Category Archives: 3D Printing Materials

The Week in 3D Printing

This week in 3D printing, we discovered why green screens and St. Patrick’s Day don’t mix, enjoyed some magical dancing sculptures, got a tiny bit scared by some hyper-realistic robots, and watched some holograms try to get in on the 3D printing game.

No word on if it’ll let you rewind last night

Artist Toki’s stop motion sculpture is entirely 3D printed, and incredibly intricate. When light passes through it, an animated dancer appears, similar to a zoetrope. He says he’s trying to express the relationship between time and movement, and to “capture the beauty and nature of time itself.”

And they say robots won’t take over the world…

This skeleton may look like one of the 3D printed hosts in Westworld, but believe it or not, it’s even realer. Weta Workshop’s been creating hyper-realistic endoskeletons for use in movies and beyond, bringing tangibility to sci-fi.

Now read this section in a Dr. Evil voice

VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi interviewed Xbox co-founder Seasmus Blackley’s about how he’s working on a way to enable instant 3D printing — with the use of augmented reality and something AR firm Daqri has dubbed as “software defined light.” Much like how lasers inside a 3D printer fuse plastic, Blackley is working to project holograms into tanks of monomer, solidifying the parts touched by the light.

Announcing a New Evolution for Porcelain

At Shapeways, we’re always innovating in the materials and processes we use to bring your products to life. Innovation and experimentation go hand in hand, and that’s why every material offering is a work in progress. Today, to support the sustainable development of our most innovative material, Porcelain, we’re undertaking a one-time price increase that will allow us to continue offering the material.

As we have evolved the Porcelain manufacturing process (detailed below), we have invested more handcraftsmanship than initially assumed. This has come at a cost to Shapeways, warranting a review of our Porcelain pricing. To enable us to continue to offer what we believe, and hope that you will agree, is a truly special product, we have set the pricing of our Porcelain to a market-competitive $15 per part and $0.13 per cm2 (surface area). We appreciate that any price increase will generate some disappointment. Having said that, this price will allow us to continue to make this truly special product available to our entire community.

We’re currently updating all models, a process that will take until Monday. If you’re a shop owner, make sure to revisit your model pricing on Monday. Once the base prices have changed, you’ll need to assess and adjust your markups. This price increase will not be reflected in the cost of your items to shoppers, which will remain the same — unless the new price of an item exceeds its markup. If that is the case, your markup will need to be reestablished.

If you’ve been with Shapeways for a while, you’ll remember that a year and a half ago we discontinued our legacy ceramics and began the development (completely in-house) of a custom process for 3D printing-enabled Porcelain. We developed a totally unique Porcelain compound which can be cast using 3D printed molds. This has opened up new possibilities for creative textures, surfaces, and geometries, while providing a extremely dense, strong material with low shrinkage — unlike any other 3D printed ceramics on the market. Our Porcelain is food, dishwasher, and oven safe.

Although each piece starts from a 3D printed model, your product is handcrafted throughout the rest of the process. Each product is given so much love and care by our ceramic artists that it is truly unique. We believe that this high-touch model produces the best 3D printed Porcelain available anywhere.

What is the handcrafting process?

In case you are interested, we wanted to share some insight into the production process.

Like other materials, first, each model is checked by our production engineers to ensure that it meets our design guidelines and can be printed. Then, we use special software to design a custom, multi-part mold.  That mold is then printed, cleaned and reassembled. Assembling the mold requires attention to detail to ensure it is clean, which helps the flow of material into the mold, and that it is properly aligned, maintaining the intended the geometry.

A funnel is added to the mold in order to pour and cast the Porcelain material. After casting (that’s right, ours is actually cast, which results in a considerably denser, stronger, more robust finished product as compared with Porcelain that is directly 3d printed), the Porcelain is allowed to dry, the mold is removed, and the Porcelain material is fired in the kiln.

After casting and firing, the real fun starts. A raw model will have seam lines of extra material from the multi-part mold as well as extra material where the spout was placed to pour the Porcelain material in the mold.

