Category Archives: 3D Printing

Is There Anything This Designer CAN’T Make?

Fashion has always been a rich breeding ground for design innovation, and 3D printing has ushered in new ways of creating for designers from every discipline. Rarely, however, do we see a single designer whose work spans fashion, industrial design, miniatures, and much more. Bilal Khan of BMK Design, whose Shapeways shop reveals only one facet of his incredible range, let us in on a groundbreaking jewelry project that he completed for his client TooShoes. Using Shapeways to iterate and test his design, Bilal developed a gorgeous, elegant shoe adornment designed to withstand daily wear — and turn simple pumps into statement-making, one-of-a-kind footwear. For a glimpse inside the mind of a truly versatile designer, read the full interview below.

Heel jewelry created for TooShoos

Heel jewelry created for TooShoos

In your Shapeways shop, you focus on amazing figurines. Normally, we don’t see designers cross over from fantasy characters to jewelry, so I’m particularly interested in how you came to design the gorgeous heel jewelry you shared with us. Outside of Shapeways, do you focus on jewelry design?

I’m basically a design enthusiast with experience in varying design fields and contrasting skill sets as far as modeling tools and design methodologies are concerned. By profession, I’m a mechanical engineer, and I’ve been independently developing products for clients for the past four years. My urge for design — and being inspired by all types of designers — from digital sculptors to industrial designers and fashion designers, led me to learn and develop skill sets away from my core expertise. To date, I’ve developed products in consumer, mechanical equipment, automotive, medical, fashion, and footwear. I also spend time developing interior designs for building spaces and front end web designing.

One heel jewelry option, designed for TooShoos

One heel jewelry option, designed for TooShoos

The Shop

I have been blessed to have been introduced to these varying fields by my clients for whom I take the challenge of developing these novel products in various segments. The miniatures you saw at my shop were the result of an offshoot of the skills I developed while creating board game miniatures for my client. But, I did not want to stop at just that project and decided to enhance my skills and extend it to the physical desktop toys that you see at my shop.

Jewelry for Heels

Similarly, this jewelry design project regarding heels was also a brainchild of my client who did not know how to approach it to make a complete working product out of the idea. I was eventually able to design this latching mechanism with a clamping, modular jewel holding option. The process of developing the product required some engineering, loads of brainstorming, and a few iterations of prototypes to perfect the fit. Obviously, the prototyping was possible because of Shapeways. I printed most of the prototypes, developed during the project, from Shapeways, and for the final piece, we produced the product with gold-plated brass from Shapeways.

From TheBMKdesign.com

From TheBMKdesign.com

Focus on personal jewelry designs

In the past I’ve developed jewelry for my family and friends. I’m currently working on developing my line of jewelry focusing on Mughal and traditional styles alongside contemporary and modern art pieces. You can find a few pieces on my website, though they’re still a work in progress. When it’s ready, you’ll see these and many other designs up on my shop at Shapeways.

A gorgeous work in progress

A gorgeous work in progress

Tell us a bit about the heel jewelry you designed. This seems like a completely novel way to approach shoe adornment, but it’s also lovely, practical, and feels like a natural evolution in footwear accessories. How did you come to the idea?

Indeed it is. To be honest, the idea was brainchild of my client. My part of the job was to make it real and develop a mechanism that would work and yet be aesthetically pleasing. Initially the client wanted a single piece of jewelry that somehow clings on to the heel and the embellishment can give a new look to the shoe every time. The real task was to make sure that the latching mechanism clings on to the heel somehow having minimum visibility of the latching mechanism and maximum visibility to the jewel, keep the cost low and make it durable.

After critical design analysis, I realized that the best way to cling to the heel would be via the bottom, other approaches considered included a Velcro based approach that basically hugged the heel just like a cloth would but that and a few other options were quickly disregarded because of lack of durability and ruggedness. Eventually we decided to go for a metal approach, where the jewel and the latching base were both made out of metal.

I also realized that making the product modular would save our customers cost and would provide the same effective product. This was the reason why the jewel and the base latch were developed as separate components.

A brief on the development process can be found here.

Now, these designs are on the shelves at TooShoos, a UK-based jewelry company. Being a designer of the product, it gives me great sense of achievement that my client was able to generate a business through the product.

A heel jewelry attachment designed for TooShoos

A heel jewelry attachment designed for TooShoos

What’s next for you? Any other projects you’d like to share?

