Author Archives: joris

Tips ‘n tricks for painting miniatures

Posted by in 3D Modeling

Shapeways Shop owners Joris and Maurice of RailNScale share some advice on preparing and painting miniature models. This is an an abridged version of their tutorial found here.

Although 3D-print models do not differ so much from ‘ordinary’ kits, its rich details and material may cause surprises.

1. Check the model

Are all parts apparent and do the parts fit together properly? Please contact Shapeways  ( when the kit is incomplete or damaged.



2. Clean the model thoroughly

The 3D-print models will feel a bit greasy. In this condition the paint won’t attach properly. Therefore clean the parts thoroughly with dish washing liquid. Use warm water (max 70ºC/max 158ºF)). Let the parts soak for quite some time (3 – 6 hours). Meanwhile the water will turn cloudy. That’s the wax. Repeat this procedure if needed. In the end the the kit won’t feel greasy anymore and show an almost complete white colour. It is of utmost importance that the models are properly degreased – otherwise the paint will not stick! Small remainders can be removed with a swab or toothpick.

2a 2b
A better alternative is to use a hydrosonic cleaning machine. It is also possible to clean the models in acetone (max. 5 minutes). Please clean the model afterwards with water.

3. Polish if needed

If needed the kit can be polished gently with fine sand paper 400. Small bumps can also be polished with toothpaste and toothbrush.Please mind that you do not rub away the fine details.


4. General painting tips

The ordinary model kit paints can be used. Mix the paint properly. Apply only a thin layer of paint and let it dry for 6 hours. It is better to apply several thin layers of paint rather than one fat layer. It is best to dilute darker colours. Always start painting the deeper surfaces. The chassis can preferably be painted with heavily diluted matte paint first. The paint will creep in the deeper surfaces.
Usage of gloss paint should be avoided. Satin and matte paints will improve the looks of your kit.


5. Specific painting tips

If desired the interior can be painted too. Please mind that the material is semi-transparant. which means that the interior colour will be visible on the exterior too.Therefore apply the exterior colour first on the interior side. The second layer should be the final interior paint.
To improve the looks it is advised to paint the inner and ridges of the pillars in a dark grey or brown paint. This will make the pillars appear much slimmer.



The final step is painting details such as lamps, bumpers, striping, licence plates, etc.

Shapeways Loves Makerbot

So what will I miss most now that I’ve left Shapeways?

My colleagues? No, what I will miss is the Shapeways Makerbot. We got a beautiful Makerbot Industries Cupcake CNC some weeks ago. Our Makerbot is quite noisy but we love it. Hans put it together for us and he is trying to add things to it all the time. We really wanted a 3D printer around the office and we’re very happy to have this now.

Our findings:

  • The entire process of getting a Makerbot and putting it together is a lot of fun.
  • Assembling a Makerbot is not difficult if you’re a Dremel owning techie type of person.
  • Your Makerbot will not work all the time so you have to keep at it.
  • You will get stuck but there is a great Makerbotting community out there to help you.
  • Owning a Makerbot will make you feel like you came from the future.

Watch the rather noisy video of our Makerbot below (and I was kidding I’ll miss my colleagues a tonne!) . 

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Shapeways community manager Joris says goodbye

Dear community members, I will be leaving Shapeways as per tomorrow. I’ll continue to do some Shapeways blog posts but will no longer be your Community Manager. I’m leaving Shapeways in order to pursue other opportunities.

The past two years have been the most invigorating & exciting of my life. To be able to let Shapeways grow from a group of beta testers to a large and vibrant community with tens of thousands of members, tens of thousands of designs and more than 8000 models ordered a month was an incredible experience.

Those first few months were rather chaotic. It started with a bang with articles on TechCrunch and Boing Boing. We were inundated by email, questions & problems (and in one fell swoop thousands of members). Materials had to be introduced Black Detail, White, Strong & Flexible; Transparent Detail, Full Color, Stainless Steel, Glass, High Gloss Glass and above all else we were impatient.

