Author Archives: Natalia

How I Made It: Lost Earring, Found

Our How I Made It series takes us inside the projects that have inspired our designers, shoppers, and makers. Here, Shapeways Shop Owner Natalia shows us how she set out to recreate a beloved lost earring — and ended up improving the design in the process. Leave a comment if you’d like us to feature your latest project.


It’s the season of cold weather, scarves… and losing earrings. Fun winter fact: unwrapping a scarf is the most common way to lose an earring. Ask any earring-lover for confirmation!

One of the first things I made using 3D printing was the bubble earring design below. Everyone who saw them loved them, and I would always end up selling the ones I was wearing and making myself a new pair. Before Shapeways offered printing in metal, that involved getting a mold of the original bubbles-only, hook-free print (3D printing was expensive back then!) getting it cast in sterling silver at a casting house, cleaning it up by hand, soldering on a wire, bending that into a hook, and polishing them. Just by itself, the process of making each pair by hand took days of waiting for castings, then about an hour of work in the studio, which is not exactly cost- or time-effective. Thankfully, Shapeways makes it much easier now, as long as you start with a design file that is ready to be printed and shipped.

The lonely remaining earring

The lonely remaining earring

Recently, I finally lost one of my own pair (thanks, scarves!), and recreating the earring easily would mean reconfiguring the design for full 3D printing, hooks and all. I realized that this presented the perfect opportunity to go back to the drawing board and improve the design, this time using Fusion360 as my modeling software. This way, I would learn a new digital tool, while making this design fully 3D printable — and sellable in my Shapeways Shop.

The only real challenge to overcome was creating a 3D printable, integrated hook. I had seen a pair of earrings someone had printed where the hook was just an “unsupported wire,” so I wanted to test if this would work for these earrings with their long hook. If it was truly 3D printable as one piece, without any work on my part to hand-finish them afterwards, I would feel confident selling them in my Shapeways Shop.

First, I worked backwards, measuring everything on the earring I had left using my calipers, and integrating those measurements into a new 3D design file in Fusion360. Calipers could be the only tool you need for 3D printing besides a computer, so it’s worth buying the best. Accuracy is everything when going between the screen and the real world.

I measured the thickness of the earring, sizes of the circles, and the thickness of the ear hook. A standard ear hook is 0.8mm in diameter (as mine is) but you can go up to 1mm and it will remain mostly comfortable. I checked the design guidelines for sterling silver, and luckily an unsupported wire can be 1mm. I figured that after polishing it would be a little thinner, so would be more comfortable in the ear. (I was right: After Shapeways’ post-print polishing, the wire is 0.9mm thick, so there is a little material lost, as stated in the guidelines).

The remaining earring and 3D render of the replacement earring

The remaining earring and render of the replacement earring

While recreating the earring in Fusion360, I took the opportunity to make adjustments for printability and visual appeal. In the original, there was a small gap between two circles that I know could cause material to get trapped and would be impossible to clean, so I joined them completely. I also made the whole design slightly larger and slightly thicker so they would feel more substantial and have a bit of weight to keep them in the ear.

When I solder on an ear hook at my studio, the solder forms a fillet around the wire, giving it a bigger surface area of attachment to the body. In 3D modeling, I wanted to recreate this strength, so I added a large fillet between the wire and the body. This will be the weakest part of the earring where it is most likely to break, and the fillet helps to strengthen it.

The long hook design means they hang down like dangling earrings but also have staying power. Unlike a shorter curved hook, they don’t come out easily. I added a small bend at the end of the hook to guide them into the ear hole. I also rounded the end of the wire to be smooth. You don’t want to forget this part —  a wire that just ends will have a flat profile with sharp edges, but filleting the edges to be half-round makes it smooth and comfortable to put in your ear. A good rule once you have finished a model is to go over the design and fillet any joins and edges. I will often fillet all edges, but in this case the “sharp” edge definition is part of the design, so I left them on the body. I filleted the joint and the wire end.

Once I had the design finished, I uploaded it to Shapeways and used the 3D Tools to check for wall thickness and wire thickness. Since I used the design guidelines as I was modeling, all the checks were green.

I wish we could rush metals, but beauty takes time, so about two weeks later I got the box!

The updated design, fresh out of the box

The updated design, fresh out of the box

Fresh out of the box, they look great! A beautiful, even polish and a lovely weight in the hand. I immediately put them on, and realized that despite all my measurements, I had missed a crucial measurement: the distance between the curved hook wire end and the body of the earring.

The updated design, left, and the original earring, right

The updated design, left, and the original earring, right

As you can see, the original piece has a distance between the point and the body almost twice as big as the new pair. My earlobe doesn’t easily pass in that gap and it means they take a bit of wiggling to put on. For the final, in-shop iteration, I changed this, so they’re easier to put on.