There are loads of ideas and personal projects I am working on in parallel. One of my upcoming lines is called pencil heads. I will be featuring those on my Shapeways shop too. These are cute little animals (coated full color sandstone) which would act both as a paperweight and a pencil head. I have already ordered them from Shapeways and as soon as I receive them and complete my tests they will be up for grabs at my shop.

Another project is a tool for craftsmen and armatures alike called happy thumbs, it will also be up for grabs on Shapeways soon.

The upcoming Pencil Heads project

The upcoming Pencil Heads project

Thanks for letting us in on your design process, Bilal! If you’ve worked on an amazing product you’d like to share, or have any questions for Bilal, make sure to leave a comment below.

Trademark and Copyright Safe Harbors (again)

Safe Harbor by Flickr user Mark A. Vargas, via CC license 2.0

Safe Harbor by Flickr user Mark A. Vargas, used under CC license 2.0

Today, Shapeways, along with Kickstarter, MakerBot, and Meetup, filed comments in the U.S. Copyright Office’s multi-year study into how the copyright safe harbors that allow websites such as ours to function are working. You can read about prior developments in this study here.

The role of the safe harbors are reasonably straightforward. Websites (such as Shapeways) that allow users to post content do not know if the content being posted infringes on copyrights held by others. Without the safe harbor, this would require Shapeways (and Kickstarter and MakerBot and Meetup and Facebook and YouTube and every other site on the internet) to clear every model, comment, video, and other type of upload through the legal department before posting. In other words, without the safe harbor protecting sites from the potential copyright infringement of their users, none of these sites would exist.

Fortunately, the safe harbors allow sites such as Shapeways to assume that content posted by our users does not infringe on copyright until we hear from a rightsholder. At that point we quickly take the content down to initiate the notice-and-takedown process (details on how that process works can be found here).

These safe harbors were established as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (often abbreviated as the DMCA) in 1998. In 2015 the U.S. Copyright Office initiated a study of how well they were working.

In this current round of comments, we made two primary points:

First, we noted that the DMCA copyright process continues to be heavily influenced by trademark law. Including a claim of trademark infringement effectively removes an accusation of infringement from the DMCA process. Among other things, that makes it very hard for users accused of infringement to challenge that accusation. We believe any study on the DMCA copyright process should recognize that element of how the process works in the real world.

Second, we raised concerns about the framing of much of the discussion in the Study. In addition to an earlier round of comments, the Copyright Office held a series of roundtables (which, for reasons known only to the Copyright Office, it refused to record or allow to be recorded either in audio or video but did release transcripts of) to discuss the issues. In both the earlier round and at the roundtables, a great deal of attention was paid to how the largest online platform – Google – interacted with the safe harbors. In our second point we tried to remind the Copyright Office that the vast majority of websites protected by the safe harbor are not dealing with millions of automated takedown requests a year. We therefore suggested that shaping solutions or conclusions with that scenario in mind would overlook how the safe harbors operated in the vast majority of cases.

As far as we know, this will be the last round of comments in this proceeding. At some point it is likely that the Copyright Office will release their report on the safe harbors. When they do, we will make sure to update you on the blog. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions.

The Week in 3D Printing

Rumors swirled around a possible iPhone 8 3D scanner, an animator took loading screens from digital to analog using 3D printing, plus: laughs, limbs, pills, and backbones got the 3D printed treatment, and we resurrected both dinosaurs and a thinner you — all this week in 3D printing.

Take a (3D) selfie

Appleinsider brought us some pretty serious-sounding speculation that Apple will roll out a 3D scanner with its iPhones 8. Some see an opportunity for scanning and printing almost anything, others see an opportunity for Snapchat to get even creepier.

Back it up now

Some people love to wait. Take Raphael Vangelis. Aside from having a preeeetty awesome name, the director/animator also appreciates the art of loading screens — enough to take them from digital to analog format, creating stop-motion animations with his own special twists, as The Verge reported. Now, hurry up and wait:

Analogue Loaders from Raphael Vangelis on Vimeo.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss back pain goodbye

Printing in space got even more interesting somehow this week when the Made In Space printer aboard the International Space Station produced a “laugh” (a print of a 3D model of sound waves emitted during laughter, natch). Get all of the laughs on Space.com. MEANWHILE IN SYRIA, Vice brought us the moving story of Ibrahim Mohammad, a refugee who’s working to bring relief to Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon — in the form of 3D printed limbs. Read the whole beautiful, harrowing tale here. Less dramatic, but no less useful was the revelation that 3D printing is a better way to produce pills, as reported by 3Dprint.com. And, in an even more stunning innovation for 3D printing, a woman in India received 3D printed titanium vertebrae implants, and was pain-free 12 days after the 10-hour, life-threatening surgery that this entailed. Slow clap.