Impatient to show you what you could do using 3D printing technology. We were getting to grips with letting you “upload and print” but already working on the Creators, the Co-Creator platform and all the other features you’ve seen. The learning curve was steep, not only for our growing community but also for us. Nonmanifold, open edges and coming to grips with software packages we’d never even heard of meant we were learning all the time. Bugs were popping up everywhere, as if we were gallivanting around the jungle tossing sugar cubes every which way. At the same time we had to organize and visit events such as SIGGRAPH, Dutch Design Week and Makerfaire. As a net result I’ve explained 3D printing to more people than I’d ever think I’d meet in a life time. Somewhere along the line I managed to write 347 blog posts: some of dubious quality, many in dire need of editing but hopefully some good ones in there somewhere.

I also got to dive into model trains, 3D puzzles, space ships, design schools, jewelry designers, Fablabs and many other communities we engaged. So not only has Shapeways let me meet a large number of people and these people have been very diverse. I’ve also gotten to learn about 3D printing and: graduation ceremony deadlines, N & H0, sculptural intent, live action role playing, remote control helicopters, replica steam boats, racing teams, 3d scans of clavicles, jet engines, fashion accessories, dinner wear, knives & forks, Snoopy, the Virgin de Guadalupe, LEGO swords, fractals, elves, chocolate molds, brass knuckles, Facebook games, UAVs, action figures, Second Life, insects, proteins, DNA, photography, stamps, RFID tags, augmented reality, watches, chess sets, manga, robot arms, fighting robots, board games, desktop wargaming and many other things. Opening up your eyes every day to new communities, new designs and new challenges was wonderful. Thank you all for letting me learn about your community!

We’ve spent the time since trying to encourage and marshal the incredible skill and energy level of the Shapeways community by holding contests and reaching out through You Tube, this blog and our lively forum. Whereas initially we were focused on just letting people upload to Shapeways, later on it became a question of inspiring people in creating more and more diverse things. The quality of work in the gallery and on It arrived (Ralph’s idea!) has continually improved remarkably as people have mastered designing for 3D printing. The sheer variety of the designs on Shapeways right now is mind blowing. While I’d like to think I played a small part in this I know that it is really the community that made this happen.

Fairly quickly the first heroes started to emerge in our community. Whether by tirelessly submitting bug reports or suggestions, spending hours helping on the forum, writing tutorials or by spreading the word it was these community heroes that really have made Shapeways what it is today. Shapeways is a very high engagement community and it is these people’s pioneering work that has made this possible. We’ve had members spend 10-12 hours fixing someone else’s complex design and others have spent over a 1000 hours on Shapeways. We’ve seen hundreds of blog post and tweets by community members spreading the word.

These heroes were brought to us by sites linking to us and writing to us (over ten thousand!). I’d like to especially thank Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, the Wired Blogs, the guys at Makezine, Gizmodo and Engaget for bringing us talented creative people that have helped shape Shapeways. I’m intensely proud of Shapeways and the Shapeways community. Not only am I proud of what we’ve all achieved together so far but I know I will be proud of what you’ll achieve after I’ve left. I would like to thank each and every community member from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your friendship, ideas & encouragement. I am indebted to you for inspiring me with your creativity and hard work for this community.

Should you wish to keep in touch with me you can follow me on twitter here or email me at joris (dot) peels (at) gmail. (dot) com. 

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Painting your Spaceships

A few weeks ago Steve of Third Fate Creations approached us about showing off
his painting skills on some of the space ships on Shapeways. Steve
works with mini designers in a very selective way. He chooses designs
that inspire him and then paints them. Mostly this is for a fee and sometimes when Steve is really inspired it is in return for credit and keeping the painted mini. You can
check out the pricing and also a lot of airbrush and painting tips on his

We gave Steve a few models so he could show off his
skill for you guys and hopefully get you all to start thinking of the
possibilities of combining airbrushing with your 3D prints. For
Shapeways Steve painted two of  Charles Oines intricate and wonderful
spaceships: the Ryuushi
and the Martian
Icaria Class Strike Cruiser

Steve, “used an airbrush on all but the “gem/glass reflection
spots” and on
those used a 00 brush.
The paint is a combination of GW, Createx, and
Autoair, depending on what effect I needed.
It took, roughly, 4-6
hrs total time to prep and paint each one.”

If you look at Charles’ Shop
you can see that the models are tiny.The Dominator for example of 0.9
by 3.6 by 3.9 cm. The intricate painting detail that Steve managed to
with at this scale is just crazy. 