The other major thing I noticed is how soft the wire is. While it is quite easy to bend it back into shape, it leaves a kink.

An unexpected consequence: wonky wires

An unexpected consequence: wonky wires

In the studio, I “work-harden” metal to make it rigid and stop it deforming. This is especially important for earring hooks, which see a lot of repetitive stress. There are many ways to work-harden silver. The easiest is burnishing, which involves running a smooth metal tool over the wire until it hardens. It takes about a minute and also polishes the metal.

Work hardening the wire with a burnishing tool

Work hardening the wire with a burnishing tool

Since I had bent the wire I needed to straighten it too, quickly done with a set of parallel pliers. Squeezing the wire like this also work hardens it, but it’s not as effective as burnishing.

Straightening the wire with pliers

Straightening the wire with pliers

Once that was done, the earrings were perfect! All in all, I’m really happy with this experiment. And, if someone bought them, they would be pleased with them even without work-hardening the wire hooks.


After receiving the earrings, I shortened the hook in the design to make the earrings easier to put on. Here are the finished earrings, with the shortened hook:

Finally, they made it into my shop!

Finally, they made it into my shop!

Now that we know how we can integrate hooks right into the design, what kind of winter-proof earrings will you make? Have you tried making hooks an integral part of your design?

Designer Spotlight: Lucas Goossens

Today’s Designer Spotlight focuses on model Lucas Goossens, fresh off the Fashion Week circuit and his feature in the New York Times, he also finds time to indulge his passion for positivity with his jewelry collection.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
Well, my name’s Lucas, and I come from a small historical town called Jacksonville, Oregon.  I’m 22, and I moved to New York about 2 years ago because of a modeling opportunity, and here I am now: modeling and designing 3D printed jewelry!

Continue reading

Shapeways + littleBits Hackathon Roundup

Posted by in Contests, Design, Events

Saturday morning was a glorious day in NYC, and we gathered at the lovely littleBits HQ for a full day of fun at the  3D + IoT Smarter Gadgets Hackathon, hosted by Shapeways & littleBits. Over 30 people of all ages and backgrounds from teachers to tinkerers arrived with an everyday object and their imagination at the ready. Here’s what went down…


After some bagels and coffee, our awesome judges each presented their work and their thoughts on how to approach design. Each one had a key tip for the day, and for design in general.


Ron Rosenmann of Frog Design told us about coffee time at Frog and how it helps them to make time to brainstorm together. Heidi Farrell of Smart Design quoted Jonathan Ive’s maxim that “So much of our manufactured environment testifies to carelessness” and urged us to constrain assumptions at the beginning of a project to help focus our creativity.

Oscar Salguero of Kid O Toys advised us to invite your friends to a workshop to make lots of ideas for you. He warned that you’d better “make something that works or they’ll be annoyed!”. As a toy designer, he reminded us that kids have no fear! So be a kid! Lastly, Emily Tuteur from Littlebits showed examples of how Littlebits come together and got us all excited by the CloudBit and IFTTT. Then it was playtime! We split up into five teams and two family projects.


Diego (8 years old) made a three phase adapter to trigger a catapult and his sister Sophia (6) made a windmill with pompoms to simulate a candy cane machine. Alexandra (8) made an awesome catapult too, using a completely different technique, to dislodge a block to trigger the spring.


At the end of the day, Everyone uploaded their projects to littleBits and  we had some fun demonstrations. Here’s what each group made:

Sheet Saver is a smart toilet paper dispenser.  Bianca, Chris, Daniel, Jude, Nick & Stephanie put their heads together to fix the simple problem of toilet paper efficiency…by controlling how much you can use. Enough is enough! Saving trees one sheet at a time.


Brush-R brush with music! Mason, Maren & Bastiaan hacked a music box to make a song timer to help you brush your teeth for the optimum time of two minutes.

Take A Chill Bit is a responsive office that calms you when you’re angry. Ilya, Mitul & Noel came up with two projects using the Jawbone UP App. The three makers created a circuit that tracks their attitudes throughout the day. “The device detects the problem, reports it on Jawbone UP App and reduces the level of stress by stimulating sensory channels” using a fan and an MP3 player. If you get stressed, it activates to calm you down with soothing light, sound and a fan. Their other project was a way to easily send caloric information to your phone to track your intake. Using a pressure sensor and the cloud, this group turned a box of oatmeal into a smart device!


Tooth Doodle: a seismograph machine integrated into the toothbrush! Marj & Boian made a seismograph machine integrated into a toothbrush to make brushing fun, you can make art while you brush or if you’re data-driven, match your strokes to an ideal brushing curve!


