Category Archives: How To

Printing the Impossible: Evolution of a Fidget Cube

fidget toy

Today’s How I Made It post explores a journey to 3D printing a fidget toy. Fidget toys have been trending since October, and it’s amazing to see our community come up with ever-more-brilliant ways to keep those hands busy during deep thoughts, Netflix binges, meetings….

I usually start my designs by prototyping at home with a desktop FDM/filament 3D printer. But some models are really, really difficult to print on a filament-based 3D printer, and my “Fidget Cube” model is one of the worst: it has enclosed hinges that point in every possible direction, and pieces of the model that have to somehow print floating right above other pieces. On an SLS/nylon powder printer like those used for Strong & Flexible plastic prints at Shapeways, such “impossible” prints can be printed with great success rates. But at home, different desktop filament printers, different filaments, and seemingly even different days of the week can have an influence on the success or failure of 3D printing Fidget Cubes.

In this post, we’ll track the evolution of one particularly fidgety 3D design over the past five years, from an assembly model to print-in-place on FDM machines, to multicolor variants, and finally all the way to SLS printing at Shapeways, where we will be able to level up our idea of “impossible” to include the printing of a fully-functioning Yoshimoto cube!

2013: Pieces

Our story begins with a 3D-printable Folding Cube by the legendary emmett. This model prints in eight separate pieces which you then click together to assemble.

This model is based on the popular “photo cubes” that you might have made out of paper and tape when you were younger. If you want to make a paper one, check out Magic Folding Photo Cubes on Instructables. Emmett’s Folding Cube is a beautiful model that is really fun to fidget with, but because I’m not good at rotating or visualizing objects mentally, I had a really difficult time putting the pieces together properly. In fact, I was so bad at it that I vowed never to do it again, and set about to create a remix that could print all in one piece, fully assembled.

2014: Print in Place

After a lot of trial and error, I ended up creating the design from scratch in OpenSCAD. Clearances between hinge parts and adjacent surfaces have to be just right for the Print-in-Place Fidget Cube to print successfully, and getting your slicer settings and model clearances to hit that sweet spot is a fairly advanced 3D printing challenge.

fidget_cubes_preview_featured

It probably isn’t going to work on your printer, with your filament, on the first try, but once you find the right settings and clearances you should be able to print these Fidget Cubes reliably with a low failure rate (or, you can obviously go straight to Shapeways). If you decide to print it at home, the Print-in-Place Fidget Cube model we put on Thingiverse is customizable so that you can tweak sizes and clearances and try to find what works for your machine.

2015: Yoshimoto

The folding action of the Fidget Cube is the same as that of the Yoshimoto Cube, an incredible model that takes advantage of the fact that a cube can be evenly dissected into two Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedra — and in fact, that those two Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedra can themselves be folded inside out to form cubes of the same size as the original cube. You kind of have to see it to believe it:

You can make a Yoshimoto Cube using origami or you can purchase a truly beautiful version from the MoMA store. Unfortunately, you can’t make a Yoshimoto Cube by carving up a Fidget Cube into two pieces, because the hinges protrude out of the shape and would interfere with the nesting of the pieces. However, we can carve out a Stellated Rhombic Dodecahadon shape from the inside of our fidget cube to form a Fidget Star that folds one way into a cube and the other way into a Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedron.

fidget_star_lots_preview_featured

Here it is in action. This piece isn’t any more difficult to print than the Fidget Cube, but it seems a lot more impressive and surprising when the entire shape of the object changes as it turns inside out.

fidget_star_slow2

2016: Embedded Hinges

Next in line is the Kobayashi Fidget Cube by pkobayashi, which prints in one piece and has flat hinges! I think you still couldn’t make a good Yoshimoto Cube out of this, but this version should be much, much easier to print than the Fidget Cube. This design isn’t a remix of mine or of emmett’s, but it is definitely an improvement on both:

Designer pkobayashi later created a Dual Color version, which you print in pieces and then assemble:

388d9afb4f41d1a2e0c5d073eb9ffc4b_preview_featured

2017: Multicolor

What about two-color print-in-place cubes? As of this year, that also exists. MosaicManufacturing has been making beautiful Multi-Color Fidget Star prints! Design-wise, this was made from the Fidget Star just by splitting the model into two pieces (a cube surrounded by a shell). But, printing it is a serious accomplishment:

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They made me one, and it’s huge! Thank you, Mosiac Manufacturing!!

IMG_5510

They handled the two-color printing with a Palette, a device you can use for pre-processing filament to send to your 3D printer. The Palette actually cuts and assembles pieces of colored filament at exactly the right lengths for switching colors in the correct places while printing.

If you have a dual-nozzle 3D printer then you can download Mosaic Manufacturing’s Multi-Color Fidget Star model and print it yourself. Here is one I printed on the lovely dual-nozzle Ultimaker 3. I happened to print it very small, and on fast, low-res “draft” mode, so it’s nowhere near the highest quality that the Ultimaker 3 can produce, but it still looks pretty good and it works!

IMG_5516

… And Beyond: Shapeways!

