Category Archives: Miniatures

How to Turn Your Hobby into 7000 Items Sold

Grant 4-4-0 Metal - Zscale by Stony Smith Designs

Grant 4-4-0 Metal – Zscale by Stony Smith Designs

What do you doodle on the margins of your notes? Stay up late reading about online? Build communities around? Whatever it is, chances are you have something 3-dimensional to contribute to it.

For Stony Smith, who just sold his 7,000th scale model railroad accessory on Shapeways (!!), the seeds of that hobby were planted early on. His parents “were both very crafty, and very strongly into Do It Yourself,” he told us. Today, Smith is a uniquely Shapeways kind of success story – one that proves that, with the right tools, an individual’s hobby can end up enriching a whole community.

As we celebrate his 7000th sale, we thought it was a great time to ask him about the secrets of his success. Take note!

Start With What You Love, and Make It Better

Stony Smith took his love of drawing, combined it with his love of architecture, and then, went 3D. “I’ve worked with 3D design/drawing since 1974, but it was always limited to just 2D renders until 3D printing came along. In 2008, I started building a Zscale (1:220), but I found that the choices for buildings in that scale are extremely limited. I fumbled for a good while with trying to make paper model buildings. Sometime in 2009, I read about Shapeways on the HackADay.com website, and thought, ‘I wonder if 3d printing would work?’ I built a model [of a house], uploaded it, and received a ‘Manifold Error’ message. After several misdirections, I redrew the house using OpenSCAD, and poof! It worked!” OpenSCAD is a great way to create 3D models if you have some programming experience, or have zero 3D modeling experience. Learn more here.

The real-life house that inspired Stony's first 3D printed design

The real-life house that inspired Stony’s first 3D printed design

Get to Know Your Community, and Follow Their Lead

Stony was immersed in a community of makers who all loved scale models, and who challenged each other to create and innovate. “Since 2008 I’ve participated in a forum of fellow ‘Z-heads’ and [I] showed the model to one of the members, Steve Van Til (RIP), who then asked me the crucial question: ‘That’s cool, but can you make one of these?’ That’s where it all started. I could blame all of this on Steve. It’s been a never-ending cycle of ‘That’s cool, can you make one of these?’ ever since.”

Stony's response to "That's cool, but can you make one of these?" The Taconite Orr Car II

Stony’s response to “That’s cool, but can you make one of these?” The Taconite Orr Car II

Embrace Making as a Pure Hobby (Unless You’re Looking to Become a Brand)

Sometimes, you want to make a huge mark on an industry. Sometimes, it’s better to let your day job be your job, and your hobby be purely fun (even if it makes you money). Stony stresses, “This is a HOBBY for me. There’s enough ‘work’ in my day job to keep me fully active. I get a significant amount of relaxation and satisfaction just while doing the drawings, and that’s why I only work on designing things that look interesting to me or catch my attention. I don’t need the distraction of trying to become dependent on the income. That would make this a ‘job’ not a ‘hobby.’ And when someone takes one of my items, paints it properly and places it on their layout, then if I see it in a photo or IRL, the thrill of ‘I did that!’ is what keeps me going.”

Let Your Other Passions Inspire You

For Smith, a career that he truly enjoys inspires how he manages his Shapeways Shop. “My day job is in high-powered big data analytics. Throughout my career, I’ve always been ‘the computer guy.’ There are a number of methods/tools from the day job that I bring over to watching the status of my shop here at Shapeways, like knowing that I’ve sold 7000 items!” He’s also surpassed $10,000 in sales, as we reported last year.

So, what are you waiting for? Do you have a hobby you’d like to take to the next level, but you’re not quite sure how? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll be happy to connect you with the resources you need. Ask away!

Cover image: Ferris Wheel – Zscale by Stony Smith Designs, photo by Karin Snyder

Designer Spotlight: Jin Kyeom – VITAMIN-IMAGINATION

When I was a child, I wanted to be a paleontologist (a scientist who studies fossils) because I thought dinosaurs were absolutely incredible. My parents took me to the Museum of Natural History here in New York, where I discovered that paleontologists slept in tents during their digs — and promptly changed my mind on that career. Alas. Over twenty years later, at my post as PR Lead here at Shapeways, I stumbled upon Jin Kyeom’s Shapeways’ shop and felt positively giddy; Jin’s incredible 3D designs bring dinosaurs back to life (in the artistic sense, obviously). Jin lives in South Korea and works as an educator teaching people of all ages about dinosaurs.