Conflict News is Eric’s news delivery service that delivers news through an interactive diorama, instead of cluttering your phone, you get a visual of what’s happening.


Soundmail plays your favorite song when you come home. Shannon, Cortlan, Soo, Tharit & Reed gave a professional presentation, featuring beautiful slides of the UI of their new creation that works with the Spotify API and is a new service designed to connect people’s emotions through voices and song.


Remorse Code.: mitigates communication disconnect with your partner. Alecia, Caroline & Adele thought there were too many communication apps so they devised a way to visually share their feelings using the cloudBit and a bargraph.  “Set secret messages with your partner and dial in when you need to say something important. Just think of your bar graph as a BAE graph and let your secret communication fly”.



We had Andrew and Ed from Shapeways on hand to give each team advice how to best incorporate 3D printing into the next phase of their project, from creating custom cases to house the electronics to integral design components like fun characters that animate.

Now it’s your turn! Seeing what the teams came up with – what will you make? You have until the end of March to  submit your ideas to the Contest!

What ordinary household object will you give a new life with some electronics and 3D printing magic?

Shapeways+littleBits 3D+IoT Gadgets Contest

We are so excited to partner with littleBits for a unique design challenge: How can you make your home smarter using the Internet of Things and 3D Printing?



Find something in your house that you consider mundane. A coffee mug, a pair of old gloves a floppy disk. Now ask yourself, how can you make it smarter? With littleBits and 3D printing, of course! Upcycle that object into something smarter and cloud-connected. Start doodling ideas and check the rules below.


What better way to get your creative juices flowing than a hackathon? Join us at littleBits beautiful offices this Saturday for the 3D + IoT: Make Smarter Gadgets Make-a-thon with Shapeways & LittleBits. Hear from inspiring speakers, tinker with materials and meet like-minded folks to get your projects started.



The contest takes place in 2 phases: Ideas and Finalists.

Ideas Phase: Deadline to submit is March 28th.
Submit concepts for your creation including a rough 3D model and a layout of how you would incorporate littleBits. Upload your projects to the littleBits project page using the hashtag #shapebits.

Make sure in your upload, you include:
– The inspiration and impetus behind your concept
– Reflect on what you did 1st, 2nd and 3rd
– List the resources you consulted to help others in the future

*Remember we are a community who loves sharing work in progress. Don’t be shy to share your piece even if it is not finished yet and ask in the Project Buzz category in the littleBits forum for help.

Finalists Phase: Deadline to submit is April 30th.

After the final deadline, our expert panel of super star judges will be invited to review the entries and select 5 contestants for the “Finalists” phase.
During this phase contestants will receive free bits to create their projects and a coupon from Shapeways to print them out. Final projects will need to be uploaded by April 30th on the Shapeways & littleBits sites both using the hashtag #shapebits.



The maker behind the smartest, most awesome project submitted will get a Workshop Set, which includes 100 Modules ($1,547 value) and $500 in 3D printing credit from Shapeways.

In addition, the top three entries will be showcased in our MakerFaire booth in San Francisco this May and featured in our newsletters and the littleBits Community Hall of Fame.


We have a fantastic lineup of judges who will rank entries across these measurements of awesomeness:

  1. Creativity — how inspired is your creation, how close to the theme is it.

  2. Technological achievement – how well does this project incorporate the potential of littleBits + 3D Printing

  3. Aesthetics- how well designed and polishes is your final object

  4. Surprise- how original and unexpected is your final project

Here they are:


Heidi Farrell, Design Engineer at Smart Design, NY

Heidi Farrell is an engineer who designs mass-produced, everyday products. She has worked on things like kitchen tools for OXO and camera gear for Joby x Lowepro. Based in Brooklyn, Heidi studied product design at Stanford, has worked in SF and Stockholm, and is currently a design engineer in Smart Design’s New York studio.


Ron Rosenmann, Senior Design Technologist, Frog NY

Ron focuses on interaction prototyping and building UX simulations as part of the design process at Frog. A nice sampling of his awesome work can be found here.


Andrew Mager, Developer Evangelist, Smart Things, SF

A developer evangelist at SmartThings in the Bay Area, helping developers all over the world integrate their devices and code into their home automation schemes.


Oscar Salguero, Senior Designer at Kid O Toys, NY

Industrial designer by training, Oscar has worked on products ranging from high end furniture in Tokyo to energy generating soccer balls for developing communities in Nigeria and Brazil. He’s currently leading a new line of sensory oriented & developmental toys for kids under 6 years of age.

That’s all folks! Have questions? Ask away here or on twitter using #shapeBits. Happy making!

Welcome back Left Shark!

So, what’s the deal with Left Shark? He became a star, his fame spread across the globe, his copyright was disputed, he went into hiding…and now he’s back?