Printing any of the Fidget Cubes above on an FDM printer can be a difficult process that involves a lot of trial and error, skill, and luck. A lot of the problem lies with the fact that the model has to print without support material for the hinges to operate, which means that the many overhangs and bridges on the model have to print without that support. These problems melt away if you print with a “powder printer” such as the SLS Nylon printers they use at Shapeways to print in Strong & Flexible plastic:

Having industrial-grade 3D printers makes a huge difference in what you can print successfully. Here’s a wonderful, tiny Fidget Cube Stress Reliever by brandutchmen on Shapeways:

710x528_17325518_10144463_1484527999

Even better, with the SLS printers, we can get to the holy grail of Fidget Cubes: Nesting hinged models that combine to make a Yoshimoto Cube! VeryWetPaint created a fully functional, two-piece, nesting Yoshimoto Cube model that prints in SLS Nylon at Shapeways, called the Yoshi prime box. His open-style design very cleverly allows both pieces to be hinged so that they can nest together. It’s amazing!

Shapeways people, what’s next? Can you push this design to the next level? What even is the next level? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see which designers dare to take fidgeting to new heights…

RC Customization Series: The Story so Far

Two months ago, inspired by our amazing — and growing! — RC car community, I set out on a journey into the world of RC cars. Colleague Tijs Lochbaum and I took a Tamiya Hornet completely apart and gave it a whole new look. We’ll be ready for the big reveal soon, but in the meantime, we’re taking a look back to see how far we’ve come.

We started with a dream of taking a classic Tamiya Hornet and making it our own. During this whole process, Tijs Lochbaum, who is a well-known European RC drifting expert, was our guide. As it turns out, I had a lot to learn about how to make a custom RC Car. I always thought you could only buy a complete car in a toy store, so a whole new world opened up for me. For one thing, I never thought so much manual polishing was involved to make the parts look good. I could go on all day about what I didn’t know — but instead, let’s take a look at what we’ve done so far:

Lap 1 – Upgrading The Tamiya Hornet


In the 1st Lap of the RC Customization Series, we explain our plan and what we need to create a custom RC car classic, the Tamiya Hornet.

Lap 2 – RC Engineering


The 2nd Lap features an interview with designer Alberto Massarotto from AMPro Engineering. Alberto takes us through his design process to guarantee his parts fit on original RC car body and chassis.

Lap 3 – Finalizing the Parts


On Lap 3, we look at post-production methods. Polishing, dyeing, sanding and preparing for spray-painting — we covered it all.

We’ve come a long way already, and we just have a few finishing touches to add. In the meantime, here’s a teaser shot of our completed Tamiya Hornet:

Stay tuned for the full reveal!

No Snow? Here’s How to Make Your Own

Snowflakes have always captured the imagination. And, in a winter where even Chicago has (mostly) gone without snow, our imaginations are now more important than ever. Snowflakes also happen to lend themselves well to parametric design, a method of creating around parameters that can turn one design into many.

Today, we’ll learn how to turn one design, a simple snowflake, into multiple products in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. We’ll start with simple low-res 3D prints and prototypes on desktop FDM machines, and eventually level up to printing in Nylon and Plated Rhodium at Shapeways. Along the way, we’ll have to consider ways to optimize for 3D printing on different types of machines, and how to print affordably with different types of materials. The snowflake design we’ll be working with was created with code in OpenSCAD, and can procedurally generate over a billion unique snowflakes. Let it snow!


3D Printing Snowflakes at Home

Each winter, we make a new 3D-printable snowflake design. Back in 2013, when we didn’t know very much, it was a set of simple Snowflake Ornaments created from extruded SVG images. In 2014 we leveled up to a customizable Snowflake Cutter that used symmetric image maps to mimic the way snowflakes are cut out of folded paper, and in 2015 it was a full-blown Snowflake Machine that uses OpenSCAD code to generate over a billion unique snowflakes in different styles from random seeds.

These flexible digital designs can create many different types of snowflake models, including large decorations, small ornaments, and even cookie cutters, all of which we initially printed on a consumer-level Ultimaker desktop 3D printer:

     

We’ll talk soon about how we converted these designs for printing in SLS Nylon and Metals at Shapeways, but first let’s talk about the parametric design itself.

How to Code a Blizzard

The Snowflake Machine was created in OpenSCAD, a free design program that allows you to use simple code to create and export 3D-printable STL meshes. The power of designing with OpenSCAD is that it is “parametric,” which means that you can construct your designs based on variables and parameters that control the behavior and features of your models.

In real life, snowflakes grow outwards from a core center as they fall through different temperatures, humidity levels, and other atmospheric conditions. These conditions add “plates” and “branches” of various sizes and configurations to the snowflake as it falls. The code for the Snowflake Machine mimics this process, using a random number seed to create many random number sequences that determine the algorithmic creation of plates and branches. Sizing and style parameters allow you to influence the random sequences to create snowflakes with more or fewer plates, fuller or sparser shapes, and so on.

You can make your own unique 3D-printable snowflake designs using the customizable interface of the Snowflake Machine that we uploaded to Thingiverse. Go to the link and click “Open in Customizer” to get started, then change the starting seed and style parameters until you get the snowflake you want. By clicking “Create Thing” you can download an STL of your custom snowflake and then 3D print it at home or by sending to Shapeways.