A ceramicist carefully removes these seam lines and spout marks using grinding tools. At this stage, any defects that are found on the model are also repaired. Defects are common due to the brittle nature of the material and the extreme amount of thermal stress the material is exposed to during firing. Ceramics can be fired up to 1,370 degrees Celsius, or 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit! In traditional ceramics, artists often create more pieces than they need because a portion of their art breaks or cracks in the process of firing. The repair process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the complexity of your model.

After repairing, the product is then hand-dipped in glaze and carefully wiped on the base so that glaze does not get stuck to the shelves in the kiln. Depending on the model and glaze, it may also be sprayed with glaze after dipping. Before going into the kiln, each model is carefully checked to make sure all spots and cavities are covered with glaze. Any lumpy areas are smoothed down to ensure even coverage. Finally, your product is then fired again to achieve a glasslike finish.

It may sound easy, but at after each step in the process, your model is carefully inspected for quality and fixed if any defects are found. Our ceramicists maintain the highest quality standards in order to make sure we provide our community with truly amazing products.

This model is more labor-intensive than the techniques we use for other materials, but we believe that it is the best way to produce the amazing products that the Shapeways community is building out of Porcelain. What we have seen thus far has convinced us that there is an amazing future for Porcelain and we look forward to watching the community do even more with it in the future.

Desktop Vs. Service-Based 3D Printing: A Tale of Spaghetti

“What does this error message mean?!” “Wait, why is there only half a print?” “But… I JUST leveled it…”

While owning (and maintaining) a desktop 3D printer may sound like fun, it’s not for the faint of heart… or for those who lack fairly in-depth technical ability. Between constant leveling of the print bed, double-checking to make sure you’re not going to have a filament run-out, and the ever-possible “Whyyy did it just STOP?!?!?”, it can take some serious dedication to the project to make sure that printer is running at 100%, especially when it comes to constantly lubricating, tightening and adjusting. And while desktop 3D printing may SOUND more affordable, you really do need to shell out some serious coin to get a reliable printer. One day it’s running correct, next you’ve got a build plate full of spaghetti: 

Sometimes you need something that just works — and that’s where a service-based 3D printing platform like Shapeways come in.

Upon uploading to a site like shapeways.com, your file is automatically processed through an incredibly intricate system. Model checks are automatically performed to estimate whether or not your file is not only printable, but also what materials it can be printed in. Yes, materials. Metals, plastics, acrylics, porcelain — each material opening totally new doors of creativity.

Aside from providing pricing and lead time estimates, the system automatically checks any potentially problematic areas, and allows you to automatically fix them for the selected material, ensuring that it’s printable. That’s something you’ll only learn by trial and error on a home machine, potentially wasting filament and lots of time in the process. Then, the design is checked manually for printability by a Shapeways employee before it’s sent to the printers. Finally, each piece is hand-finished by production staff.

Once it’s ordered, your order arrives at your doorstep in a matter of days, a finished product of the highest possible quality and resolution in its material class. No more fiddling around with settings, layer height, slicers, or burns from loading up printers.

That said, there are also advantages to 3D printing at home, and ways that it can co-exist with a service-based model. If you’re not concerned about high-resolution finished products and have plenty of time to nurture your hobby, an inexpensive desktop 3D printer might be right for you. If you’re a product designer in the early stages of prototyping your design, having a manufacturing machine in your office can lead to a fast iteration in plastic of small- to medium-sized products. Once you’ve iterated and are happy with your design, then it’s time to send it over to a service-based platform for superior accuracy, minimal stepping, and the ability to receive it in multiple materials, ranging from plastics to precious metals and ceramics.

Tell us your experiences with transitioning from desktop to service-based 3D printing, or if you use both in tandem, in the comments below!

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.