Sifting through the array of models in Jin’s shop, it’s impossible not to let your imagination run a little wild, assisted by the fact that many of the designs are paired with an animation of the 3D modeled dinosaur in action (running, attacking – it’s all there). Due to my weakness for awkward-looking animals, the Carnotaurus model is my favorite  look at its tiny little arms! How does that dinosaur give hugs? Scratch its head? Do anything, basically?

Carnotaurus (Medium / Large size) by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Carnotaurus (Medium / Large size) by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Obviously wanting to fangirl, I asked Jin lots of questions about his models for this Designer Spotlight, so without further ado:

What do you use to guide the dinosaur designs?
Because dinosaurs are extinct, restoring them in a scientifically accurate way is not an easy task. I collect not only the skeleton pictures of the dinosaurs I want to make, but also skeleton data of similar animals. In addition, since extinct dinosaurs are steadily studied, I review the latest academic information. If the collected scientific data and my imagination are in the wrong combination, we can create a strange monster so I review skeletal data of existing animals that are similar to the dinosaurs that I want to restore. The skin patterns of reptiles, for example, are extremely beneficial in guiding the creation of my dinosaur designs.

I use ZBrush for dinosaur-making, Rhino3D for product structure, and KeyShot for rendering. When I prepare a lot of materials, I make the dinosaurs with a ZBrush. In the middle, I get advice from a dinosaur researcher in South Korea. So I try to make nice designs of scientifically accurate dinosaurs.

Tyrannosaurus vs. Triceratops Skeleton by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Tyrannosaurus vs. Triceratops Skeleton by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Your dinosaur designs are now incredibly complex and highly detailed. How long did it take you to master 3D design?
I have been studying ZBrush since 2011 and have been using it until now. In the beginning, my ability was a mess. Recent dinosaurs I have made are better in design and scientific knowledge than my past dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs I had studied and worked on for about two years were the first to receive praise. While I’m much more knowledgeable than when I first started, I continue to study, learn, and strive to improve my skills because there’s always room for growth.

Jin’s earliest Breeding Kit models

How long does it take to model each design?
Typically, I invest a week to design one dinosaur, but it’s a continuation of a long process of research, collecting data, and consulting experts. When the print has been completed, the work is post-processed with paint.

Ceratopsian small package by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Ceratopsian small package by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Check out Jin’s shop – it’s a very realistic-looking blast from the past (which is also what probably killed the dinosaurs, womp womp). There are also Jin’s adorably cartoonish baby dinos in the New Breeding Kit section, for all your cuteness needs.

Triceratops Head skull flower pot by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Triceratops Head skull flower pot by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Congratulations, Winners of the Sketchfab #3DSculptTabletopWars Challenge!

At Shapeways, we love working with fellow design communities, so we were delighted when we got the opportunity to sponsor Sketchfab’s monthly 3D sculpting challenge. We asked their community to come up with the coolest tabletop wargaming miniatures they could. They didn’t disappoint — the quality of each submission was phenomenal.

Judging with a combination of Sketchfab and Shapeways Community members and staff, including Shapeways Shop owner mz4250 of the The DM Workshop, we chose from the entries here:

 

…And the winners were:

Winner: 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

We loved seeing these designs take form in the Sketchfab forums, and we can’t wait to see how they’ll turn out 3D printed! Until then, share your latest designs in the comments below for a chance to be featured on the blog.

We Just Got Faster, Again — FUD Lead Times Cut in Half!

Attention wargamers, model railroaders, and miniaturists! Last week, we shared that we were shortening production turnaround times on a dozen materials, but we’re not done yet. This week, we’re cutting the lead time for one of our most popular materials, Frosted Ultra Detail plastic, in half — from six business days to three. That means you can get your planes, trains, and figurines in record-breaking time!

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We were able to shave this much time off the process by adding new machines to increase manufacturing capacity while making our planning and post-processing systems more efficient.

Now is a great time to print your favorite model railroad car, sci-fi miniatures, or wargaming products — and enjoy them faster than ever!

For a chance to be featured on the blog, let us know in the comments how you’re using Frosted Ultra Detail plastic in your designs.

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!

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.

All Aboard With Boxcar Models

Earlier this week, we showed you how to take 3D printed model trains from raw prints to gorgeous finished pieces. It’s all part of our holiday celebration of how our designers and makers bring Tiny Worlds to life. Two of the gorgeous trains we featured in that post were created by Alexander Clark of Boxcar Models.