As we’ve outlined recently, Shapeways takes intellectual property very seriously, and while we respect the intellectual property of copyright holders, we also strive to put community first. We do due diligence on every single takedown we get, inform designers how to issue a counter DMCA if applicable, give them a 24 hour warning before removing models, and offer to put them in touch with the other party.

As a service provider, our liability is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act under their Safe Harbor provision. We outline this detailed process and guidelines, and encourage all our designers and any copyright holders to follow it to ensure swift action on our part.

In the case of Left Shark, Fernando, the designer, chose to send us a counter DMCA Notice, disputing Katy Perry’s rights to Left Shark. You can read all about it on his blog. As per our Content Policy, once we receive a counter DMCA, we can reinstate the model while the two parties decide what to do. In this case, we encouraged Katy Perry to send us a properly formatted DMCA Takedown instead of a cease and desist. While we wait to see their response, Left Shark is practicing his moves for his next appearance.

Long live Left Shark, and may he herald in the proliferation of crowd-generated content!

Why Opening Up Intellectual Property is Great for Brands and Fans

Shapeways is truly a community centric company, serving hundreds of thousands of designers who have uploaded over 2 million 3D models to date. From the wonderful to the wondrous, Shapeways enables anyone to bring their ideas to life, whether solving problems or making products more personal.

Last week, 3D printing was on everybody’s minds when a designer’s right to create was taken away due to copyright laws. It brought up great discussions on where the technology stands when it comes to making designs based on popular culture.

Anything is possible with 3D printing, and over the last few years we’ve increasingly seen the technology  being used by fans to engage with beloved brands. Our work with Hasbro to create SuperFanArt enables fans of Hasbro brands to showcase their inspired artwork and sell their 3D printed designs on Shapeways under a Hasbro license. Hasbro became the first major global brand to open up its Intellectual Property to the design community, which is only made possible by Shapeways and 3D printing. Designers on SuperFanArt can now confidently sell fully licensed versions of their works. The community gets the ability to share their creations, Hasbro gets to engage with fans on a deeper level, both get a cut of sales, and no one gets sued.


Allowing fans to interpret their favorite brands in physical form legitimizes and elevates the culture of fan art and allows designers new freedom to create sought-after content. 3D printing is uniquely placed to bring these products into being, not just for figurines and toys, but also for mass customization of functional objects. We can’t wait to see more brands embrace this potential. Michael Weinberg, Vice President of Public Knowledge, put it best when he said, “It would be an enlightened move on the part of brands to work with designers instead of against them. It may, in fact, be easier to harness the collective creativity of designers than try to stop it”.

Not only does opening up IP enable brands to build stronger relationships with their fans, it helps them make better products. Bringing a product to market historically was no easy or cheap feat, requiring a lot of upfront capital to invest in market research, manufacturing and distribution. With 3D printing, you can go to market quickly and at a lower cost. So by enabling fans to legally access brand IP, they can create new derivative works and brands can start to see what the market wants before investing a ton up front. Brands can see what niche products could be successful and potentially get an early signal of what could be a runaway hit. 3D printing becomes the new marketing platform – a way to create a conversation between brands and customers.

Hasbro and several other brands are starting to pave the way for what will hopefully be a reinvention of intellectual property for physical products. We take intellectual property very seriously — both that of independent designers and major global brands. It’s critical that the individuals and teams behind products are rewarded for their creative efforts. While we respect the intellectual property of copyright holders, we are also community first. We do due diligence on every single takedown we get, inform users how to issue a counter DMCA if applicable, give a 24 hour warning, and offer to put them in touch with the other party.

Our vibrant, creative community and open platform grants us the leverage to bring big brands into the mix. We pledge to continue to push the boundaries of the law to benefit all creatives and fully encompass what is actually happening right here, right now.

Ultimately, we see 3D printing as a technology full of creativity and not about copyright infringement. With any new technology that’s democratizing access to a tool, infringement is possible, but what we’re enabling at Shapeways is a community in which innovation triumphs.


Copyright, 3D Printing and You: What does it all mean?

There’s a lot of speculation and guesswork circulating about Intellectual Property as it applies to 3D printing so here is a very general overview of what Copyright means for you, for Shapeways and 3D printing in general. While this is a fascinating topic, please keep in mind this blog should not be construed as legal advice and the author is not a lawyer (as much as she wishes she was!).

What is Shapeways Content Policy?

While we want to enable people to 3D print whatever they can imagine, this does unfortunately occasionally includes things that already exist and may be covered by copyright. In our Terms and Conditions, we ask that our community respects the rights of other designers and only upload their own original work or work that is freely available through a Creative Commons license. While we do what we can to ensure the content on Shapeways is appropriate, we cannot realistically review every model uploaded for a possible copyright infringement. We are also unable to determine whether the user has obtained a license for copyrighted content. As a service provider, our liability is protected by the Digital Millennium copyright Act under their Safe Harbor provision.