BHDA Finishing Tips and Techniques: Support and Nub Removal

BHDA — or black high definition acrylate — is the most recent material added to our roster. Starting as a maker material, BHDA was released this fall to all shoppers because of its amazing detail, finish, durability, and color. However, this material does have one aspect that’s somewhat unusual for Shapeways: models are printed with support structures. Until today, we removed the supports from all models during post-processing in our factory. But, this went beyond what many of our makers wanted. So, starting today, to give you more flexibility around the way your models look, you now have the option to receive your BHDA models with supports still attached. Below, we’ll show you how to remove supports and, if you’ve chosen to receive your model with the supports removed, how to remove the tiny support nubs that will remain on a portion of the surface.

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The USS Arkansas 1/1800 model by C.O.B. Constructs and Miniatures with supports and after support removal

 

Why does this material have supports and nubs?

These support and nubs exist due to the production process. Before printing the model, the 3D printing engineers will check the model in order to ensure that the design meets printing guidelines and can make it through the production process. Next, support structures are added to the design file using a variety of preset supports which are selected based on your model’s geometry. If your design is particularly intricate, individual supports are added to delicate areas. These support structures hold the model to the build plate while they are printing, while offering strength to the product as it is being printed.

Once the models have had the supports added and are oriented in the build, the production team will load the models to the printer. The printers use direct light projection technology, which includes a liquid resin, and light to cure the material. Each build is created layer by layer using light voxels to cure the resin to the previous layer.

Once the build is completed and cured, the supports can be removed in the factory. If you opt to order your model with supports, this will be the first step after receiving your model. This removal process uses a metal spatula, snippers, tweezers, and mineral oil. After the supports have been removed, small nubs will remain on the part. However, it is possible to finish the surface to a smooth, clean finish with minimal effort.

 

How to hand-finish your products:

Initial Finishing Tools

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  1. Snippers: Cut off supports

  2. Craft Spatula: Scrape off supports

  3. Tweezers: Pull off supports and scraping off nubs

 

Final Finishing Tools

IMG_0237.JPG

 

  1. ≥ 600 grit sandpaper: sand off nubs

  2. Paint brush: apply finishing lotion or mineral oil

  3. Mineral oil or lotion: moisturize material to remove scratches

 

TECHNIQUES

Large Support Removal

Starting today, designers can choose to receive their models complete with supports. These designers are interested in removing the supports at home.

TIP: Check the 3D file of the model while removing these supports to avoid removing crucial parts of the model.  

If your model has many wiry parts or fragile overhangs, it is best to use snippers to remove these supports. This will help to protect the model. When you have a wall that meets many supports, tweezers or metal spatulas may be used to remove multiple supports at one time. You can angle the tweezers or the spatula flush against the wall of the model and pull downward. This will “unzip” the supports from the actual structure. Ensure you are careful with the spatula as this can cause unintentional gashes.

 

Nub Removal  

Once the large supports have been removed, small nubs will remain. These can be easily removed with tweezers, ≥ 600 grit sandpaper, and mineral oil. The tweezers are used to scrape off the larger nubs.

CAUTION: Be careful not to add excess pressure as this material can easily scratch. Cosmetic scratches can be removed, but deep scratches will need additional buffing.

≥ 600 grit sandpaper should gently rub off the remaining nubs. This should take just a few swipes back and forth to notice the nubs disappearing. This material, although strong, does polish quickly. Double check while you are polishing you are not rounding sharp edges or losing details while sanding.

IMG_0262.JPG

USS Arkansas 1/1800 model by C.O.B. Constructs and Miniatures

Left side before polishing / right side after sanding for 1 minute with mineral oil

 

Final Finishing Step

Once you have sanded off those final nubs and are left with a smooth surface, a few small white marks from the tools may remain. This is where the mineral oil or lotion comes in. These can be gently painted on the material to moisturize and remove the superficial scratches and scrapes.

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With all supports removed

BHDA is durable due to its strength and elongation properties, yet it is very easy to polish. This makes this material perfect for those that are looking to create miniatures. The surface is smooth and high-detail where no supports have been laid. Where the supports have been placed, these nubs can be smoothed to a soft clean surface with brief sanding. This allows for paint and other finishing treatments to be added precisely and with little post processing.