If you want to have more design flexibility with your snowflake models, then you can download and modify the “Snowflakerator” code from our Hello OpenSCAD one-page tutorial document. For more information on getting started with OpenSCAD, check out our recent Shapeways Tutorial Tuesday post Using OpenSCAD to Design With Code.

Printing Snowflake Ornaments in SLS Nylon

Last year, we decided it was time to level up and 3D print snowflakes on some big-girl machines, with fancy materials like SLS Nylon and even jewelry-quality silver. Of course we don’t have the equipment to do such things from home, so it was time to visit Shapeways!

Of course, printing with industrial-grade machines is different than printing with desktop filament-based machines, and the requirements for things like clearances or minimum thickness can be very different. For example, in SLS Nylon we can print much more detailed and delicate snowflakes then we had printed before. By changing parameters in our OpenSCAD code, we created two dozen new snowflakes optimized for printing at Shapeways in White Strong & Flexible material, a set of Small Snowflake Ornaments and a set of Large Snowflake Ornaments:

To save on per-part costs (which in White Strong & Flexible would be $1.50 for each disconnected piece of our print job), we used Tinkercad to arrange each dozen snowflakes on a thin rod, as shown in the pictures below. The rod can be easily snipped off after printing and shipping. Check out this past post for more tips on how to make models less costly. Tinkercad is a great tool for such simple modifications; for more on that see our Shapeways Tutorial Tuesday post Beginner 3D Design With Tinkercad. For more technical design tips on converting filament designs to SLS Nylon designs, check out our Hacktastic post From Prototype to Product: Snowflakes.

Printing Snowflake Earrings in Multiple Materials

Since holiday trees are only around for a little while but snowflakes can be fun all winter, we also decided to make some snowflake earrings. Earrings are basically just smaller ornaments, but if we simply scaled down our designs from above then their features would be too small, especially for printing in metals.

In the end, we decided to completely remake the flakes with different OpenSCAD parameters and seeds, and made six new designs. We tried to make them as delicate as possible while still having enough minimum thickness for printing in a wide variety of materials. The six designs we settled on were Flurry, Frost, Powder, Ice, Crystal, and Blizzard, shown here printed in six different materials:

Of course, we also need some hooks! After some experimenting we settled on what are called “Kidney wire” earring hooks, because the dangly snowflake prints can just slip around and onto the hooks without us having to deal with opening or closing any metal loops, as shown in the photo below left.

As a final step we altered our designs to be printable in metal; this involved closing up some of the smaller holes in each model so that it would pass the Shapeways Printability Checks for Precious Metals. With Shapeways’ new Variants feature, we were able to add new files to our existing product pages that would be used only when customers opted for printing in Precious Metals like Plated Rhodium.

Okay, that’s enough snowflakes for this winter! Let us know in the comments if you’ve used the Snowflake Machine to make any 3D-printable designs, or if you have questions about Variants, Printability Checks, design tips, or anything else. Or, leave a comment if you’ve ever turned one parametric model into a flurry of different prints and products; we’d love to see what you made.

3 Ways to Make Your Prints Cheaper

Today, we rolled out a referral program for our community to help others start making on Shapeways. That means that a whole new group of community members will soon be joining us, and they’ll all have one thing in common: they’ll want to make their models as inexpensively as possible. Lowering the cost of printing your own models isn’t rocket science, but it does require some insider know-how. Check out these three tips for making your 3D prints more cost-effective:

1. Make your design smaller and thinner

optimize-scale    optimize-carve

Jewelry starts out small, so scaling down designs there might not make sense. But, there are plenty of other designs which can be reduced in scale and wall thickness without making your finished product unusable. Think: turning a porcelain coffee mug into an espresso cup. Or, when prototyping in plastic. Strong & Flexible Plastic is our most popular material for makers, and it can be perfect for prototyping designs in a smaller scale, inexpensively, in anticipation of later printing them at full scale in other materials like porcelain or metal. Whether you’re prototyping or creating a finished product, scaling your design down has an exponential effect on material used. Just scaling a 4cm cube down by 50% decreases material usage by 90%. Trust us, it works.

2. Hollow it out

optimize-hollow

If you don’t want to scale it down, hollowing out a model will also reduce the amount of printing material you’re paying for. Plus, if you’re able to leave an opening of at least 40mm, you can save even more money by providing space for us to print other designs inside your model. We have some pretty nifty ways of fitting models into builds to reduce cost.

3. Make it easier for us to print

loopingedit2

Labor costs can impact the price of your 3D prints. This cost varies by material. So, the first step might be choosing a material, like full color sandstone or frosted ultra detail, that has a minimal labor cost and allows multiple parts per file to be printed for a single cost. If you’re printing in Strong & Flexible plastics, which prices prints per part, you can reduce the number of parts your model actually contains by looping or sintershelling your models. To find out how, see this detailed tutorial.

For more detailed info on making your prints cost less, check out these tutorials. Don’t be afraid to test out these methods, or create your own. Do you have a way to make your 3D prints cheaper that we didn’t cover above? Let us know in the comments!

 

Cover image: Micro Piggy Bank by “Ki”-nokuniya & Co.