Image courtesy flickr user Vagawi

Image courtesy flickr user Vagawi

Ride a dino

As TheHindu.com reported, Paleontologists in New South Wales are using 3D printing to recreate a dinosaur they’re quickly digging up. Combined with a planned VR experience, they’ll use the model they’re making to immerse people in an encounter with a dino. Just don’t get too friendly… or get any ideas about cloning extinct dinosaurs for inclusion in a theme park-like setting.

Get that (3D) model body

Most of us know David Barton gyms as body-conscious places where people go to “tighten things up” to the beats of a hired DJ (really). Now, as CBSNewYork tells it, members have a chance to drill down on what exactly that weight loss routine is doing, thanks to 3D scanning and a personalized 3D model you can use to “sculpt” a new you. Now, we can all have a model body.

Low Poly Human Male derived from a 3D PD model, by GDJ

Low Poly Human Male derived from a 3D PD model, by GDJ

3D Printed in Space: A Teen’s Winning Design

tools in space

Robert Hillian’s Multi-Tool, 3D printed on a Made In Space printer on the ISS

While just a senior in high school, Robert Hillian took on a challenge most of us can only dream of: design a tool to be used — and printed — in space.

It was all part of the Future Engineers competition hosted by NASA, SpaceX, and Shapeways, with in-orbit printing courtesy of Made In Space. Since winning the competition with his Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool, he’s graduated and now attends college in Huntsville, Alabama. These days, Robert keeps his eyes on even bigger prizes, hoping to one day work with NASA and SpaceX again. We caught up with him recently to ask about his design process, his future, and how he went from high school kid to NASA engineer.

Tell us a bit about what you set out to do for this contest. What was the goal?

My goal for the contest was fairly simple. I focused on delivering the best design I could, without over-complicating it. I was more determined to produce my best design in the limited time I had, rather than trying to win.

The tool you created for NASA — it’s a relatively simple idea, but the execution is really elegant and efficient. What inspired the design? Had you already been interested in tools and engineering?

Thank you, my design was inspired through my process rather than anything else. But one object that definitely influenced the final product was the Swiss Army knife. I enjoyed using tools but I never thought about designing one until the competition,  however I have always been interested in engineering. Creating new things is my passion, and engineering helps me to do just that.

The tool Robert designed for NASA and SpaceX Future Engineers competition

The tool Robert designed for NASA and SpaceX Future Engineers competition

How did you develop the tool? What was the design process like?

I have an elaborate personal engineering process. I first spent a few hours doing as much research as possible on everything from tools astronauts currently use on station to how 3D printers work. From there, I sketched out the maximum build dimensions, and started deciding on where I should place each tool I wanted to include. Afterwards, I had the final product.

What was it like to see your model printed aboard the International Space Station?

It was incredible to simply sit in the Payload Operations Integration Center [at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center] and see the astronauts onboard the station. But seeing that my design was in space, in the hands of astronauts, was unbelievable.

Were you always interested in space travel or engineering for space missions?

Ever since I was eight, I fell in love with space travel, and I don’t remember ever being more passionate about something.

Is this the first step in a career in space, or do you have other things in store? Does being in Huntsville keep you oriented toward NASA?

I definitely think this is a first step towards a career in space — as well as a step toward more ambitious career goals and opportunities. Being in Huntsville definitely helps keep me oriented toward my goals. I hope to one day soon start a company and work with NASA as well as SpaceX.

Any words of encouragement for other young people looking to get into 3D engineering?

My one piece of advice to aspiring engineers would be to never stop brainstorming. And that it’s a lot harder to succeed in engineering if your ideas do not sound crazy to some people.

Robert, center, at the Alabama State House for NASA Day

Robert, center, at the Alabama State House for NASA Day

The Week in 3D Printing

This week in 3D printing, we went from the bottom of prehistoric oceans to the remote villages of Appalachia, picking up some precious metals — and helping the blind to read — along the way.