If you are looking for more information on this material, I recommend referencing the materials page — or testing one out for yourself.

A figurine with and without supports

Ill Gotten Games’ Elf Ranger shown with supports and after support removal

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!

sw-faster-instagram-fud

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.

Now, Make It Faster

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

sw-faster-blog (1)

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

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

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

How TheLaserGirls Create Faux-Steel Swords

For our next installment of Cosplay Tips from TheLaserGirls (see past posts here and here), Sarah C. Awad and Dhemerae Ford share with us how they created a two-toned steel effect for their Buster Swords. Don’t miss your chance to check out their shop for utterly unique last-minute holiday gifts. And read on for all the details on their sword creation process.

The Final (Fantasy) Products!

The Final (Fantasy) Products!

In order to create the desired two-toned, steel effect for both of our Buster Swords, we set out on an extensive testing period to cover all our bases.  Experimenting upon familiar and unfamiliar materials, we were not only able to refine the “chroming” process we commonly use on our projects, but we also created a nuanced reference library of test pieces to go to for upcoming projects, saving us a lot of time for future work.

Prep Work

As mentioned, we decided to use the same kit and process Sarah used last year on her suit of armor, for it was the most familiar to us, the least time consuming, and the least expensive option for our time frame and budget.  For more information on the specifics of that process, click here.

Keep in mind, this process yields an effect that is more akin to “silver” than “chrome,” especially in terms of achieving a mirrored finish.  We like using this process because of these results.

In a nutshell, the  process is a 4-step spray painting procedure: colored base coat, urethane gloss adherent, aluminum dust (which gives the metallic finish), and another urethane gloss layer as a topcoat.  This project gave us the opportunity to play more with the different tones of grey we could achieve from simply changing that base coat color (which ended up being a happy accident when working on Sarah’s pieces last year).

Test Cards

At this point in the project, we were unsure about what materials we were planning to print in, so we decided to test on the top three we were considering:

ProJet 7000 SLA (laser sintered liquid): A glossy polypropylene-like ivory plastic  (Printed via the LaGuardia Studio)

Polished and Unpolished Nylon SLS (laser sintered powder, either polished in a machine or left :raw”): A photo-polymer plastic (Printed via Shapeways)

Our testers were 3 X 5 X .125 inch “cards,” each labeled with a number and a letter that corresponded with the material it was printed in (U for Unpolished Nylon, P for Polished Nylon, and 7K for SLA). We printed 10 of each card for safe measure.

Reference images in hand, the next step was to get some paint for our first base layer. We tested on the following (we added notes where we felt necessary):

Alsa Corp Killer Can in Jet Black: A “retro matte” black base coat that comes with the spray chrome kit.

Mountain GOLD Series in G7090 Coke: A less pigmented (“natural black”), but heavily textured black

Montana MTN 94 Series in RV119 London Grey: A soft dove grey with an olive undertone

Montana MTN BLK in 9001 Black: A rich black paint semi matte paint

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in Neutral Grey 5: We found that all the Liquitex paints definitely had the look of acrylic paint, especially the white.

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in Iridescent Rich Silver: Neutral metallic silver paint

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in Neutral Grey 3: ultra matte finish

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in Titanium White: matte finish

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in White Paint (Gloss and Matte): On the cool side of white

Krylon Metallic Spray Paint in Silver: Your standard silver spray paint

Krylon Color Master in Gloss White: Your standard High Gloss spray paint

Raw Paint Tests

Raw Paint Test Chips 2

Close Up of Silver Chips

Close up of Black and Gray Chips

Raw Paint Test 3

Raw Paint Test 4

Raw Paint Test 5

 

Base Coat: First Impressions

Overall, we had a solid line-up of tests, but we definitely had some standouts, for good and bad reasons.

Alsa Corp Killer Can in Jet Black:  looked great on all 3 materials, and did a great job of diminishing the texture of the SLS prints.  We liked the automotive feel it gave the SLA prints and the velvety feel it gave to the SLS.