CNSM 203 - 214 MD by Boxcar Models

CNSM 203 – 214 MD by Boxcar Models

Like many of our model train designers, Alexander’s pieces fill a need not met by the market — and his process for creating them has been a journey of discovery. “Railway modelers always want ‘that’ model that is not available commercially, and that’s how I got started… if I wanted them, I knew I was going to have to make them myself,” he told us.

This desire led him down the path of 3D design. “Having an engineering background, I knew my way around a drawing and knew how to use a computer, so I learned how to draw a model that could be 3D printed. I started simple and produced what is basically an electrical cabinet. From there, things just grew to more larger and complex models,” he added. Those models don’t come directly from Clark’s imagination, but they aren’t always easy to source: “If I am lucky there is an engineering drawing of the model. If not, I have to either measure the real thing or source endless photographs and make a best guess at dimensions.” That’s when the design work really begins.

When creating the designs themselves, he strives for maximum accuracy, opting to draw his models in true-to-life 1:1 dimensions. Using additive fabrication software Netfabb, he then checks his models for printability, making any necessary fixes manually before scaling them down for printing. The final tweaks come after, when he makes a few adjustments for the material design parameters, “so there has to be a bit of compromise between 100% accuracy and what will actually print.”

Amtrak Horizon Cafe V2 Doors by Boxcar Models

Amtrak Horizon Cafe V2 Doors by Boxcar Models

We’re grateful that Alexander took on this unusual design challenge. Boxcar Models’ exquisitely detailed coaches, freight cars, and accessories not only allow enthusiasts to find models that wouldn’t exist otherwise, they also make for utterly unique gifts for collectors looking for rarer-than-rare finds.

CNSM 250 - 255 Combine by Boxcar Models

CNSM 250 – 255 Combine by Boxcar Models

Check out Alexander’s full range of trains and accessories in his Shapeways shop. And whether you’re looking to recreate the past through scale models or create mods for your favorite miniatures, don’t miss the trains, trucks, figurines, and more in the Tiny Worlds collections of our Holiday Gift Guide. Let us know how your holiday projects are shaping up in the comments.

Gifts to Supercharge Their Slot Cars

For slot car enthusiasts, it once took complex custom mods to improve the performance of their racers — until 3D printing made it painless. As we continue to zoom in on the Tiny Worlds our designers bring to life, we’re taking a look at a maker who makes it easy to create perfect holiday gifts for the slot racers in your life.

1/32 Spirit BMW 2002 Chassis for Slot.it pod by OLIFER Performance Slot Car Parts

1/32 Spirit BMW 2002 Chassis for Slot.it pod by OLIFER Performance Slot Car Parts

One of the most respected names in slot racing, Olifer Performance Slot Cars, began its life as Olifer Racing, a champion 1970s slot car team. A second generation of Olifer racers decided to share their know-how with other enthusiasts, choosing to offer 3D printed chassis, motor mounts, and dozens more accessories on Shapeways.

Long Can motor mount - Slot.it compatible by OLIFER Performance Slot Car Parts

Long Can motor mount – Slot.it compatible by OLIFER Performance Slot Car Parts

Olifer’s accessories and modifications, like this 1/32 MRRC Chaparral 2F Chassis for Slot.it pod, work with many popular models. They also improve a car’s performance and speed while remaining easy to add — and remove — in minutes with a small screwdriver and allen key.

1/32 MRRC Chaparral 2F Chassis for Slot.it pod by OLIFER Performance Slot Car Parts

1/32 MRRC Chaparral 2F Chassis for Slot.it pod by OLIFER Performance Slot Car Parts

Check out Olifer’s full line of performance parts here, and don’t miss our full selection of gifts to help you Race to the Holidays, whatever Tiny Worlds your giftees are into. And let us know in the comments: What are some of your favorite slot car mods?

How to Make It a Model (Train) Holiday

CNSM 741 – 776 Silverliner Series Coach by Box Car Models

The holidays always evoke nostalgia for family traditions. For my family, one of these traditions was to put a model train set around the base of the Christmas tree. It was that finishing touch that said the holidays were really here. This week, we’re offering gift ideas from all the Tiny Worlds our designers create, and I hope you’ll be inspired to make model trains a part of your family’s holiday traditions.