Tutorial Tuesday 5: Quick Fixes With MeshLab

Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! This week we’ll discuss three methods for modifying 3D meshes with the free software MeshLab. When you export a 3D file to STL format, what you’re doing is creating a file that describes the surface of an object with a mesh of tiny triangles. Sometimes there are problems with that mesh that cause printability issues, and MeshLab can help you fix most of those issues to make your files ready for printing.

We’ll focus on the top three issues that can arise with meshes: having too many triangles (too fine a mesh), having triangles that are oriented incorrectly or inconsistently, and having triangles that intersect with bad geometry. MeshLab has a dizzying array of menu items with long names, but if you know just which ones to choose then you can repair these three types of issues very quickly. Let us know in the comments if you have other mesh-repair techniques to share!

Reducing Triangle Count

Shapeways can accept 3D models with up to one million triangles, but it’s surprisingly easy to go over that threshold, especially if you’re working with 3D scans or a sculpting program. To reduce the overall number of triangles in your model, open the model in MeshLab and from the Filters menu select “Remeshing, Simplification, and Reconstruction” and then “Simplification: Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation.” For more detailed information, see the Shapeways Tutorial Polygon Reduction with MeshLab as well as Mister P.’s video Mesh Processing: Decimation.

meshlab-QECD

P. S. to MeshLab veterans: Good news! MeshLab updated to a long-awaited new version in late 2016, and in the new version you can perform “QECD” multiple times in a row without crashing the program! There’s still no “undo” in MeshLab though, alas. :/

Orienting Normals

If some of your model appears “inside out” (like the black area in the image below), then you should select and flip any reversed normals using the method outlined in the recipe Using MeshLab for fixing normals in the 3D Printing with RepRap Cookbook.

meshlab-normals

Or, try a quick overall fix in MeshLab by selecting “Normals, Curvature, and Orientation” from the Filters menu, then choosing the “Re-orient all faces coherently” tool.

Removing Non-Manifold Edges

If the mesh of your model has faces that meet together in geometrically unpleasant ways, then you’ll need to repair it before 3D printing; see the Shapeways article Fixing Non-Manifold Models. “Non-manifold” edges and vertices look those like the ones shown below from Martin Sälzle at PCL Developer’s Blog.

meshlab-non_manifold

You can identify and select non-manifold elements from the Filter/Selection menu in MeshLab; look at the bottom of the view window for a count of the number of bad faces. To repair any bad geometry, use the method from the MakerHome article Shrinking and Remeshing the Fidget Cube: from the Filters menu, choose “Cleaning and Repairing”, and then try some combination of the tools “Remove Duplicate Faces”, “Remove Duplicated Vertex”, “Remove Faces From Non Manifold Edges”, and/or “Remove T-Vertices by Edge Flip”.

What are your favorite fast fixes for repairing and simplifying meshes? Let us know in the comments so we can all learn how to handle mesh problems quickly and get back to designing and creating!

Scanning Stories: 4 Steps to a Perfectly Printable 3D Selfie

3D Selfie Row

In our most recent Scanning Stories post, we talked about making your full-body Skanect Structure Sensor 3D scans better using MeshLab and Meshmixer. In this fourth entry in the series, we’ll show you four steps between a full-body scan and printing that you’ll want to take to make sure your 3D selfies are true-to-life.

Step 1: Exporting your scans

Today, we’ll start by taking you through the process of exporting your Skanect scans as OBJ files. OBJ is a file format that contains 3D coordinates (polygon lines and points), texture maps, and other object info. By exporting your scans as OBJ files, you will get both a texture file AND a mesh file, as well as a file containing all data. This will help you better edit specific parts of your scan’s shape and appearance.

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Start by exporting your Skanect scan file (for more info on creating scans, see this past post and this tutorial by Skanect) as an OBJ file.

Once you’ve exported the OBJ file, you’ll notice that Skanect has made three files for you: an OBJ, an MTL, and a PNG.

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The MTL file contains all data, the OBJ is the actual mesh (the polyhedral version of your scanned object), and the PNG is the texture map, or surface detail file.

As a pro tip, the colors in the texture file tend to be a little too dark once printed so we we’ll show you how to lighten it up.

You can do this in programs like Photoshop or Lightroom.

Step 2: Compare textures before and after editing

If you look below, these textures look incomprehensible, but don’t worry, the computer understands how to read them. These are the colors that are what the computer is referencing to give texture to the print. The only problem is that the colors in the scan might not be vibrant enough once put onto the 3D model. Just like any form of photography we may need to do some image manipulation to make the colors look the best possible. Therefore, we’re going to bring this texture map into Lightroom and make some adjustments so they’re brighter and will look better.

The textures before lightning up

The textures before lightning up

After lightning up

After lightning up

While editing the images, keep an eye on the details — they can be sharpened if needed. The settings we use in Lightroom are below:

exposure +1.4
contrast +40
highlights +20
shadows +10

 

Step 3: Editing the mesh and texture in ZBrush

When you scan with a hand scanner (like the Structure Sensor from Occipital that we use), you sometimes end up with a file that is not as sharp, complete, or accurate as you would like. You might have holes in the model that shouldn’t be there, or the texture might have flaws that need to be edited. You can make files like this printable using ZBrush or any other 3D program that can handle 3D files with textures like 3DMax, Blender, etc.