Shapeways is a safe harbor under the DMCA, and thus acts much like YouTube. In order to comply with the DMCA and protect intellectual-property-right owners, we follow a takedown process when we get a Takedown Notice. You can read all about it in our Content and Takedown Policy.

Ryan Kittleson’s success kid is a real life licensing success story

What are all these legal terms?

Very briefly, Intellectual Property covers a broad range of various legal terms:

  • Copyright: protects any expression that’s embodied in a tangible medium. Your child’s drawing is protected by copyright and STL’s are protected by copyright.
  • Trademark: protects symbols, words, designs, logos, and even trade dress of products and services when used in commerce, like Coke or Apple.
  • Patent: protects inventions that are novel and non-obvious.
  • Right of Likeness / Publicity: protects the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, and to keep it from being commercially exploited without permission.

For a brilliant 5 minute explanation about how all these terms differ, I’ll let a fellow jeweler, and real life lawyer Sarah Feingold explain, using Ring Pops.

For this post, let’s focus on Copyright. What is a Copyright anyway?

In the US, copyright is a form of protection for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright protects, for example, literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as paintings, sculptures, poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.  You’ll be glad to know copyright also covers STL (and other 3D printable) files, much like it covers MP3’s and other digital creative media. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. With exception, copyright protection exists from the moment of creation and lasts until 70 years after the death of the creator. Fascinated? Read Copyright Basics on the website of the United States Copyright Office to learn more.

What does this mean for you?

If you create and upload a 3D model on Shapeways or anywhere else on the internet, it is copyrighted. You don’t have to do anything, except choose how to enforce protection of your work. You may choose to do nothing, a celebrity may choose to hire a legal firm.

What about other people’s Copyright? How can I tell?

If you see something on the internet and want to create a 3D model of it, it’s best to ask permission first. On many sites like Thingiverse, TurboSquid or Sketchfab you can see if someone has put their work under Creative Commons – which may allow you either share it on other sites, to print it for yourself, or in some cases, sell it. The distinctions are clear, and worth checking. Designers may well be flattered you want to turn their artwork into a tangible format, others may not want you to profit from their ideas. Ask!  On other parts of the internet, like blogs or reddit, it may be harder to quickly establish who the author (and thus copyright holder) is. More often than not, somebody owns the copyright. Shapeways can neither be judge or jury in this case, as we cannot know the entire catalog of copyrights on earth, so it’s up to you to do your research.

But I see other people designing copies on Shapeways!

If in your research you see other models on Shapeways that seem to be using copyrighted work, that is not an incentive for you to create your own. Remember, Shapeways is a safe harbor of user generated content, so we do not (and can not) check every upload for copyright infringement. Those models may well be the original creations of their authors, or the designers may have licensing agreements in place (SuperFanArt models for instance have licenses with Hasbro). It is also very possible that there are infringing copies on our site and they may well receive a takedown notice.

So what are these Takedown Notices?

Shapeways as a company is bound by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and we are a “Safe Harbor” meaning we have a harbor where anyone can put their boat. This is what’s known as “User Generated Content.” Under the DMCA, to keep being a safe harbor, Shapeways agrees to a Notice-and-Takedown process. If a copyright holder identifies an unauthorized use of their work on our site, they must notify us with a proper DMCA Takedown notice, as detailed in our Content Policy. Rest assured, this is not something we take lightly. A DMCA Takedown is a specific legal document that contains statements of good faith made under the penalty of perjury. There could be costly penalties if the sender makes material misrepresentations about the infringement. We investigate and correspond with each and every notice we receive. We then notify the designer and remove the model from Shapeways within a reasonable amount of time.

If a designer feels the takedown is in error, they have the option to send us a Counter-Takedown, the process is also detailed here. Legal defenses such as “Fair Use” which take into account things like valid commentary, criticism, parody, news reporting, and teaching, consider many different factors, and can be quite difficult to prove. Unfortunately, Shapeways is not the one to prove it to. We can not consider any defenses a designer may have as we’re not a judge or jury, we can only introduce you to each other and let you work things out. Since we can not provide legal advice, we suggest you reach out to legal experts in your area.

But don’t despair! Some of the outcomes we have seen in the past range from a designer showing they have the rights to a design, a copyright holder upholding their rights, a community member getting a job at the accusing party’s company, a profit-sharing scenario on a model and, ideally, an opening up of Intellectual Property by a major brand: SuperFanArt with Hasbro.


So what CAN I do?