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Significant price reduction on dense models

From today until the 22nd of next month there is a significant discount
selected models on the site. Sean’s Oloid is not $95 but $66. Basically models with a density higher than 10% that are larger than 20cm3 get
50% discount on the cm3 that exceed the first 20cm3. The discount is over the material price not the mark up of the designer so there will be differences between models. Why & how are we doing this? Have we gone nuts?

We strive to make Shapeways as accessible as we can. We want to
make it easier and more affordable all the time. Eventually it is our
goal to let you make anything. The more you order the more we scale and
the cheaper we can make it for you to order, this encourages you to order more etc.. This is a virtuous
cycle that benefits us both. Up and until now our pricing model has been encouraging you to make thin
tiny wispy things.  Larger things and more dense things are
comparatively cheaper for us to make however. There is simply less cleaning
& handling involved per unit of size (and also per $1 in revenue).

Because of this we are able to, for a month and as a test, offer a discount on models that fit the following criteria:

  • only valid for the materials White, Strong & Flexible; Black Strong & Flexible; Summer Blue; Summer Green & Summer Magenta
  • only valid for products ordered from today until the 23rd of July.
  • They have to have a density that is higher than 10%.
  • On a White, Strong & Flexible model you will then pay the regular $1.50 per cubic cm for any model that is less than 20 cubic cm as well as a start up fee of $1.50 per model.So no change there.
  • On  White, Strong & Flexible model larger than this you will pay a start up fee of $1.50. You will also pay $1.50 per cubic cm for the first 20 cubic cms. Any additional cubic centimeters are only $0.75 per cubic cm. 
  • On a Black, Strong & Flexible model there is a $4 start-up cost + 1.78/cm3 for the first 20 cm3 + 0.89/cm3 for any consecutive cm3 over 20cm3
  • On the summer colors there is a  $4 start-up cost + 1.99/cm3 for the first 20 cm3 + 0.99/cm3 for any consecutive cm3 over 20cm3    

You can check density in your 3D modeling application (or totally old
school divide the bounding box by volume of your model).

The discount has been implemented on the site but it might take the site two hours to work through all the galleries.

The discount is over the material price not over the mark up made by the designer so there will be differences in the discount between designers.

This means that large White, Strong & Flexible models have become a lot cheaper on the site for this one month. We hope you guys have fun with this!

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Introducing High Gloss Black Glass & High Gloss White Glass

We can now offer you two new glass materials: High Gloss Black Glass and
High Gloss White Glass. Open the floodgates of your creativity. What
images does their super shiny sheen conjure up in your mind? What will
you guys make with these materials?

egg cup big hearts
is $40

The Angel
as seen above are $23

The candle holder below is $89

The materials have a start up cost of $5 and will cost $6.99 per
cubic cm. Initially the start up costs for Glass were $15 so this
represents a significant price drop in the start up costs. The start up costs of the Milky White Glass has also been reduced by $10 and this material will cost $5.99 per cubic cm. Even though the design rules are the same, the gloss materials are nicer to the touch and stronger.


The materials are made by 3D
printing recycled glass. The fine powder is built up layer by layer and a
binding material is applied to the glass powder that will become your
product. When the 3D print is complete it is baked in an oven to fuse
the glass powder. Your products are then
subsequently enameled to get their glossy finish. 



As you can clearly see in the Angel picture
there is a fair amount of “definition” from the 3D printing process in
the form of bumps and the like. The enamel smooths the 3D prints out
considerably and these prints are closed so not porous as the Milky
White Glass material is. The models are however far from completely
smooth. A lot
of the objects made with this process look really good and very arty.
But, significant warping may occur and the overall dimensional accuracy
of this process is still limited. 3D printing glass is amazing but also
very new and a very experimental process. 

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3D printing the Herpes Simplex virus

Shapeways community member David
Bhella 3D printed
a 5 CM model of the Herpes Simplex Virus. The
Herpes was as a gift for a retiring professor. Presumably, said
professor is one of only a small group of people that are glad to have been given herpes. Intrigued I
asked David to tell us more about what he does at the MRC Virology Unit,
Institute of Virology, University of Glasgow
with 3D printing. 

Joris Peels: Why are you interested in 3D printing?