Here’s a super helpful tutorial for editing scans in ZBrush:

Zbrush tutorial to repair 3d scanned models

Other tutorials that might be helpful to you:

Pixologic ZBrush YouTube channel

Blender tutorial to repair 3D scanned models

How to Make Your 3D Scanned Models Look Amazing – Beginner Blender Tutorial

Step 4: Replacing the base of the scan

When you create a scan of a person, cleaning up the scan can often mean adding a platform, or base, on which the 3D print will stand. We generally remove the original base from the scan (which is either the ground, the floor, or a temporary platform the person was on) and replace it with a nice, freshly modeled platform because it will look much cleaner and stand upright.

To do this, follow the steps below:

1. Remember to always export the edited file in ZBrush as a VRML file. You’ll have something like this when you’re finished in ZBrush:

5base

2. Make a platform. You can make a platform in any 3D modeling program. We made this simple platform in Solidworks. We made ours by drawing a square, extruding it to have thickness and then filleting the edges to make them less sharp. Once we were pleased with the platform we exported it as an STL file:

6base

We then use Netfabb to merge the two files together. For us this is handy because our printers are set to work with Netfabb. Netfabb has a free version for you to experiment with.

3. Import the mesh AND your platform into Netfabb. Scale your model and/or your platform to a desired height/width. Place the platform underneath the model file (be sure they overlap, because if they don’t the finished file will end up as two separate parts and won’t merge during printing). Select both files and merge them together. Export the final file as a VRML.

4. Finally, create a zip file containing both the texture map PNG and the VRML model file and upload this to Shapeways.com.

The result is always a perfect finished product that can stand on its own.

Happy scanning and editing!

Brigitte & Astrid

Meet Two Women Changing the Face of Cosplay

TheLaserGirls (Sarah C. Awad and Dhemerae Ford) are powerhouses of cosplay, 3D design, and general badassery. On their podcast and blog, they show in vivid detail how two creative people have turned their love of fantasy, sci-fi, and cosplay into incredible 3D printed costumes and accessories – while empowering others to do the same. Last week, I had a chance to take a deep dive into what drives TheLaserGirls.

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I really admire you, and I’m sure many of your fans do as well, for showing that cosplay and fantasy/sci-fi can be welcoming, creatively inspiring spaces that women can help define. How do you see yourselves in terms overcoming traditional gender dynamics in those worlds?

The characters we portray and our undying love for them are just two parts of what we do with cosplay. Obviously, we choose to portray women that have shaped us through our lives, and to us represent strength in more nuanced and unique ways. One could say that the “Strong Female Character” is now a trope in itself that has become overly-simplified, and we want to open the box again and reintroduce diversity to that definition.

For Dhemerae, it is also about paying homage and thanking these characters for the impact that they had had on her, and for Sarah, it is also about giving them the attention and portrayal she wanted for them. Many of the characters Sarah loves, she feels were foundationally incredible, but were lessened by either a lack of exposure publicly or storylines that smothered them. Through cosplay, she hopes to give them a new platform to showcase their amazingness!

The other huge portion of this is our focus in making. What we want show is that making is meaningful – more accessible than one would think – and just [show] the joy of creating and building something: here’s a project, and this is how we made it, and it’s awesome, and it’s fun, and it’s challenging, and it betters you, and you can do it too, and here’s how. 3D printing has a wide and deep context that we have found turns many people away because they do not feel they are capable of unlocking it. We want to show and help people clear that wall; it is less about the final product (because if you love what you’re doing, you will look great!) and more about being creative and learning how to build something functional that makes you feel amazing and that gives back to your influences.

How did you get interested in cosplay? Did you each have a separate journey to where you are today, or did you draw inspiration from each other and get involved in creating costumes after you met?

S: I’ve always been interested in cosplay. I was a big anime fan as a tween/teen and I was also a performer, so cosplay was the ultimate marriage of the two. I did a few smaller cosplays with my siblings when I was younger, but never ended up pursuing it like I do now. I think fondly on those days, because when I started cosplaying again in my 20s, I remembered the sense of confidence I felt when I created it and wore it, and witnessed how I affected other people through it. It is a full circle moment for me.

I think working with Dhemerae has helped me unlock a completely different side of making within me that I would have never been able to access on my own, and that has hugely influenced and opened up my mind to what I’m capable of doing with cosplay.

Sarah in Queen Knight cosplay

Sarah in Queen Knight cosplay

D: I’ve always been interested but never had the confidence while I was younger to actually do it. Once I got involved with 3D printing, met Sarah, and began to hone my skills, I really proved to myself that I could in fact do it! This is sort of my time to revisit that interest and finally realize the characters that I always admired and loved.

Tell me about the moment you first used 3D modeling and 3D printing to trick out your costumes. What was your early process like?