Printing money

Fortune (appropriately) brought us the story of Desktop Metals, a company that has the likes of Alphabet, BMW, and Lowe’s ponying up $45 million in investment in the hopes of bringing down the cost of 3D metal printing. Takes coin to make coin.

And the blind will see

“Braille” by Roland DG Mid Europe Italia, licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Braille” by Roland DG Mid Europe Italia, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mashable reported on Team Tactile, a group of undergrads at MIT who are tackled the long-ignored, ripe-for-disruption world of braille translators for 2D text. Their model could cost a tiny fraction of the price of existing machines, thanks to 3D printing. While giving 2D-to-3D a whole new meaning.

Jurassic SeaWorld

Popular Mechanics branched out this week, detailing how scientists from the Smithsonian are basically living a paleontologist’s wildest dream — they’ve discovered a treasure trove of prehistoric, extinct marine life, and are using 3D modeling to reconstruct the ancient creatures. Safer than Jurassic Park, and almost as cool.

The Beverly Hillbillies should invest

Bloomberg told the tale of an innovator and a dream: Julielynn Wong, founder of 3D4MD, who wants to bring medical supplies to impoverished rural areas using 3D printing. Even in places where wood stoves still provide the heating, like remote Appalachia, or, one day, the frigid poles of Mars. Not exact black gold, but way more useful in a pinch.

Introducing: Making Good

We live in a fascinating time when, increasingly, technology enables everyday people to make their voices heard. From the Ice Bucket Challenge to Kickstarter, you, me, and our friends and family can very easily jump online and find a resource that could help us raise money for a cause we care about, fund a new product, raise awareness, and more.

Shapeways has a unique place in this new world: We bring products to life. That means that you can turn your passion for a cause into a product for sale — a source of fundraising — with zero investment. And Shapeways designers are doing just that. Designing keychains, pendants, rings, and objects that have a special meaning to their makers and their causes. In our new series, Making Good, we’ll tell the stories of those who are leading the way. Today, we’re excited to kick things off with three Shapeways designers who are already making (for) good on our platform.

pink ribbon

When Marjolein van der Vleuten and her family faced the challenge of her mother’s breast cancer, it inspired her to go beyond the boundaries of her family’s struggle and help raise funds to find a cure. Not only did she work with Shapeways designer Debbie Claxton to design swag like this gorgeous Pink Ribbon pin (benefitting Pink Ribbon), she and her Shapeways-sponsored team tackled the toughest cycling course in the French alps in support of the Dutch Cancer Society.

Taking a broader approach to philanthropy, LikeSyrup is a longtime Shapeways shop owner who channels all of his proceeds to a range of causes. Scott Denton, the designer behind LikeSyrup, explains that he’s “decided to donate all of the funds from purchases on Shapeways to charities in line with furthering our common goal to peace and prosperity.” Scott makes lovely, imaginative everyday jewelry pieces that each make their own statement. And now, behind the scenes, they also make a statement in terms of where your purchase makes an impact.

likesyrup

We also recently learned of another designer, Melanie Palishen, who uses Shapeways to create beautiful, meaningful products for charitable initiative the Battle Axe Project. She doesn’t offer the necklaces she creates through her Shapeways shop, but rather 3D prints the basic shape with us, then personally adds a touch of sparkling bling to polish it off. As her site details, the base design “is based on a found antique brooch of a battle axe that had it roots in the Suffragette Movement.” The Axe is available in a variety of Shapeways-printed metals, to which Palishen adds chains and Swarovski crystals. All profits from sales of the necklaces go to the National Organization for Women.

Screenshot 2017-02-08 15.48.22

This isn’t the first we’ve seen of our designers using 3D printing for good. On Giving Tuesday, we covered five designers using Shapeways to give back. And, we spoke with Michiel Cornelissen during the 2014 World Cup, whose KXX ring’s sales benefited social good projects in Brazil’s favelas.

Whatever cause you feel passionate about, why not use your design skills and Shapeways shop to make your voice heard? If you’re already donating all or part of your profits, we’d love to hear about your social good projects. Leave a comment below, or post your project in our Feature This forum for a chance to be featured in a future Making Good post.