David Bhella: I am interested in all aspects of 3D technology (rapid
prototyping, 3D
displays and commercial 3D animation software), as my work is entirely focused on solving the structures of viruses in three-dimensions and I
find visualisation in 2D media deeply unsatisfactory.

I think that rapid prototyping is a really interesting way of allowing
one to appreciate the complexity and symmetry of viruses. Holding the
model in your hand is such a ‘human’ way of understanding an object
Unfortunately the potential for understanding these structures at
high-resolution cannot be realised in this manner, because proteins are
extremely complex molecules, and a virus is a complex assembly of
proteins.  So, the Herpes model I have printed through Shapeways is
comparatively low-resolution (about 2.5 nanometers resolution – the
object itself is 125 nanometers in diameter)
. We are now working at
better than one nanometer resolution. At this level the 3D shape of
individual protein molecules becomes visible, showing us how they fold
. To show this as a polygon surface becomes less meaningful then, and
we have to start looking at more complex means of visualisation, also
the poly count becomes so high that commercial 3D software cannot handle

For the moment then, the strength of 3D printing is in teaching and in
public engagement
(and in bespoke gifts for retiring professors). I am
really enthusiastic about the prospect of producing large metal
sculptures of virus particles that people can handle and walk around, I
think that the beauty and symmetry of viruses really highlights the
elegance of nature and evolutionary processes
.  As I am the scientist
responsible for public engagement in my department, I am lucky enough to
be able to dedicate some of my time to this area. Furthermore, my wife
is head of the science team in our local science museum (Glasgow Science
Centre), so I have access to a great venue for P.E activities, which is
staffed by motivated and enthusiastic science communicators who can
help me.  A couple of years ago we created an art exhibition called
molecular machines (
, which
got a lot of media attention. I think it would be great to produce a
molecular machines 2.0 that exploited the latest in 3D panel displays
and 3D printing.

Joris Peels: What do you do?

David Bhella: I work on many aspects of the virus life-cycle using
electron microscopy
and image processing techniques to understand the
structures of viruses in three-dimensions. Viruses are the smallest of
pathogens to infect man and range from ~30 – 500 nm in size (A nanometer
is 1/1000th of a micrometer which is 1/1000th of a millimeter). They
reproduce themselves by invading our cells and hijacking the cellular
machinery to make thousands more viruses particles. As they have a very
small number of genes, they assemble from multiple copies of only a few
types of protein. They are therefore highly symmetrical, employing
either helical or icosahedral symmetry to make a shell (called a capsid)
that ferries their genome between cells while protecting it from

So, we take 2D images in the transmission electron microscope and use
image processing methods to average together images of thousands of
particles into a 3D reconstruction
. I attach a raw image from the
microscope of a
Feline calicivirus. I am interested in this virus as it is from the same
family of viruses as the noroviruses that cause winter vomiting

Joris Peels: Was it just fun?

David Bhella: It is always fun!

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Shapeways Siggraph 2010 competition

From today until the end of the month we will be holding a super quick SIGGRAPH competition. Just add the tag SIGGRAPH2010 to your best model to enter. There will only be one winner this time, winner takes all! This winner will have their model displayed at SIGRRAPH as the centerpiece of our stand. After the show we will also send you the model and give you an additional $250 coupon in 3D printing. We will be looking for the best, most impressive display model. The model can not cost more than $200 and must be inspiring as well as show people the possibilities of 3D printing. Don’t forget only two weeks to design! Fame and fortune await! Enter now! 

Shapeways interviews Mitchell Jetten

Mitchell Jetten is a great guy and despite his young age is a successful Shop owner on Shapeways. Jettuh as he is known on here, exclusively models Dutch model trains & model train accessories for his SpoorObjecten Shop on Shapeways. Despite asking for very low mark up per model sold Mitchell has made over $4000 with us so far. He is an enthusiastic & very helpful community member and it has been a pleasure to see him prosper. Indeed my “power lunch” with Mitchell in Amsterdam on a sunny Gustavmahlerplein surrounded by basking bankers was not only thoroughly enjoyable but also a professional high point for me. Mitchell is on the right in the foto below next to his good friend Niels.

Joris Peels: What modeling software do you use? And how long have you used it?