Shapeways offers an enormous variety of model trains that are as detailed as those you’d see on tracks around the world. But, 3D printed models do require a few finishing touches. Model trains are printed in a number of scales and sizes, and generally produced in Frosted Detail Plastic. The post-processing of these trains in Frosted Detail requires a few tools:

  • Acetone or Simple Green

  • Primer

  • Synthetic Paint Brush Set or Airbrush Kit

  • Acrylic or Enamel Paint

  • Matte or Satin Varnish

Once the tools are assembled, you are well on your way to getting your perfect model train ready.

1. Model Prep

If there is any residual oil or wax support material left over from the production process, this can easily be removed using acetone or Simple Green solvent. You can simply dip and air dry the model. Or, using a paint brush, you can lightly spread the solvent on the train and air dry.

**TIP** If you notice an excess amount of residual support material or details are distorted, this may call for a reprint. Please send an image and order number to service@shapeways.com.

2. First Coat – Prime

Primer is added as a first coat in order to provide a uniform surface and offer a stronger hold for your paints. Recommended primer colors include black, grey, or white. Your primer color selection will depend on the colors you decide for your top coat.

In order to keep the finest details visible, it is best to use a thin primer. For example, Krylon Color Master Primer will do the job.

3. Paint

Models can be painted in a variety of ways. The most common methods for painting a high-detail finish include airbrushing and hand-painting.

Airbrush painting is a great method for coating large areas of your design more quickly. This will require a fine-tip sprayer kit and masking to cover the areas that are not intended to be painted.

Hand-painting might be a bit more accessible to those who don’t want to invest in an airbrush kit. For this method, a range of small-sized synthetic brushes are recommended. The synthetic hairs do not fray, have a longer life span, and allow for finer points due to their stiffer structure.

With hand-painting, we suggest using acrylic or enamel model paints. First, add your larger base details using a larger brush. Then, with a smaller brush, use the lighter colors to make your details pop. Once painted, let the material dry completely before moving on to the next step.

4. Clear Coat

The final step to finishing your model train is to add a varnish. This will seal the paints and offer the appropriate sheen. Choose a matte or satin finish depending on your glossiness preference.

The varnish should be thinly applied and set to dry. Once dried, the model is ready to be displayed.

HO scale 1:87 CSX SD40-3 Wabtec Cab by Boxcar Models

This year, we hope you’ll make model trains a part of your holiday tradition, whether you make and give them as gifts or set them up for all to see. Who knows? Maybe hand-finishing model trains can be your new favorite family holiday pastime.

And, for everyone on your list, make sure to check out our Holiday Gift Guide. It’s also full of ways to bring all kinds of Tiny Worlds to life.

Do you have any tips or tricks to finishing your model trains? We would love to hear them, so please share them with the community on our forum or in the comments below.

Designer Spotlight: Dmitry Ustinov – Forpost D6 Miniatures

As we take a deep dive this week into the Tiny Worlds our makers bring to life on Shapeways, we’re taking a closer look at a designer whose miniatures add dimension to tabletop gaming. Dmitry Ustinov of Forpost D6 Miniatures focuses on Warhammer, 40000 Mordheim, and Necromunda, designing incredible characters, tiny accessories (from milk jugs to helmets), cannons, and war vehicles.

1/100, 1877 de Bange cannon, 155mm by Forpost D6

1/100, 1877 de Bange cannon, 155mm by Forpost D6

How do you find inspiration for your more creative models?
In the first place, I look for models that are in-demand by miniatures collectors and game players. Most of my models I originally created for myself and some were made at the request of other people. It’s an interesting challenge — to combine the desired appearance, printability and practical shape-form. Many good ideas come from searching custom models, which are produced by conventional methods such as resin casting. Some models were quite simple to remake using 3D modeling, and some (such as people’s faces and bodies) become challenging. Of course, when you hold the printed model in your hands, you get a better idea of how to improve the design and which new products will turn out better next time. Sometimes users of Shapeways suggest interesting ideas, but it’s difficult to make the designs by myself and I have to hire third-party modelers. I’ve commissioned designs of Cultist Chan, for example.

What’s your process behind creating miniature tanks? Do you base them on historical models?
The process of model tank design begins with a studying of the drawings, blueprints, and photographs. To begin, you have to determine the size of the vehicle which depends on material consumption and the amount of detalization. I usually make the body hollow and without a bottom panel to reduce the cost of production. Some tanks I design with movable turrets, but in a small scale, this is usually not required. The main problem is the representing of machine gun barrels because printing rules requires them to be thick. But otherwise, 3D printing technology competes with the traditional casting process.