Designer Spotlight: Nikolay Vorobyov — Disculpt

From his childhood in a small rural village to a career in cutting-edge 3D design, Nikolay Vorobyov of Disculpt proves that inspiration — and  innovation — can come from unlikely places. We were floored by his detailed, soulful depictions of wild animals, and we were even more impressed by his passion for creating them. Read on to find out how Nikolay bridges the gap between the digital and physical worlds.

Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! How did you decide to focus on these animal-inspired designs?
I grew up in a small village in the north of Russia on the banks of the river, on all sides surrounded by forests. In my childhood, I was always around a lot of animals, both domestic and wild in the nearby forest. Later, in my work, my interest in animals sculptures grew from real custom orders.

Deer Head Ring by Disculpt

Deer Head Ring by Disculpt

Having studied architecture, was it difficult to transition into creating natural-looking animal sculptures?
I tried a few jobs, from architecture to 3D game character design and animation, and eventually, digital sculpture. It was at a time when 3D printing had become more accessible.

How did you approach prototyping your jewelry?
Gradually, in my work with clients, the priority has shifted to sculpture for 3D printing instead of real-time models, and I like it, not depending on polycount, textures, or game engines. And most importantly, the possibility of seeing my own creation as part of material world. Now I have a little studio, and I can work at my pleasure. Modern technologies like 3D printing gave me this possibility. I hope sometime in the future I will be able to maintain my own production, instead of only digital sculpting.

Of course, when I became aware of the existence of Shapeways, I wanted to try to make something in metal or plastic. I had not thought too long what it could be, so naturally animals are my first experiment, in jewelry and wall-mounted heads.

Two Ravens Ring by Disculpt

Two Ravens Ring by Disculpt

Were there any particular challenges you needed to approach in the design of any of your products?
Was it difficult? I think i just went to what I’ve always wanted. I had much to learn by myself for many sleepless nights, but it was worth it.

I think I am a perfectionist. I dive into the fine details, trying to make the model more realistic. Sometimes i want to shout to myself, “Enough, stop it, go do something else already!”

To work with Shapeways was very, easy, and the latest updates makes it even easier. Shapeways gave me a chance to offer my digital art to people from around the world. And it has already ceased to be only “digital.” Now it is “real,” “material,” “actual.”

Proud Wolf Head by Disculpt

Proud Wolf Head by Disculpt

Thanks for sharing your process with us, Nikolay! Don’t miss his full range of designs in his Shapeways shop, and leave a comment below if you’d like to be featured in a future Designer Spotlight.

The Week in 3D Printing

Welcome to our latest series, The Week in 3D Printing. We’ll be rounding up the juiciest tidbits from the world of 3D printing, so you don’t have to scour the internet to keep up to speed. Without further ado….

The hottest 3D printing news this week’s roundup reads like a juicy episode of a Shonda Rhimes show — there’s sex, politics, and some scandal (okay, so maybe we’re being a little dramatic). Yes, yes, yes, let us tell you all about it.

The birds, the bees, and 3D printing

As Mashable’s Katie Dupere reported yesterday, 3D printing is helping to make sex ed more accessible to blind students, something which has been otherwise impossible through traditional teaching materials (photos, video, etc). Benetech, a nonprofit using technology to drive social change, is creating 3D printed anatomical models that can be used in the classroom — eventually aiming to make the files open-source for educators.

Venus De Space by Obsidiana

Maybe Benetech can make use of Obsidiana’s astro-naughty Venus De Space…

There’s definitely skin in this game

As covered by Aatif Sulleyman at The Independent, there have been some immense developments on the ability to 3D print lab-made skin — a serious game-changer in the medical field. There are two key components we’re particularly excited about. One is that the printed skin is comprised of three layers, taking full advantage of multi-material printing. Two, digital manufacturing is all about customized creation, so it enables the material to be developed from a patient’s cells, ensuring the resulting material isn’t rejected when transplanted. The full report is here, if you want to get seriously technical.

…and in related news

Folks are holding their breaths waiting to see how Trump’s hiring freeze could affect the FDA’s advancement in medical product development. Bloomberg BNA’s Jeannie Baumann explores the specific implications of the hiring freeze and what it means for key technologies like 3D printing, big data, informatics, and more.

Ending on a wheely well done idea

Writer Bianca Britton at CNN Tech documented how Layer is using 3D digital data and 3D printing to create bespoke wheelchairs, designed to individuals’ specific biometric data and needs. With customizable mattresses, shoes, and bikes already so accessible, it’s about time someone is making the same possible for such an important product.