Mitchell Jetten: In general I only use 3ds Max for my trains. At school I learned how to use SolidWorks, and for the company I work for
(freelance) I also sometimes use Autocad 2000 for CNC projects. Funny thing is, I started using Gmax (a free version of 3ds Max) in 2004,
but I couldn’t make more then a station platform with a texture on it back then. But when I discovered this great place where you can 3D print
your objects, I started doing research about how I would have to build it, and
what I could build with it (because, who wants an expensive easy
station platform?). This happened in February 2009, a month later I finally had my first
model in my hand, a Dutch small train signal So, to get back to the question, I’ve only known how
to 3D model for a year and a half right now.

Joris Peels: How old are you?

Mitchell Jetten: I think I’m one of the youngest shop owners on Shapeways, I just turned 19 on the 7th of June.

Joris Peels: How did you happen to find Shapeways? 

Mitchell Jetten: If I remember correctly I heard something from my dad about 3D printing,
and I thought he was nuts. I think I reacted the same as all people do that haven’t heard about
3D printing……..“What, you make a 3D picture,, and you print it on a standard printer?” Only after a month or so, I had nothing to do on school and found a Shapeways clip on Youtube a and this made me interested!

Joris Peels: What do you make?

Mitchell Jetten: I make Dutch model trains in the scale 1:160 (N Spoor) and my next step is to
try making an affordable train in 1:87 (H0)! So for this moment just trains and scenery for model railways.

Joris Peels: How is your Shop doing?  

Mitchell Jetten: My shop is doing really great, seriously, thanks to Shapeways I met my
in some sort of way. Because of the earnings I made with Shapeways, I had enough money to fly
to Munich with a few friends. Over there I met my girlfriend that weekend! I will fly to Munich again next month thanks to my Shapeways earnings! I eventually see myself getting rich with Shapeways’ service.

Joris Peels: What is your most successful product?

Mitchell Jetten: To
be honest i don’t really know!
At the moment the VIRM 9500 part 1/3 and VIRM 9500 2/3 are sold the most but that is also the first model I created so it has been online for a
longer time. 

I think most people want it, because it’s a very common train in
the Netherlands.

The SGM(Sprinter) is also sold a lot, and there are about 5 persons (that I know of), that have
finished it, and have a working model up and running!

Joris Peels: How do you see it in the future?

Mitchell Jetten: Ok, just a small sneak peak of my thoughts: In the future, I see myself building my next train…wait I’m doing that already… but not printing it in White, Strong & Flexible, but in a perfect and smooth
material (like Envisiontec Perfactory). After the print I will cast it with resin, and make about 10 of those
trains (not just the body, but the entire train completely finished).

Joris Peels: How do you market and sell your products on Shapeways?

Mitchell Jetten: There are 2 forums where I promote my trains, well not really
promoting, but i do show the pictures of the model, and show
them where they can buy it if they like, but it’s not that I do a
lot of promotion for my models. Also I’ve been to several model railway exhibitions to sell trains and
also just to inform people about this amazing Shapeways website! Maybe I need to promote myself better, but i don’t have a lot of time
lately because of school!

Joris Peels: Do you do market research?

Mitchell Jetten: Not really, I think that’s just 10% of the reason why I created the
trains I have finished.
I just build them because I like those trains. And if people like them to, then that’s a big plus.
A lot of people want me to build old trains, but to be honest, I don’t
feel a lot for old trains, I like modern stuff!

Joris Peels: Why trains? 

Mitchell Jetten: Because I like trains, I never had a working model railway in my room,
but I do have Dutch trains in my room. So by making my own trains I feel special, because not a lot of people
own the trains I’ve made!
Funny thing people ask me is:
Why 1:160? Most people use 1:87!
The answer to that is:
In 1:87 almost all trains I like have already been made and sold by the big
, so it’s useless to sell an unfinished train, if they can already buy a good finished train, right? In 1:160 there aren’t a lot of Dutch trains, also because of the small
scale, it’s a lot cheaper to print those trains.

Joris Peels: Is Shapeways a job for you? 