For the majority of “railroad” scales such as 1/220, 1/160, 1/144, I do historically accurate models. For tabletop scales such as 15mm and 28mm I mostly make fictional vehicles.

1/144 Renault FT tank (3 pieces) by Forpost D6

1/144 Renault FT tank (3 pieces) by Forpost D6

You said you have a long to-do list of requests from people. What are some of the most popular requests you get?
I get a lot of requests to make a model on a different scale. So now I’m trying to publish a design at multiple scales. I’m often asked to make a head to create an unusual conversion for their Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard armies. Also, they ask to make weapons for action figures. A long list consists of requested historic tanks and artillery pieces. Sometimes people need to alter the model for easy copy-casting.

One of your models is not like the others. What’s the story behind Peter the Piglet and his tractor?
I am interested in challenging myself in different subjects, not just miniatures. I have noticed that there are popular memes printed in colored sandstone. Peter the Piglet is one of the Russian internet memes. It was originally a character from a children’s book, to which a blogger came up with their own story, changing the essence of what is happening in the pictures. Somehow, one of the pictures became widely spread among Internet users. Thus the image of a piglet Peter has become a symbol of the emigrant who leaves their country for whatever reasons (political, economic), taking with him something of value (in this case, the tractor).

Peter the Piglet and His Tractor by Forpost D6

Peter the Piglet and His Tractor by Forpost D6

Discover more miniatures in the Tiny Worlds collections in our Holiday Gift Guide. And, to learn more about miniatures in general, Dmitry suggests joining the Facebook group where folks share game and collector miniatures available on Shapeways. Members not only share their own creations but also post things they’ve found while clicking around the site. We also encourage you to check out the array of awesome miniatures in Dmitry’s Shapeways shop.

4 Ways to Bring Tiny Worlds to Life

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It’s like traveling back in time. Or shapeshifting into a much tinier form. Miniatures are empowering and magical, and they capture our imagination like almost nothing else. Whether it’s a scale model of a train that hasn’t existed since the 19th century, a reborn dinosaur that stalks your desktop, a lightning-fast slot car, or a micro-scale camper and tent setup just like the one Dad used to have. This week in our Holiday Gift Guide, we’re celebrating the Tiny Worlds you bring to life, and helping you share the miniatures magic with your loved ones this holiday season. Read on for four ways to make the little things count this year.

1. Help them take a custom flight into the past with this Paint-It-Yourself N Scale Cessna by Stony Smith Designs

Cessna 172 - N Scale by Stony Smith Designs

Cessna 172 – N Scale by Stony Smith Designs

2. Build Their Train Set with this ultra-detailed Chicago Car by Traction Scale Models

3000/6000 series Chicago Cars - HO Scale 1:87 by Traction Scale Models

3000/6000 series Chicago Cars – HO Scale 1:87 by Traction Scale Models

3. Satisfy their love for Dinos with this adorable/creepy Compy Desktop Figurine by VFXguy’s desktop toys

Compy dinosaur desktop figurine by VFXguy's desktop toys

Compy dinosaur desktop figurine by VFXguy’s desktop toys

4. Join the Race to the Holidays with this model AC Cobra by 3DCerebro

AC Cobra by 3DCerebro

AC Cobra by 3DCerebro

More than just perfect gifts for imaginative loved ones, many of the creations featured this week wouldn’t exist were it not for the ingenuity of our community of designers. With their incredibly detailed scale models, Shapeways designers are miniaturizing things that have never before been recreated, satisfying unique interests in ways that would never have been possible without 3D printing. Discover more of their Tiny Worlds in our Holiday Gift Guide, and let us know in the comments what scale models you want to see more of on Shapeways.

Designer Spotlight: Gavin Rose – Sparkshot Custom Creations

Gavin Rose of Sparkshot Custom Creations has been interested in British outline railways since a very early age and has been making models since he was 12 years old. Almost 20 years later, he’s still at it, now with the help of 3D design and 3D printing. Gavin does a tremendous job of leveraging 3D printing to create model trains that are otherwise unavailable through mass-manufactured models.

How’d you get into 3D modeling of trains?