This 3D Printed High Elf Miniature Is Downright Incredible

Late last year, we made our Black High Definition Acrylate (BHDA) available for sale by our Shop Owners, enabling them to market incredibly detailed models. Since then, we’ve been watching with a ton of excitement as miniature makers prototype and iterate their concepts to prepare them for sale. Shapeways Shop Owner Gareth Nicholas, the multitalented 3D designer and award-winning miniature painter, shared his thoughts and process around designing for and finishing BHDA on his blog, and we were so blown away that we had to share.

SEO Miniature painting, toy models, figurine, heroforge, Dnd miniatures, how to paint miniatures, dungeons and dragons, reaper miniatures, dungeons and dragons character generator, sheet, mini figures, fantasy miniatures. GAMES WORKSHOP, gameworkshop, citadel paints, war games, games, boardgames, high elve, shapeways

Nicholas took his already expert-level experience in painting Warhammer and Reaper miniature figurines to the next level by creating his own figures with 3D printing. On his blog he explains:

“Concept-wise there’s nothing particularly original here. Games Workshop have been starving me of High Elves recently (at the moment it’s starting to look doubtful they’ll ever return, but I live in hope) so I decided to make my own. As I usually do when I sculpt something, I spent a while with a pencil and paper sketching various designs for armour and so on. I rejected a few designs that I thought looked cool on the grounds that they probably wouldn’t print very well or look good when painted.”

SEO Miniature painting, toy models, figurine, heroforge, Dnd miniatures, how to paint miniatures, dungeons and dragons, reaper miniatures, dungeons and dragons character generator, sheet, mini figures, fantasy miniatures. GAMES WORKSHOP, gameworkshop, citadel paints, war games, games, boardgames, high elve,

To start the design, Nicholas blocked out the character with simple shapes in (free software) Blender. We strongly recommend emulating his process here because he kept the overall model at the same level of finish throughout his process. This allows him to make good judgements as he improves the model through iterations, working from the most general forms to the most finely detailed.

“I roughed out the proportions in Blender and spent a fair bit of time viewing the model from every angle until I was happy that the anatomy wasn’t too awful. I then went back and refined each element, and made decisions about how the hair and the cloak would flow.”

Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA Shapeways Hereforge, Garth Nicholas Dragon Maiden

Afterwards, Nicholas describes how he took the smooth finish of BHDA and made it glow with simple paints (check out his blog for more awesome expert painting tips).

“I elected to go with non-metallic metal when painting as there are some interesting shapes and I wanted to explore the reflections. For the steel parts I used my tried and tested method of highlighting with cyan and shading with red added to the mix.

“Overall I am quite pleased with how the miniature has turned out for a first effort at this scale and I’ve learnt a lot that will hopefully lead to better results in the future.”

Finally, check out the finished product below, and find more of Nicholas’s original miniatures in his Shapeways Shop here. This High Elf would be an impressive addition to your next Warhammer battle or Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA Shapeways miniatures Garth Nicholas Dragon Maiden Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA Shapeways miniatures Garth Nicholas Dragon Maiden Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA Shapeways miniatures Garth Nicholas Dragon Maiden Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA Shapeways miniatures Garth Nicholas Dragon Maiden

Looking for more custom-made miniatures? Check out Gareth Nicholas’ shop here, Tabletop & Wargaming accessories here, and the Miniatures marketplace here. And, let us know in the comments what figurines you’d like to see in the marketplace in the future!

Now, Make It Faster

Great news! Thanks to the ongoing hard work of our production teams, we’re announcing updates that will make 3D printing more accessible — by delivering your prints faster. We’ve significantly reduced print production times for a dozen Shapeways materials. From the time you order to the time we ship, our turnaround times for the materials below are now shorter than ever:

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These updates are part of our continuing commitment to reducing lead times. How do we do it? We innovate in manufacturing, processing, and shipping. Whether it’s by testing new materials and processes (shaving seven days off high definition acrylate), investing in updated machinery (halving lead times for two materials), or improving manufacturing efficiency (getting cast metals to you faster), we’re always working to enhance production quality and speed.

Now is the perfect time to get started on that project you’ve been dreaming of. Whatever you’re making, print it today in one of our faster-than-ever materials.

We’re always working hard to improve your Shapeways experience. Make sure to let us know in the comments what you’d like to see in 2017.