Montana MTN 94 Series in RV119 London Grey: Loved the shade, disliked the spurting spray that was difficult to finagle- easily solved through replacing the cap.

Mountain GOLD Series in G7090 Coke: Preferred the Alsa Black due to its ultra matte finish and lack of texture- this paint was significantly textured in comparison; not great for imitating metal, but ended up being perfect for Sarah’s Fenrir Pauldron.

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in White Paint (Gloss and Matte): Looked good on all 3 materials and also helped with the surface texture; however, it did appear more like acrylic paint and less like spray paint.

All Chromed Up: First Impressions

Krylon Metallic Silver

Liquitex Metallic Silver

Gloss White

Alsa Black

Dark Grey

Matte White

Light Grey

Gold Tests

We found that the SLA coat was much smoother than the SLS, but the Polished turned out a lot better than expected; the material has a good tooth for spray paint, which made every coat fall evenly across the tests. We also did not experience any flaking on the SLS compared to the SLA.  Further sanding the Polished with fine-grit (400+ grit) sandpaper yielded an even smoother and more reflective result- the same goes for the SLA.

The Unpolished was heavily textured but still felt quite smooth, had strong reflectivity, and took paint effortlessly.

In terms of color changes, the grey paints yielded the most steel-like effect compared to the other colors, and the white yielded a finished closer to sterling silver.

If you have scrolled through the gallery above and found that every test looked quite similar, there are several reasons for that: firstly, the high reflectivity made the tests very difficult to photograph, and we did our best to capture the essence of each material.  Secondly, there were very subtle differences in each test in terms of tones and how the colors flashed and changed in different lighting.  This was something that we only really realized after completing our testing.

Conclusions and Decisions

 

After some deliberation, we ultimately decided that the Alsa Black and London Grey would suit both of our swords perfectly; they worked beautifully as a pair, especially in their nuances- they truly captured that steel feel.

Material wise, we did choose the SLA material not only due to our familiarity with it, but also due to its ultra smooth, high definition surface that would cut down on work time, as well as give us a crispness necessary for a blade.

The Polished and Unpolished SLS, while yielding great results in reflectivity, pigmentation, and coverage, just did not have the surface quality we were looking for in this project. We felt that for our vision that it did not mimic steel in terms of finish and in “weight,” not necessarily in terms of physical grams or pounds, but in in look and feel; it had a lightness to it that we felt was opposite to that of a heavy, steel blade. If you are going for a more hammered appearance or an aluminum finish, these materials work very well in achieving that, both from a cosmetic and physicality sense.

Some Takeaways:

It comes in a kit for a reason: We found that at the end of the day, the paint that came with the kit worked best with the chrome process- they were designed to work together after all. That may sound obvious, but this is why testing is so important; there are exceptions, and you will not know if you try.

Do the prep work: Sanded surfaces worked much better in terms of reflectivity across all the materials we tested.

Polished Preferred (at least in our opinion!): In their pure forms, we found that the Polished SLS prints worked better than the Unpolished prints for the look we were going for (see above).

Regarding the Alsa Killer Chrome Kit: Buffing and hand polishing after the chrome process actually lowers the reflectivity and shine of the prints. Using any other glossy spray paint as a topcoat in lieu of the kit’s topcoat also matte-ifies the surface.

– Sarah C. Awad and Dhemerae Ford

This blog has been reposted with permission from TheLaserGirlsStudio.

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.

Six Famous Monsters on How to 3D Print the Perfect Halloween

This season, Shapeways porcelain has an amazing selection of Halloween models to choose from, and our favorite famous Halloween monsters and their friends have recommended some of the most ghoulish options.

A pumpkin is a witch’s best friend (after her cat of course) and Porcelain Decorations’ lovely Table Top Porcelain Pumpkin is a perfect fit for every witchy home.