Prior to doing 3D modeling I used to (and still do) railway modeling the usual ways — build kits or ‘bash’ them — modifying them to represent a different version of an engine, either real or theoretical. Before this, I dabbled in military modeling, but the bug has always been for railways more than anything. Amongst a few other things, 3D printing creates the opportunity for me (and you!) to now own models of railway prototypes the mainstream firms haven’t created. You have to buy your own wheels, motors and bits for the printed model but once done, it’s great to see the engine you’ve always longed for pottering about on a layout.

You mention that models of railway prototypes you’re building aren’t available from mainstream firms. Tell us about that and what you’re focusing on.

Most of the mainstream Ready to Run (RTR) manufacturers concentrate on the latter British Railways (BR) period of railway history and I can only estimate this is because most of the people alive today remember that period, and not earlier. As such, nostalgia has its power well established in BR territory, which undoubtedly is the reason that the mainstream companies cater to BR models. This means that newcomers to the hobby end up with a choice that is predominantly BR so sales of those products increase, mainstream companies keep making them … and so the cycle continues.

There’s nothing wrong with BR, but the post-Grouping (and especially pre-Grouping) suffers dreadfully, and many locomotive classes aren’t given any attention while the popular ones are redone over and over and over. This is a shame, and along with it goes some of the history and knowledge of what our railways looked like, once upon a time. If more people were to model the earlier periods we could hopefully get back to some degree and accurate portrayal of what was once lost and my hope is that 3D printing will help to bring the past back to the present. Currently Sparkshot Custom Creations is concentrating on the earlier periods, so keep an eye out. :)

We love that you’re using modern-day manufacturing to bring back the past! Tell us more about how you design these unique models.

For customization, I have done a series of variants of most of the locomotive classes. Some are real variants, but a lot are freelance also to enable me and anyone who is inclined to model certain things in a more theoretical rather than factual way. Obvious detail variations are the most important such as the standard VS extended tank E2 and the various chimneys some engines ran with. The new-to-the-SCC range Furness J1 class has a separate pack of chimneys to order that allow the engine to take on different guises, the simple change in chimney can make all the difference.  People have asked me to make a few alterations here and there and I have done it; the creation of the Cambrian Class 61 was due to consultation to give the Furness K2 some alterations but the work became more elaborate than originally envisioned as research continued. It has however produced a new loco choice all together, so all good!

At the time of this interview, the next engine to be completed and released for sale will be the Furness Railway J1 Class. There is already a Furness Railway 21 Class that’s also known as the K2 available in several variants, so for the meantime, I’m concentrating on this particular railway company and then will move on to another.

Check out Gavin’s incredible model train designs in his shop here. He’s created some videos on post-processing his models here and here if you’re looking for a glance into his methods.

He’s also requested that if anyone has built, painted, and are running his creations on a model railway, to please send him photos or video. As Gavin says, “I’d very much like to see what people do with the kits, there’s something quite ‘happifying’ seeing your own designs all completed by another!”

Black High Definition Acrylate Now Open for Sale! + New Design Guidelines

Earlier this year, we launched Black High Definition Acrylate to our community. The material was such a success, we saw amazing scale model planes, miniature figurines and cool science fiction characters. Our makers were so enthusiastic that we had to rapidly expand capacity to meet demand.  Since then, we tested the material to the limits and learned how to make it better through feedback from the community. We are now ready to open B-HDA up for shop owners to make this material available to their customers.

 

Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA Shapeways Hereforge, Decapod, Max Grueter

Designers from From left to right: Hereforge, Decapod, Max Grueter

While we expand this material offering, we also wanted to share some changes to our design guidelines based on what we have learned is possible and what is more difficult to print consistently.  Updating the design guidelines was important in order to provide more reliable and higher quality prints to shop owner’s customers.

For B-HDA, the design guidelines are driven by the printing process.  B-HDA uses Direct Light Projection technology where light is projected through a liquid resin which solidifies each layer of a design on a build platform.  As the platform moves up, the next layer is cured by the projected light.  To secure your model to the build platform and support overhangs, intertwined toothpick-sized scaffolds are printed to reinforce your structure.  Since the support structures are the same as the material of the model, they are carefully removed by cutting and can make certain thin walls/wires or complex geometries more difficult to process.

Test wires Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA

Test model for wires in Black High Definition Acrylate

We found that unsupported wires should be a minimum of 0.7 mm thick and supported wires should be a minimum of 0.8 mm thick for wires less than 35 mm in length.  This is determined by our ability to successfully break away support material and clean your model.  Wires that are too thin will break during post processing.  As wires get longer, they typically need to be thicker in order to maintain their strength.  We recommend making your wires 0.1 mm thicker for every additional 20 mm in length over 35 mm to ensure we can post process it without breakage.