Our Community in 2016

The year ends tonight, and what a year it was. While the world got a little crazy in 2016, the Shapeways community grew and thrived. Here’s a look back on some of the ways you, our community, made 2016 our best year yet.

We made amazing projects!

Lumecluster created the Dreamer Regalia Armor for Felicia Day and showed what it takes to use Blender to create custom-fitting cosplay gear.

Our community grew closer, and through members who love 3D printing scale models, we made new friends around the world. The Kogashima Streetcar is a testament to how 3D printing can bring people together across borders.

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Winter finally came, and along the way we got to see some incredible props printed by Shapeways for (my personal favorite) HBO series Game of Thrones!

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We launched new materials and tools!

We introduced the strongest and lightest ever material at Shapeways, DMLS Aluminum! We saw it used to create working mountain bike prototypes and an amazing FPV drone!

For those who are prototyping and iterating on their designs, Shapeways started offering PLA to provide a quick turnaround.  Shop Owner Bhold showed us how she uses her own printer to iterate on her concepts and come up with the final product she sells on Shapeways.

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One of the best parts of printing with Shapeways is being able to create products that couldn’t be made without 3D printing. Building on these remarkable products, we launched innovative Interlocking Metals. For the first time ever, we can print complex geometries in precious and semi-precious materials.

At Shapeways we’re all about being responsive to our community. One feature designers have asked for was the ability to determine the orientation of of how the machine prints their model. So, we released the print orientation tool so makers can better control aesthetics and accuracy when printing with Selective Laser Sintering.

Above all, we had fun together

The best part of Shapeways is being part of an amazing community. This year we got to meet so many of our designers and Shop Owners in their own element.

We talked to Model Railroad enthusiasts about the best way to design a 3D printed N Scale train.

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We played games together at Gen Con using the amazingly artistic dice created by Shapeways designers.

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We teamed up with DJI to challenge the Shapeways community to help first responders save lives with augmented drones.

We saw old friends and enjoyed great math puns like the Klein Bottle opener created by Bathsheba.

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Finally, we joined forces with Fat Cat Fab Lab to sell designers’ unique jewelry and home decor as last-minute gifts for the holidays.

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We had an incredible time in 2016, and we’re looking forward to seeing you all in 2017!

Designer Spotlight: Ethan Chodos – Piece of Mind Design

Closing out 2016, we’re thrilled to be featuring Ethan Chodos as our last Designer Spotlight of the year. In his own words, “With so much negativity going on in the world, creating something unique and beautiful brings light into the world. I want to be part of that.” With this year having been so chaotic, we’re totally onboard with this mission!

Ethan’s Piece of Mind Design Shapeways shop is a lighthearted collection of game pieces, rings, and coffee mugs. Ethan takes inspiration from creative plays on words — and a few of his rescue pups. Check out our Q&A with him below for more details (and a super cute photo of his dogs).

You have a number of great, cheeky game pieces. How did you decide to model and design the ones you’ve done?
I wanted to create pieces that are unexpected, irreverent, thought-provoking and most of all, fun.

Knucklehead by Piece of Mind Design

Knucklehead by Piece of Mind Design

Are these generally used as game pieces, desk toys, etc?
All of those things. My thought at the time was that they could be used in a game like Monopoly, make a cool chess set, or be placed on your desk as a gag “trophy”.

Are there any others in the works?
Right now I am focused on making cups and rings. Just like those original game pieces, I try to infuse my latest designs with the same qualities.

Train Kept A Rollin' Ring- Size 12 (21.49 mm) by Piece of Mind Design

Train Kept A Rollin’ Ring- Size 12 (21.49 mm) by Piece of Mind Design

Your Hangin’ Pitbull Pendant is great and seems to have lots of fans.
I have four rescue dogs. Two are pitbulls. We all know they can get a bad rap. Yet, if you have one, you know how special they are. I just wanted to put that out there for my fellow dog lovers.

Hangin' Pitbull by Piece of Mind Design

Hangin’ Pitbull by Piece of Mind Design

The inspiration

Love Ethan’s creations as much as we do? Check out his Shapeways shop to see the full line of game pieces, mugs, and rings.

