we’ll target the system to something more like the co-creator system where modelers could string creator pieces together to form a unique creator. Once the toolkit has taken shape and has a good amount of features we can then add that layer. Rough estimate is 6 months to year one that. It really depends on how fast people add to the toolkit.

  3. Chris Anderson

    I’ve looked at the site and have to admit I have no idea what’s going on. Is this desktop software that we’re supposed to download and run? If so, what operating system? As far as I can tell there are no instructions at all–at least I can’t find them.

    Can someone clarify?

    1. giles7777

      It’s a toolkit for Java developers to create 3D creators. There is an example application in apps/imagecreator to show how to use the toolkit. On the backend are a set of services that any application can access to upload 3D models from any application(ie the Shapeways API).

      At its heart is a voxel library that enables easy manipulation of 3D models. Some operations are much easier in voxel space such as engraving or embossing images. It leverages another open source project, Xj3D( to handle the triangle mesh aspects.

      I’ll be posting more tutorial material soon. Future posts will also get into the business model and philosophical underpinnings of the program.

      It’s early times with the toolkit. Hopefully the initial example application will show the promise and encourage other’s to join onto the project.

      If you have further questions feel free to post here or give me an email at alan at

  4. Dolf Veenvliet

    That’s great! May be very usefull.

    For me hearing that there’s an API that allows auto upload is more exciting than the code.

    For those who don’t know what this all is… it’s “Java” code, so yes… I think it runs on your computer but could also run in a browser. I’m really not too sure that it’s too useful… I think we all want to implement auto generation on websites… so perhaps a more generic javascript/php approach is more appropriate.

  5. Jeff Bare

    “The goal is to make software development of 3D creators easy”

    Looking fwd to when easy equates to my understanding of easy (I whom lack coding experience), but happy for those in the community who will pick it up and run w/ it immediately.
    We (as designers) will be designing tools or adaptable designs more and more.

  6. Shapeways Blog

    The Moonrock 2012 Nozomi Pendant is on it’s way to Burning Man via Shapeways. Designed by our very own Alan Hudson using the 3D Tools he has developed for Shapeways, an open source 3D toolkit called AbFab3d available via GitHub. It is

Comments are closed.