D: The first thing I made was San’s mask from my favorite animated film, Princess Mononoke. I had this idea to use the ProJet 660 (sandstone printer) to create a lightweight hollow mask that mimicked the look and feel of a handmade mask. I also wanted to add my own artistic spin by creating some sinister looking cracks in the surface for a weathering effect. I had to print three iterations before I got the size right, and the mechanical component I spent hours designing to keep the mask on my head completely failed. It turns out the best solution was to simply epoxy an elastic band and wear it like a plastic Halloween mask. That process really taught me a lesson in over-engineering. The simpler solution was the most elegant one, and the costume turned out a lot better than expected. I also came up with a crazy idea to attach the ears to my piece of fur using screws inset into the powder prints, which worked beautifully. That was another lesson learned in experimenting with new fastening techniques using 3D printing. So, overall the process was frustrating, but probably the most rewarding to date.

Dhemerae in her San Mask

Dhemerae in her San Mask

S: For my first 3D printed cosplay, I decided to go all in and build body armor. I had never made anything like that ever, and I selected it for that very reason. With each project I choose, I try to give myself a new challenge to explore in order to always be learning and growing, and if I went into everything I learned and experienced during this process, it would be a book (Check out the Sarah’s Comic Con Chronicles on thelasergirlsstudio.com)!

A detail of Sarah's body armor

A detail of Sarah’s body armor

I can say generally speaking, my early process is always the same: I do a ton of sketching, 2D blueprint making, and calendaring in order to set the structure for my workflow. I am a wildly imaginative person which can very easily make me lose my focus, so I need that structure to balance me and make the way I work more effective.

What 3D printed accessories are you most proud of?

D: I am most proud of my Buster Sword from the Lightning As cosplay. For me it was a feat of engineering to be able to 3D model and print a sword that could be assembled in that way, at that scale; I was also proud of the magnet mechanism I designed to join the pieces!

Dhemerae with her Buster Sword

Dhemerae with her Buster Sword

S: Definitely my Fenrir pieces from this year’s Lightning As cosplay; the pauldron, the earrings, and the bag embellishment. I made all of those pieces from one model, which to me shows the usefulness and versatility of 3D printing. Also, the buttons that I printed for my pants – simple but so effective!

Sarah with her Fenrir pieces

Sarah with her Fenrir pieces

What advice would you give to cosplayers who might not be using 3D printing now, but are interested in exploring new ways to bring their visions to life?

When we took a 3D modeling class in college, our professor had us start by choosing a specific object we wanted to make, and we always recommend that others start in this way as well. Choosing an object you love and want to make will not only keep you motivated to finish through the more frustrating parts of learning, but will also make it easier to choose a software package to begin with, and a context under which to work. We also recommend when choosing your first project, to either select one large object or several smaller objects in order to not overwhelm yourself out of the gate!

In terms of where to find learning resources, we actually have a whole blog post on that we recommend you check out- also, Shapeways’ forums are fantastic!

Intro to 3D Modeling:

pt1: http://bit.ly/2kqXwtv

pt2: http://bit.ly/2lsFfMH

I’m curious about your relationship with your fans. Do you work actively to grow your fanbase? How do your fans inspire or inform your work?

From people just getting started in 3D printing to those with experience, the reason why we started thelasergirlsstudio.com was because we wanted to provide a resource and a perspective on the process that can hopefully inspire our followers to get involved in the community, or try new ventures in their process. We Have always genuinely loved to share our work and knowledge, and in a world where people hold onto their content for dear life, we strive to focus on sharing in hopes that others can learn from us, and start their own journeys into 3D.

We do our best to provide helpful feedback to those who contact us via any of our social media channels, and hope to build a positive community filled with productivity, experimentation, creativity, and joy.

Any big projects on the horizon that you’re excited about?

We recently announced that we’re going to I-Con in March in cosplay. Sarah is going as Re-L from the anime Ergo Proxy, and Dhemerae is going as Ripley from the first Alien film. We picked these characters specifically because they’ll have only one major prop print. We’re also considering attending other cons in the fall.


Other than cosplay, we’re working on a bunch of new and exciting content for the blog, which should include some good tutorials and maybe a few vlogs. We may have a couple of teaching opportunities on the, and we are hoping to potentially release a collection of pieces in the Summer/Fall of this year.

Luckily, you can actually buy a selection of TheLaserGirls’ accessories in their Shapeways Shop. And for more learnings, incredible photos, and insights, check out their blog, Instagram, and podcast.

 

Tutorial Tuesday 4: Using OpenSCAD to Design With Code

Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! This week, we speak to the geeks. Did you know that you can create 3D-printable designs with code — no 3D modeling required? OpenSCAD is a programming language for solid modeling, specifically built for creating designs that are exportable as triangular meshes for 3D printing. In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics and show off some Shapeways designs created with this powerful parametric modeling software.

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Getting Started With OpenSCAD

If you’re an experienced programmer, then you’re going to love this. But even if you’ve never written a line of code before in your life, you’ll be able to learn the basics of OpenSCAD and get started modeling right away! Start by downloading a free copy of OpenSCAD and bookmarking the very useful OpenSCAD User Manual and OpenSCAD Cheat Sheet.

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For a quick start, check out the Hello OpenSCAD one-page starter document with OpenSCAD sample files. For extensive documentation and examples, see the Thingiverse OpenSCAD Jumpstart page and OpenSCAD discussion group. Or, get started in less than 10 minutes by watching and playing along with the video PolyBowls – A simple OpenSCAD code walk-through.