We Have the Droids You’re Looking For

For Star Wars fans, this is a huge week. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opened across the country and, for Shapies, there’s even more Star Wars action in the galaxy. Because now, you can now create your own personalized Star Wars droids with the 3D Print Studio at Disney Store, powered by Shapeways. The 3D Print Studio allows collectors to customize their own droids, choosing the droid model, size, material, and even custom text. These custom Star Wars droids are only available through DisneyStore.com. So harness the power of The Force — and the amazing power of 3D printing — to create your own custom droids.

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Dream team: 3D printed R2-D2, C-3PO, and BB-8 droids

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A pair of 3D printed Astromech droids in stainless steel

Designer Spotlight: Daren Strange – East Tower Design

Daren Strange is the designer behind East Tower Design, a Shapeways Shop that boasts some beautifully designed architectural models and cityscapes from around the world. We’ve asked him about his work below, which lends some incredible insight into his design process and what it might mean for architecture.

Speaking of being illuminated about Daren’s work, we love that you can take a lamp (or even just your phone flashlight) to light his city models from below (check out his photos of it here).

Which cities have been among the most popular for customers?
I have sold more Houston and Los Angeles models. The scale of the cities was very important. I try to print the smallest buildings I can without them failing to resolve. I have tried to test most of the materials at Shapeways, determining the limits of the machines and allowing me to minimize the amount of material required. Chicago is one of the models I scaled where it really requires the space of two models to print well, and I have not submitted for sale.

Los Angeles, California by East Tower Design

Los Angeles, California by East Tower Design

How do you decide which monuments to design?
I am developing a model of New York that covers the size of 12 of the printed cities, but I am only done with three out of the twelve parts. I also have several more cities ready to be printed. If I sell 100 of the city models I will take requests, and develop more choices.

You’ve designed a few stand-alone buildings and structures. How did you decide to do that?
The choices I have made with my architectural projects is directly related to my ability to remove as much solidity as I can, in other words, skeletonize the building. If you reference my model of the John Hancock building in Chicago, and my model of the Bank of China building in Hong Kong, you can see they are perfect candidates, since they are iconic in form with either the actual structural steel in the case of the John Hancock, or configuration with the Bank of China. Currently the John Hancock building received a 67% print success which means I have to update the file for sale. I see this as a setback, but it also means that I am on the literal cutting edge of the tolerances for your machines. As a designer, that gives me an advantage.

Concerning my model of the Burj al Arab in Dubai, it is unique in its ability to remove the entire habitable space and still have a model that is easy to understand and recognize, especially with a helicopter pad with a scale helicopter. I keep this model in the corner of my office and the sun hits it directly during the day. It is absolutely stunning, and represents the future of printing for architects and owners.

Burj Al Arab, Dubai by East Tower Design

Burj Al Arab, Dubai by East Tower Design

What’s next for your modeling and designing?

I am experimenting with projecting real-time information onto the models, such as current weather, or traffic. The idea of having a 3D printed solid model with animated information is fascinating to me.

I am also developing a paper box with led lights to place the city models on top of.

What inspires you to design?
As to my inspiration, I love architecture. It is the ultimate in sculptured reality, and it has to provide the Vitruvian principles of firmness, commodity, and delight. The complexity of a city and all of its buildings, rivers and geography is comforting. In the same way the complexity required to produce a building is also comforting. If you have seen a working model file from the Autocad Revit software you know what I am talking about.

I am removing myself from the traditional process of architecture and hopefully inserting a useful addition for communication between architects, themselves and their clients. My endgame is consulting business where I deliver 3D printed models to architects for internal use after which they can sell them to the client, or donate them to schools. My focus in development is being able to convert a 3D file for delivery (scale 3D printed model) well within the schedule of each phase of an architectural project.

Architects use varying pieces of software to produce construction documents. Currently, the process to just “print out a building” is fraught with failure and expectations unfulfilled. The size and material demand for scale 3D printed models are prohibitive in nature, although they do not compare to traditional methods of architectural interns using exacto knives to produce paper models. I have consulted on several architectural projects, where the architects wanted a 3D printed model and ultimately the cost of production (including my fee) is the limiting factor. If I can lower the cost of the 3D print by removing irrelevant information and by skeletonizing or even hollowing an entire building I can bring the cost into play for useful models that architects will happily pay for.

Boston, Massachusetts by East Tower Design

Boston, Massachusetts by East Tower Design

We’re excited to see all that Daren will achieve with 3D architectural models. In the meantime, check out his incredible shop here, and let us know in the comments what buildings or cities you’d like to hold in your hand.