Test Black High Definition Acrylate BHDA

Test model for wall thickness

We added similar guidelines for wall thickness.  Walls under 5 mm in length should be a minimum of 0.5 mm thick.  For every additional 20 mm in length over 5 mm, we recommend making supported walls 0.2 mm thicker and unsupported walls 0.25 mm thicker.  The minimum wall thickness is determined by our ability to successfully remove support material without breaking your model and prevent the model from warping.

Finally for hollow models we added a requirement of at least 2 escape holes with a minimum diameter of 6 mm each per interior cavity. Escape holes are important for us to be able to clean the inside of the model and remove any uncured resin.

 

Black High Definition Acrylate Hereforge Shapeways

Designs by Heroforge

Black High Definition Acrylate has been a smash hit material for scale models and prototypes because of its high detail and smooth surface.  It looks great right out of the printer, but also takes well to painting and post-processing.  It’s flexible and durable.  We have seen some incredible products in our factories and can’t wait to see what shop owners are going to make available for sale.

If you have questions or comments about BHDA please join the discussion in our BHDA Shopper material thread here. Do you have a product you are offering for sale here? Share your photos and products in our feature this forum here.

Designer Spotlight: Ellen Mueller #TinyTuesday

For this Tiny Tuesday, we’re highlighting Ellen Mueller because we’ve fallen in love with her tiny depictions of office life.

Ellen is an internationally exhibited interdisciplinary artist who explores the everyday challenge of living with hyperactive news media and corporate management systems. She creates experiences that engage with social and political issues through imagery, performance, and installation.

While Ellen’s Shapeways shop reminds us a bit of Office Space (particularly this little stapler in red), a number of her designs are part of a cheeky, in-progress 3D print-on-demand sculptural street art project, she’s called Synergism. Each cluster of office-related objects is designed to fit into corner-shaped spaces– and Ellen is encouraging participants to print these subtle sculptures, and install them on office buildings they feel could spontaneously start leaking bureaucracy (DMVs, corporate headquarters, office parks, etc). Note: we’re not endorsing that anyone glue something to anything that doesn’t belong to you. Each design is 3D modeled in SketchUp and is defaulted to print in matte bronze steel. Ellen chose this particular material because of its connotations with other large-scale recognizable public sculptures, whether life-size portraits of politicians or members of military on horseback.

She currently works as an Assistant Professor of Art at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and while the school doesn’t have its own 3D printer, she uses Shapeways to give 3D printing access to her students. Side note: if you haven’t noticed, we’re all about students using our services!

We’re also particularly loving that while Ellen’s creating some incredible miniatures, she has some ideas for bigger, better tiny things if 3D printing limitations weren’t an issue, saying, “I would print tiny houses that are really well insulated. I think it would save a lot of energy.”

 

Welcome South Park to the Shapeways Community!

ATTENTION South Park super fans, technophiles and collectible geeks – South Park Studios have joined the Shapeways community and has opened their very own South Park Shop!  For the first time you will be able to purchase some of your favorite South Park characters – in physical form.

South Park four boys and street sign

The collector-inspired character line is printed in full-color sandstone and the shop will feature year-round introductions of new and old characters. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have hand signed a limited number of Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman figurines which select fans, who purchase the full set, will have an opportunity to win in these first two weeks of the South Park shop opening here at Shapeways.  (contest rules below)

The South Park shop also includes fan favorites like Candidate Garrison, Terrance and Phillip, Tweek and many more.  Each month a new character will be added to the shop so make sure you follow the South Park shop so you are the first to know when new characters launch!

So what inspired South Park Studios to join the Shapeways community? To celebrate their 20th season of South Park of course!  Fans around the world have continued to connect with the virtual world of South Park for two decades and now digital manufacturing can bring South Park out of the screen and into our physical world in a unique and dynamic way episode after episode.

3D Printing can offer a wealth of benefits including real time customization for fans and direct interaction with the brand. The South Park shop on Shapeways is the inaugural partnership with Source 3, South Park Studios and White Clouds.

Kudos to Viacom and South Park Studios for embracing 3D technology by setting an example in the industry and forging a stronger relationships with their fans.

tweek front small

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