No one wants to forget their keys, but when you are the Grim Reaper, it’s easy to do! Curio Inventorium’s frightening Skull Keyring Holder keeps keys safely mounted to the wall near your door so you don’t forget them, even in the dead of night.

Even Bat Lady needs a tea cup to be a proper lady, and Candy Carlson Design’s adorable Bat Tea Cup is the perfect fit.

 

LudMi’s Anatomical Heart in a Mug is perfect for the vampire who wants to drink blood in style.

The Valkyries say that Wolnir’s Goblet by Tony Nguyen’s Stuff is perfect for after you have looted a village. There is nothing like drinking wine out of an opponent’s skull.

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Finally, when ghosts drive to their honeymoon, what could be more perfect than a Ghostbusters-Inspired Hood Ornament by Fused Creations.

Enjoy the fall season, and don’t forget that Halloween is every day!

How Does a Microbiologist Turn Into a Jeweler?

Today’s guest blog comes from Gabriel Guzman of 3D to the 3e. Gabriel, a professor of microbiology and a jewelry designer, has found a perfect way to combine his passion for science with a love of design. He lets us in on how his Crochet Pendant went from concept to reality — and helped him go from scientist to designer.

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Designer Gabriel Guzman’s Crochet Pendant and Earrings

To me, a biochemist and a microbiologist, the design process for 3D printing has a lot in common with designing an experiment in the lab. First there is a general idea that generates a possible solution — a hypothesis. Then there is the use of design tools to shape that idea into something printable. And, of course, continuous prototyping to explore different versions of the design. Finally, one of the iterations will have the aesthetics, balance, and curiosity, if you will, that might make somebody ask, “How did you do that?”

When I first began to design the Crochet Pendant, I did have a pendant in mind, but the final design didn’t emerge until after I played with a number of different iterations. The name, however, came after looking at the final design — and a crochet piece that I saw on a table. My mother used to have a lot of doilies and other table covers made with crochet.

In terms of the technical design process, I was getting my hands wet with an experimental app from Autodesk called Project Shapeshifter, which allowed for the creation of generative designs. Generative design is a method in which the final model is generated by a computer program following a set of rules or an algorithm. I started with a general shape that I had in mind, but I didn’t know what I would end up with in terms of the final object. So, I tested different parameters in Shapeshifter, until one of the many iterations had everything I wanted to see in the pendant.

I began with the idea of a circular object, with details based on the repetitive pattern of a honeycomb. Shapeshifter only generated the file to be printed, but a pendant needs a loop, a bail, or something to pass a chain through. I chose Tinkercad for that purpose because the software was free and easy to use. I designed a very simple loop, which wasn’t circular but followed the shape of the pattern, and the end result was a piece that has generated a lot of comments, but more important, a piece that I was satisfied with. Perhaps the most important lesson for me is that none of my finished designs are exactly as I first imagine them, and they really don’t have to. Every finished design is a result of tweaking, and rethinking possibilities.

The reaction from people, especially if they don’t know anything about 3D printing, is of amazement that a machine can make jewelry. The metal version of the pendant didn’t happen until about three months after I printed the first version at home in a mint-colored plastic. My wife wore the pendant during that year’s commencement ceremony and my colleagues kept asking her about the piece, and then kept asking me about how it was made. I never imagined that a piece made in plastic could draw that much attention!

For those with experience designing jewelry the old-fashioned way (by sculpting wax), they recognize what 3D printing technology can do for their own creativity. It helps them go beyond the traditional wax sculpting into digital sculpting. But, for the novice, this technology is also a way to democratize art. Perhaps the most common question I get is, “How does a microbiologist turn into a jeweler?” If people consider me a jeweler, I take that as a big compliment! After all, I didn’t go to art school, although I do have some background in graphic design, but I never fancied myself a jeweler until I began experimenting with 3D printing.

Shaping Dutch Design: Jelle de Vries

In celebration of Dutch Design Week 2016, our Shaping Dutch Design series will take a closer look at a few of the dozens of Dutch designers who are part of the Shapeways EXPO this year and, of course, our global maker community all year round. Make sure to visit us in person if you’re in Eindhoven this week, and follow us here, on InstagramTwitter, and on Facebook for live updates from #DDW16.