If you get a takedown notice, don’t panic! Use it as an opportunity to learn about what is and isn’t copyright, and to develop your own work. Use your imagination! Making original content is the best way to avoid any legal issues. Taking the time to create your own original content, including 3D modeling, taking product photographs, writing creative descriptions and marketing your products, not only prevents infringement, it showcases your creativity and will set your shop apart.

Here at Shapeways, we provide the tools and YOU bring the magic, and we love seeing what you create! Like this incredible bacon mobius strip.

Still need inspiration? Take a look at public domain works! Many artworks in museums are in the public domain, which means copyrights on them have expired. There are people who may never have expressed an interest in art now excitedly walking around the Met 3D scanning art! The Met has embraced it, so has the Smithsonian, so maybe it’s time for a museum meme mashup?

Use 3D printing to solve a problem! We’re seeing an explosion of drone parts and gadget acessories – making add-ons to your favorite hardware is creative innovation at its finest. Solve a problem! Have you seen the e-NABLE hands helping children? Incredible.

Ultimately, we see 3D printing as a technology full of creativity and not about copyright infringement. With any new technology that’s democratizing access to a tool, infringement is possible, but what we’re enabling at Shapeways is a community in which original innovation triumphs.

Interested to learn more ? Check out these great articles about the state of 3DP and Intellectual Property from Michael Weinberg from Public Knowledge.

This post probably raises more questions than it answers so please lets continue the discussion in the comments. If there are other topics you want us to cover, let us know!

This information is for educational and informational purposes only. The content should not be construed as legal advice. The author and Shapeways disclaim all responsibility for any and all losses, damages, or causes of action that may arise or be connected with the use of these materials. Please consult a licensed attorney in your area with specific legal questions or concerns.

New Year, New Tools: Introducing Shapeways 3D tools

Whether you are creating something for yourself or designing something beautiful for your customers, making your product come to life is incredibly rewarding. 3D printing has continually lowered the barrier from having an idea to actually holding your product in your hands.

Ensuring your 3D model can be printed, and understanding how design and material choices impact how you make your model can however be challenging.  The team at Shapeways constantly strives to make that easier, so with the new year, we’re thrilled to introduce a suite of 3D tools to empower you further. The Shapeways 3D tools give you more transparency into how we check your models and to help you check, visualize, and fix potential issues yourself before purchasing your model.

With the success of our wall thickness fixing tool in March of last year, we were inspired to invest in expanding the ways you can view your model against what our 3D Printing Engineers at Shapeways are looking at when you upload a model – our material design guidelines.  So we built 15 tools that let you view your model against our material-specific guidelines: mesh integrity and repair, bounding box, loose shells, part count, wire thickness, details, text, part clearance, escape holes, machine space, weak geometry, texture, interlocking parts, our content policy, and improved our wall thickness tool with a heatmap view.

Heatmap Wall Thickness 3D tools Flower

Each tool enables you to view your model against our design guidelines and clip your model along the x, y, and z axis for x-ray vision so you can identify any potential issues faster and with confidence.

Our tools are grouped into two types: ‘On upload we automatically check…’ and ‘After purchase we manually check…’ Our wall thickness, bounding box, mesh integrity and repair, loose shells, and part count tools in the first group have automatic checks that will show you a green check, yellow warning sign, or a red ‘X’ indicating our initial level of confidence that you will pass that check upon manual inspection post-purchase.  Every automatic check is still subject to a manual check post-purchase.

Machine space, loose shells, and wall thickness tools will also visualize any detected issues on top of your model.  The improved wall thickness and part count tools offer ‘fixes’ to change your model related to the issue in the tool in addition to a heatmap view.  You can also ‘sintershell’ a multi-part model in the part count tool, which encloses your parts inside a mesh, making it easier to handle and sort.  Adding a ‘sintershell’ can sometimes reduce the labor cost of a multi-part model.

Three Visualizations 3D tools Machine Space Loose Shells and Sintershell

Machine Space Visualization, Loose Shells and Sintershell example

These tools are not only helpful before you purchase, but also after you purchase if your model gets rejected.  If your model is rejected, you will receive the email with the detailed information explaining why, as always, but it will be viewable in our 3D tools right next to your model, and directly above our design guidelines – so you can see all the information you need to take action to fix and re-upload your model.

Rejection Inline with Guidelines in 3D tools Flower (1)

We hope that you’ll be as excited by these tools as we are and find them helpful as you design and get ready to 3D print. Upload a new product and read the 3D tools Tutorial or check out 3D tools with your existing models. This is just the beginning of the 3D tools so we’d love to hear about how you are using them, what you find them helpful for and if you have any suggestions. Post a comment or head over to the forum to tell us what you think!