Mitchell Jetten: In some sort of way you can say that Shapeways helped me making my dream
come through. I always liked to make 3D models, but i never knew how to do it. (Yes I
knew how to make a station platform, but that’s easy) Since Shapeways I’ve learned a lot about how to 3D model an object. So now I do freelance work for a company, making 3D models for them. But I also have my own company (SpoorObjecten) because of what shapeways does! So, yes, i think it’s a job for me, maybe not 100% yet, but give it
some time…

Everbody, keep up the good work with your models!
@Shapeways, thank you so much for the wonderful website! Without Shapeways I wouldn’t have been to Munich…….

Madox’s fun propeller hat and Lego compatible cufflinks

John Chen (Madox on Shapeways) has just added some great products to his line up. His propeller hat cufflinks are now available in gold. He also has a great pair of locomotive train cufflinks. My favorites through are the Lego compatible cufflinks. You can add your Lego bricks to these cufflinks to customize them. I would not recommend adding the Lego Millennium Falcon to your cufflinks however. Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve is never a good idea. Also, it would not be practical.


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Banlu’s Beautiful Bracelets

Designer Banlu Kemiyatorn
has a lot of great designs in his Shop. My personal
favorites are his Bracelets. Each of them is a co-creator and you can
customize the inner diameter of the bracelet. Bracelet
Number 6
looks very modern to me.  I also love Bracelet
Number 9
and the mega spiky Bracelet Number 3
They’re high tech without being cold, if that makes sense.

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3D printed customizable Gear Shifter for BMW

A few of the Shapies are BWM nuts. Arno our head of software
developments has a racer in some rather

interesting colors, Peter (our CEO) has two M3s and Robert (our
CTO) has this lovely little convertible he got second hand from a local
hairdresser. It was therefore a brilliant move by Peter Paul (himself a
Volkswagen fan) when he started to develop the guaranteed crowd pleaser:
the customizable

gear shifter for BWM.

This steel 3D print can be attached to the
standard gear shift knob in many models of BMW. You can Co-Create by
uploading any image
of your liking, a logo, some initials whatever you want and then for
$40 we will ship a customized gear shift insert to you for you to
install. For a few days you can even still get it in gold. Any
guarantees on
our part however do not extend into the realm of taste.The one on the
left below by the way is manually polished. What do you guys think of
that finish? The one on the right is for Arno and in the logo of his four man racing team.

This gear shifter is a product. And you could buy
it. But, more importantly it is a bit of inspiration. Right now we have a
steadily growing number of Co-Creators on
, 450 or so. A lot of these focus on jewelry, accessories
and interior decoration items. But, there is a lot more in the world you
could “custom fit” to people’s liking. We hope that this inspires you
guys to think outside that dastardly box, the home!

In cars for example you can see the enthusiasm Jay
Leno has shown for replacing automobile parts
. The car aftermarket/turning/customization industry is a $31 billion a year industry in the US
. There are millions of car nuts like Arno, Peter and Robert. They all love their cars and many of them would like to improve them or personalize them in some way. Ultimately of course the car manufacturers themselves will be using design tools and 3D printing production equipment to give you customization options from the get go. Indeed the sheer volume of choice in car accessories and models has been
accelerating. Right now the first 3D
printing techniques are already used in very high end automobiles and
in Formula 1
and we can 3D print metal parts of
up to 1 meter
so, money no object we could 3D print your entire car. In time costs will be lowered for this to become more and more accessible. But, as we’ve shown with the gear shifter there is a lot of opportunity to make less expensive things, today. So what are affordable designs that people can customize in order to personalize their iron steed right now?

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Shapeways Live on Ustream

The next Shapeways Live will be on Thursday the 17th at 19:00 CET. I will host it together with Bart, our Blender guru. We will have a Q & A session where we will answer any and all questions you have about 3D printing, 3D printing materials & designing for 3D printing. If you have any questions you would like to submit in advance just email them to joris (at) shapeways (dot) com. You can see us live on Ustream here

Sadly Bart can not make it today so we will move the Shapeways Live to another day. We will keep you posted!


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Designer Spotlight : Unfold 3D Printing Ceramics


Claire Warnier and Dries Verbruggen make up Belgian design studio Unfold. In addition to teaching at St. Lukas in Brussels they are also the most interesting designers working in 3D printing today. From their curating of Bits ‘n Pieces in New York to their pioneering work on inventing their very own ceramic 3D printing process using a RepRap derived 3D printer to their latest fantastic work: a virtual pottery wheel, Unfold leads the way in design and 3D printing.