Jelle de Vries of Studio Jelle creates modernist lighting fixtures that seem to glow even when switched off. Making the most of the way that light interacts with our White Strong & Flexible material, Jelle has created a series of Pinhole Lamps that might recall midcentury modern pieces from afar. Up close, however, the difference is clear: despite a basket-weave appearance, the seamless fixtures give off a warm and diffuse light that shines evenly through every part of the durable, nylon-based plastic they’re printed in. The effect is playful and futuristic — with a nod to the pre-digital past.

Stop by Shapeways EXPO at Dutch Design Week to see the Pinhole Lamps up close, or check them out in the Studio Jelle shop. Whether you choose to hang one from the ceiling or rest it on a side table, the Pinhole Lamp is a truly unique way to bring home cutting-edge Dutch design.

Tips for Designing in Porcelain

Porcelain is an ancient technology that has been transformed by modern machinery and 3D printing. Designs once impossible to create by hand are now possible using 3D printers. At Shapeways, we launched our very own porcelain process in 2014 that uses your 3D design file to print a mold and cast using our own porcelain material.

As expected with all new technologies, there are limitations. To understand how to optimally design for 3D printed porcelain, it is important to understand the production process as well as the caveats of the material. Read on to learn about each stage of production and find tips on how to design in porcelain to make your finished objects just right.

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How is 3D printed porcelain created?

1.  3D printing engineers check your design

Once you place your order, your model file is sent over to our 3D printing engineers who specialize in porcelain. They inspect the model to ensure that the mold of the design can be printed and continue through the production process.

2.  The mold is generated and printed

We have developed software that generates a mold of your 3D file. You can imagine the mold as a shell or the negative space of your design. We will also generate a small funnel that will be used to cast your product.

3.  The mold is cut and cleaned

Once the model is taken out of the printer, it must be cleaned of all residual support material. In order to completely clear out all of the material, the mold must be cut to reach the interior. Imagine the mold as the “skin” of your model or the negative space. The mold and overall design must be able to hold together in order to eventually cast in porcelain.

4.  The mold is reassembled

After the mold has been cleaned out, it must be glued back together in order to cast. This creates a seam where the model has been cut and glued. However, this will later be sanded and repaired by hand.

The exterior funnel will be glued to the mold for the next step in the process, casting.

5.  Porcelain is cast in the mold

The porcelain material is poured into the mold through the exterior funnel. The porcelain material within the mold will settle and harden.

6.  The mold is removed

Once the porcelain is fully hardened, the mold will be removed and the porcelain model will remain.

7.  Model goes into first firing

Immediately after the mold has been removed, the design goes into the kiln for its first firing. This hardens the design so that the model may be repaired and glazed.

8.  Model is repaired and hand finished

With the first firing complete, the model is strong enough to repair. There are a few types of repairs that may be performed. First, the porcelain team uses a variety of tools to carefully remove the seam lines left by the mold. Second, if the porcelain has not reached all ends of the mold or has generated any air pockets, these minor imperfections will be patched and repaired by hand.

9.  Model goes into second firing

If your model needed to be patched, the product will go in for a second firing. This cycle of repairs and firings can happen a few times in order to get your design just right.

10.  Product is glazed

Your design will be hand dipped in a liquid glaze. Any excess glaze on the base of the design will be wiped away in order to avoid the glaze from sticking to the kiln.

11.  Glaze firing

Once the base has been wiped clean, the model enters the kiln for the glaze firing. This will solidify the food-safe coating of glaze on the design. In some cases, the model may need to be re-glazed and fired due to unpredictable surface issues, such as small pin holes or patches that were not glazed fully. A re-glaze may cause pooling of glaze on the model.

12.  Finished model

The model is then packaged carefully and sent to the distribution center to be shipped off to you.

What do you need to consider before designing in porcelain?