Unique gifts for every cyclist in your life

We all know someone mad about bikes, ever eager to get out and ride even when its cold, wet or uphill. To help you celebrate their passion with them, here’s our spin on gifts for every type of bike snob, from the fixie fan to Fred.

For the single speed commuter, help them maintain the Zen with this multipurpose tool, good to fix just about every mechanical issue.

Speaking of tools, friends don’t let friends ride without proper gear… and then extra! One more tube can save a trip; this handy clip is great for long spring rides, or everyday commutes (just in case)!

CitiBiker’s know sharing is caring, but letting them keep both hands on the bars with this cup holder attachment is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Some say that life’s too short to ride boring bikes… which basically means it’s time to accessorize everyone’s best two-wheeled friend.

We all have that one friend with the dirty or forever rolled pant leg. Save them! TrouserClamp to the rescue.

And last but not least, we can accessorize our bikes, but let’s not forget ourselves! Show off the newest (3D printed interlocking metal!) bicycle brass pendant with moving wheels!

Whatever you gift your cyclist friend (or yourself!), remind them to ride safe, and stay rubber side down. Have more bike accessories you want or need? Let us know in the comments below! We’ll add it to our list that we can conveniently send to friends and family…


Movember Madness for Friday Finds

As we hit mid-November, how are your mustaches shaping up gents? In case Movember-Mania missed you, it’s an annual event held around the world are to raise awareness of men’s health issues. Community member Rick Stringfellow decided to make 3D printed Movemeber really special at his work….

Each year EA’s Art Department in Canada hosts a charity show to raise money for the Movember foundation. Along with growing as many real mustaches as possible, we hold the ‘Moshow’ where our artists create and present mustache inspired art.

This year I decided to use 3D printing to build a series of art pieces that are inspired by the seven deadly sins. Each Mustache was modeled in Modo3D then printed in detailed plastic with Shapeways. I then finished each printed model using Krylon acrylic paints and primers. The ‘Lust’ mustache was covered in gold leaf and then sealed with a clear Krylon finish.

Having worked in 3D for over 30 years this is my first venture into 3D printing for pure art – I learned a lot during this process and will definitely be working on some more creative adventures with Modo3D and Shapeways.

bomb geo gold mcd red

Though we can’t compete with these artistic marvels, here’s some of our team clowning around with some 3D printed ‘stache attachments. Happy Friday!



3DP4E Launches 3D Printing for Young Artists Exhibition

Shapeways is proud to support start up 3DP4E (3D Printing for Everyone) and their mission to empower through design, technology and entrepreneurism. Founded by visionary and tech enthusiast Ronald Rose, 3DP4E strives to bring 3D printing to schools, libraries and museums.

Part of 3DP4E’s mission comes to fruition today, with the opening of a new exhibition presented in tandem with the Children’s Museum of the Arts, entitled INTO THE THIRD DIMENSION: 3D Printing for Young Artists. The show features works from museum’s permanent collection alongside a 3D-printed element or detail from each selection. The juxtaposition of the two-dimensional works with the three-dimensional replications encourages the viewer to compare and contrast the two forms. There’s also a educational film that shows the steps taken to turn a 2D-drawing into a 3D-printed object will be shown, allowing visitors to learn more about the process and unique quality of the 3D printing process.

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On most Saturdays throughout the exhibition, CMA visitors will have the opportunity to take part in a drawing workshop called “Experimenting with Dimensions,” led by a CMA Teaching Artist. A handful of CMA visitors will be selected at random at the end of each workshop and will have their own drawings turned into a three-dimensional Shapeways-printed sculpture.  The 20 individuals selected will be invited for a presentation ceremony at CMA in January or early February once the three-dimensional prints have been completed. Check out for more information about hours and specific workshop times.

Also launching this week is Kid’s Creation Station, a new website presented by 3DP4E that provides young artists with a platform to create, share and take their artwork to a new dimension. The website translates the fantastic creatures and things created by children from flat drawings to actual figures, giving children’s drawings new depth. The online portal will provide the opportunity for kids to scan drawings into a portfolio management system, tag and share their images, view other children’s artwork, and ultimately print a 3D model of their artwork.

Check out the family friendly exhibit at the Children’s Museum of the Arts through January 11th.

Shapeways sponsors Cranksgiving charity bike ride

We’re taking part in Cranksgiving, a nationwide “food drive on bikes” where participants cycle to multiple grocery stores around the city, purchase non-perishable goods and donate them to those in need. Running since 1999, this charity race has spread to over 60 cities around America, helping provide thousands of needy families across the country with a wealth of food during the week of Thanksgiving. This year, it’s even being backed by news anchors from the TODAY Show.

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Shapeways is proud to sponsor Cranksgiving! Six lucky winners will ride away with custom 3D printed head-badges, designed by Scott Denton and printed in our Long Island City factory.