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If you like learning by video, then you should also check out Patrick Conner’s video playlist of OpenSCAD tutorials. This playlist is how I initially learned about OpenSCAD and the videos are very clear, simple, and easy to follow.

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OpenSCAD Models on Shapeways

OpenSCAD is particularly good for creating models based on equations or data, or that are procedurally generated. Here are four beautiful jewelry models on Shapeways that were designed with OpenSCAD:

 

sponde  tentacle

rhumb  lorenz

Going beyond jewelry, OpenSCAD is also a great tool for making abstract sculptures, processing and modifying data, and even creating household objects. Here are four more Shapeways models made with OpenSCAD:

 

12star  loxodrome

sappho  dyson (1)

Do you create with OpenSCAD? Let us know what you’ve made in the comments. If you’re just getting started and have any questions, let us know that too. See you next week!

RC Customization Series: Lap 3 – Finalizing The Parts

In the previous Lap of the RC Customization Series you could see how Tijs prepared the 3D printed parts for assembly. We now know for sure that the parts will fit together, and that they fit on the original Tamiya Hornet body. But just connecting them to the original body will not finish our RC car — we need colors!

Tamiya 4

We quickly agreed on the colors for the car: white, black and blue. To achieve that, Tijs recommends using two different methods for finishing the parts. For some items we use the dyeing process that we offer at Shapeways. The other components will be spray-painted, and for that we need some additional tricks. Tijs is way more experienced in the spray-painting method, so we decided to split the workload.

I spoke with Lisa from our Strong & Flexibles team in Eindhoven. Lisa explains the process that we normally use at Shapeways when you order colored Strong & Flexible plastic. First, Lisa and I polish the models in giant tumblers, filled with ceramic cones. The stones will scrape off a thin layer of the products’ surface, giving them a smoother feel and also make them less sensitive for stains.

The next step for the parts is the actual coloring. For that, we put them in a pan with a solution of water and color pigment. Within a couple of minutes the exterior of the products changed color, as you can see in the video above.

Tamiya_1
These parts have been dyed black. For black, we do not polish the parts.

Tamiya_2
Blue Strong & Flexible is first polished. To keep the color from fading during intense use as racing with the Tamiya Hornet, Tijs also sealed the parts with a transparent varnish.

In the meantime, Tijs was busy preparing the other parts for spray painting. The surface has to be smooth, so the first thing to get rid of is the stepping, the layered pattern on products, which is an unavoidable side effect of using 3D printing for your products. Tijs first uses two types of sandpaper and then applies a primer for plastics.

Tamiya_3
The grey area is the half treated with primer. On the white half, you can clearly see where the stepping was on this part. After some work, these will forever be hidden under a nice glossy white finish!

While I thought it looked pretty smooth after applying the first layer of primer, Tijs is not satisfied yet and decides to use a technique he calls “wet sanding,” meaning he uses wet sand paper on the parts treated with the primer. By doing so, he removes the layer of primer and smoothens the nylon plastic. The Strong & Flexible plastics can be porous, so by rinsing them with water the excess material will definitely not remain on the parts. This step is repeated a few times, and then after applying a final layer of primer, the glossy white spray paint is applied.

Tamiya_4
The roof on the left is finished with a gloss white spray paint, while the other parts are ready for finalizing. Almost there!

So, the parts are nearly done — but we still need to assemble the car. More about that in the final Lap of the RC Customization Series, coming your way soon!

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.

burnisher

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.

earringson

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?

RC Customization Series: Lap 2 — RC Engineering

Since launching the RC Customization Series last week, we’ve been super excited to see such a positive response to this Tamiya Hornet customization project! In case this is the first time you’re hearing about the Shapeways RC Customization Series, together with our RC expert Tijs and Adéla behind the camera, the three of us have set out on a journey into the world of customizing remote-controlled cars for the best look and performance.

Tamiya 4
In the back you can see the assembled original Tamiya Hornet, in front all the parts printed in White Strong & Flexible plastic.

In the previous Lap of the series, we started with a default Tamiya Hornet and a set of 3D printed parts designed by Alberto Massarotto, better known as AMPro Engineering. But in order to use the 3D printed parts, we first need to make sure they fit on the original body of the Hornet. In this second Lap of the RC Customization Series, Tijs gives tips on how to remove the sprues, which drills you have to use to make sure the right screws fit, and how to tap the screw thread in the Strong & Flexible plastic parts without breaking them. While Tijs was busy preparing the parts for pre-assembly, I had a chat with Alberto in which he explains his design process and why he started in the first place! See how this all went Lap 2: RC Engineering in the video below.

Want to build your own AMPro Super Hornet? The list of parts we use for this car can be found here.

Tamiya 6
After all the preparations, the parts fit nicely on the Hornet. Next step is finishing them with colors and stickers.

EDIT: Tijs did a massive update of the building with lots of close up images on our forums – read more here!

Note we release new episodes regularly, so if there’s anything you’d like to see, make sure to share that with us in the comments below and maybe we can explore that in the next Lap of the RC Customization Series.