There are two aspects of porcelain to consider before you begin to design your product. First, the glaze that will coat your design. Second, the properties of the production process.

GLAZE

During the glazing process, your model is dipped in the thick glaze liquid. Excess glaze drips off and the base is cleaned so that it may rest on the kiln shelf without fusing to the bottom. While the model is in the kiln the glaze becomes molten. After cooling, the result is a stronger, hardened layer of colored food-safe glass.

FIT AND HOLE CLEARANCE

Our glazes run a thickness of 1 to 2 mm. This means that if precise fit and unobstructed holes are important to your model, ensure you have left at least 2 millimeters of clearance on EVERY wall.

In the image below you can see two differently sized holes. The hole on the left is larger than 5 mm wide. This will allow the glaze to coat the inside without closing the hole. The hole on the right displays a 4 mm hole, the glaze will completely obstruct this hole eliminating the ability for clearance.

UNOBSTRUCTED HOLE                          OBSTRUCTED HOLE

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The same logic applies for lids that fit onto containers. The lid should account for the glaze that will be applied as well as the container itself. Meaning, your design should have at least 4 mm of space between the lid and the container.

DESIGN DETAILS

Details of a design can get lost under a layer of glaze. It is necessary to consider the depth, height, and width of the detail of before submitting your design. On our porcelain material page, we recommend a minimum of 1 mm height and width of detail. If you are aiming for sharp details, consider making them greater than this minimum.

We have published a previous post depicting examples of details after being glazed in each of our color options. As mentioned, each color has a slight variation of thickness. For the clearest text or imagery, please ensure you accommodate for the glaze.

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SUPPORTIVE STRUCTURES

Adding feet to your standing designs are useful for avoiding fully unglazed bases. While designing these decorative and useful features, there are couple aspects to keep in mind:

  • The height of the feet should be greater than the thickness of the glaze. Otherwise, the base will be required to go unglazed.

  • Long spindly feet can break during casting. Please ensure that the height and thickness of the feet are comparable or that the thickness can allow for the feet to fully cast

ROUND vs. SHARP EDGES

Sharp edges and rounded edges will affect how the glaze rests on the model after firing. In the images below, you can see how a sharp edge will split the glaze whereas a rounded edge will allow the glaze to roll over the edge. One is not better than the other; they are merely aesthetically different.

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ORIENTATION

All models must be able to stand on their own, as they will be fired with other models in a single kiln. At this time stilts and supports are not included in the production process. This means that the model must have a base or feet to rest on. With designer-selected orientation, you have the power to determine which side of the model goes unglazed and rests on the kiln during the firing process.

During the upload process, a render is provided to select the top and bottom of your design. Arrows may be selected to rotate the design in the proper orientation. Top and bottom indicators are located on the render image. NOTE: The orientation in the render will be the orientation in production.

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PRODUCTION PROPERTIES:

BOUNDING BOX

The bounding box for porcelain states the limits of how large or small your design can be. These limits are important to consider before taking the time to completely design your item.

Minimum: 40 × 40 × 10 mm

Maximum: 125 × 125 × 200 mm

WALL AND WIRE THICKNESS

In order for a model to cast completely and reach the very edges of the design, walls and wires must be thick enough for the comparable length.

The smaller the model or shorter the wire, the thinner it may be. This is demonstrated in the image below. If the model is 2 mm thin and very short, it is easier for the porcelain to make it to the end of the mold. Otherwise, if the design is long and thin, it is nearly impossible for the porcelain to fill the mold completely.

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With extremely thin wires, holes, and walls, cleaning out the mold by hand can cause breaks with insufficient thickness. So it is especially important to consider making these features larger than 3 mm for the best result. This does not increase pricing greatly as porcelain is priced by surface area. Adding thickness does not increase price as it does with other materials.

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Elevate your porcelain ideas by using these tips and techniques. Let those details shine through and make sure your design glides through the production process. Once you’ve printed your design, you can begin selling on the Shapeways marketplace!