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Join some of the Shapeways team on Saturday November 22nd in NYC, or take part in the 60 other events happening across America. You’ll be joined by anchors from the TODAY Show who are supporting Cranksgiving and food banks around the country.

Love the idea of Cranksgiving, but don’t want to ride through NYC streets? Consider making a donation! All funds raised will be split 80/20 between City Harvest, and the New York Bike Messenger Foundation.

Some of the Shapeways team will be riding on Saturday – so give us a shout if you see us on the course!


Software for Artists Day Sunday November 16th

Shapeways is proud to sponsor Pioneer Works first Software for Artists Day on Sunday November 16th. The day-long event in Red Hook, New York will bring together artists and developers to illustrate the many new software and hardware tools available to contemporary art practice.  It will involve lectures, demonstrations, and conversations which will demystify the most sought-after technology in use today.

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Participants will be able to attend four 45-minute lectures over the course of the day and will also be able to participate in “soapbox sessions” in which they will have 3 minutes to present a project in order to attract interest and/or advice from other artists and technicians.

Shapeways will be on site with some products to show and tips and tricks about using the free software on our site.

Pioneer Works, Red Hook, New York

Sunday November 16th

10am – 7pm

Register here – hope to see you on Sunday!

If you can’t attend, here’s a brief preview of the software available on Shapeways now:

Shapeways API – The Shapeways Upload API enables web and desktop applications to submit 3D models and harness the power of the Shapeways marketplace. You can control pricing, available materials, and add markup to models that are for sale to our community. Read more about the Shapeways API  or join us in our developer forum.

ShapeJS – This tool makes parametric 3D modeling accessible for programmers. If you know Java Script, you can use this tool to generate 3D printable geometry, ias simple as a few lines of code. Read more about the power of ShapeJS here, or jump into the discussion on our developer forum.

Need more inspiration? Check out these amazing 3D creator apps that have been made so far. Got a cool app you’re working on? Tell us about it in the comments!


My Little Pony Holiday Gifts

Once upon a time, I was camping with my family and I decided to play in the river. I was eight, and everywhere I went My Little Pony went, so I brought her along. While attempting a river crossing, I slipped on a wet rock, but rather than let My Little Pony fall I held her out of harms way and instead broke the fall with my tooth (sorry mum!). 


Twenty five years later, with a permanently chipped tooth, I was thrilled when Hasbro and Shapeways collaborated to open the beloved My Little Pony brand to fans. For the first time ever, a huge brand was enabling artists to play with their intellectual property, and create new fan art. Welcome to the 3D printed herd!


In order to re-connect with my excited inner eight year old, I decided to watch the new TV series to catch up. I lost my whole evening in Equestria. Why? As Lisa Miller wrote in her recent New York Magazine article, friendship is magic. These six little ponies embody all that is wonderful about friendship and remind you that kindness can go a long way. Honestly, who doesn’t need a reminder of the wonder of finding your kindred spirits?

While my pony toy is long gone, I’m thrilled there is an every growing collection of My Little Pony fan art that I can collect to serve as a bright beacon on my desk to be grateful for my friends.

Here are my favorite pony picks:


My favorite, Pinky Pie (because she’s the closest I can get to the one I used to have!) and she has the best laugh.


Fan favorite Muffins, once a background character, now gets her own 3D printed spotlight


Rainbow dash gets things done in ten seconds flat!


Last but not least, Discord, the infamous villain, bringing chaos to Equestria.

Although it’s never a bad time for My Little Pony, these are especially fun for the holidays. Whether you have a superfan in your life or you want to introduce these characters to a new generation, these make great gifts! Or, of course, you could just collect them all for yourself. It is the season of giving and getting after all.

Design Contest: Help Shapeways & Occipital Bring 3D Scanning to iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus

Shapeways has teamed up with our friends at  Occipital, makers of the Structure Sensor & Skanect, to bring you a design contest:  the Structure Sensor Case Design Contest for iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus!

Occipital is calling on the Structure & Shapeways communities to help extend the  3D scanning power of the Structure Sensor by coming up with a great 3D-printed attachment case for iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus, so you can scan anywhere, right from your phone.


There’s $1000 in prizes from Shapeways & the Structure Sensor Store for the best designs! They’ll also be made available right here on Shapeways, with no added markup, and Creative Commons CC0- licensed for everyone in the community to print or download.

You have until Wednesday, November 12 at 11:59pm PST to submit your entry. Don’t miss out – there’s only one week left! Find the full contest details, starter materials, and how to enter here. I’ll be judging your designs so show me what you’ve got and GOOD LUCK!


One of the thousands of 3D scans made with the Structure Sensor