Scanning Stories: Fine-Tuning Your 3D Scans

A group of 3D Selfies

In the last edition of the Scanning Stories series, we discussed the gold standard: a 3D scanning booth. Most of us don’t have the money, time, or space to set up a scanning booth, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all get in on the action. Below, Shapeways’ 3D Scan Engineers Brigitte and Astrid tell us how to make the most of easy-to-use 3D scanning software Skanect to edit scans captured with the Structure Sensor.

While scanbooths are amazing, most of the time, we use a tablet-mounted Structure Sensor with Skanect software. Today, we won’t get into exactly how to take those scans (for a full rundown, click here), but we’ll go ahead and skip to the tricky part: editing the 3D models created by your scans.

3D models created using Skanect usually need some editing to become printable. Most of the time, the texture is too dark to print and has small flaws that need to be fixed. Thankfully, these fixes can be fairly easy.

There are multiple ways to edit your file:

After editing your scan in the Skanect software (most common steps are “Fill Holes”, “Move & Crop”, “Remove Parts” and “Colorize”), you can either choose “External Edit” in the Process tab or “Export Model” in the Share tab.

skanect 1

Let’s start with “External Edit,” which you can find on the Process tab:

Clicking this button will allow you to export a file named editme.ply. You can import this file into different editing software that can handle .ply files, like MeshLab and Meshmixer. Both of these programs are Freeware.

MeshLab is a free and open-source software you can download here. There are lots of easy-to-follow videos tutorials available. See MeshLab tutorials.

Meshmixer is a tool with several functions for manipulating 3D meshes. It’s great for tidying up a 3D model. You can remove unwanted areas, fill holes, sculpt the shape, and correct its orientation prior to 3D printing. You can download it here. For video how-tos on this software, see Meshmixer tutorials.

In our experience, MeshLab works best for adjusting texture. It has a bunch of filters you can use to adjust the texture’s appearance, like contrast, brightness, and hue. You can also add supporting platforms to your 3D selfies with MeshLab. Meshmixer also has the ability to adjust the texture, but doesn’t have too many options for doing so. It’s better for adjusting the mesh.

Once you’re satisfied with the result, you can export the model with the same name (editme.ply). This will overwrite the previous file.

Then, go back to Skanect and reload the edited file.

skanect 2

Then, if you go to the next tab, you can upload and save your model.

We have tested both MeshLab and Meshmixer, and now we also work with ZBrush.

One of the advantages of ZBrush is that you can export scans as .obj files, which creates separate mesh and texture files. With the texture file, it’s possible to adjust the colors and brightness of the texture in programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. In our next post, we will import the mesh and texture from ZBrush to further adjust it. Orientation, hollowing, and platforms will be done in Netfabb.

If you have a subject in mind that we should address in a future Scanning Stories post, please get in touch.

Let us know what you think of this story, stay focused, and enjoy the world of 3Dscanning!

Making a 3D Printed Meeple Is Easy — Here’s How

Last week, I showed our community on Facebook how they can create their own meeples for game pieces. If you missed the demonstration, you can find the video and a breakdown of the steps below.

 

Step 1: Find a 2D image

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I went to the Noun Project and used this because it has a Creative Commons license.

Once I download the knight image, I headed over to the Shapeways keychain creator.

 

2: Upload to the pendant or keychain creator and choose your image file

giphy-1

 

3: Adjust the size on the left:

giphy-3

 

Then, give it some more thickness:

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Once I’m happy with the  size and thickness, I click “Create Now,” choose my material, and order away.

That’s it!

Give it a try and let us know in the comments if you have any questions (or hit any snags).

1 Gift = 6 Brilliant Ways to Unleash Their Creativity

If you’re like me, you still have a few people on your list who are proving literally impossible to shop for. Your little niece who gets every toy she desires. Your crafter mom who, if she wants it, she makes it. Even your gearhead uncle, who would rather start a project in his garage than ever buy a new vehicle. Good news: Shapeways Gift Cards are perfect for all of them. They open the door to limitless creativity, whether your giftees have never heard of 3D printing or are advanced 3D modelers. Below, discover six easy ways that everyone on your list can start making on Shapeways, thanks to Shapeways Gift Cards for every budget.

1. Fund their first jewelry designs, from pendants…

pendant-pendant-square

The Pendant Creator easily turns their 2D designs into pendants. They can customize details, add a bail for chains, and print in their favorite material.

2. …to gorgeous rings inspired by their favorite shapes

ring

Custom Ring lets them design their own custom, 3D printed rings. They can choose from beautiful preset patterns, or create their own.

3. Equip them to make a keychain they’ll never lose

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The Keychain Creator lets them easily turn 2D designs into keychains. Customize details, add a loop for key rings, and print in your favorite material.

4. Help bring their snapshots to life in 3D

photoshaper

The Full Color Photoshaper takes any photo and turns it into a 3D memory.

5. Let them create their own intricate, personalized ornaments

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The Ornament Creator will help them make custom holiday ornaments by experimenting with template patterns or uploading their own 2D design.

6. Get them started in 3D modeling

2dto3d

2D to 3D lets them easily turn 2D designs into 3D prints, whether they want to make jewelry, art, decorative objects — or just let their imaginations run wild.

Discover even more ways that Shapeways Gift Cards can help them start making on Shapeways here. And while you’re at it, give one of our Easy Creators a try yourself. You never know where your creative journey will lead!

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.