Category Archives: Tutorials

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!

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.

IMG_0242.JPG

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

IMG_0236.JPG

 

  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.

IMG_0255.JPG

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

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.

1

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.

2

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

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.

openscad_screenshot_sweeper_sized

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.

user_manual_sized

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.

polybowls_video_sized

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.

openscad_patrick_conner_sized

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!

What if Bob Ross Taught 3D Design?

That soothing voice, those happy little trees, that simple adding of elements that are more than the sum of their parts — it can only be Bob Ross. And, just as Bob Ross loved to share the joy of painting, we LIVE to share the joy of 3D printing. So, we asked ourselves, “What if Bob could teach us 3D design?” Then, we looked hard at our Community Manager Andrew Thomas, squinted, and realized: he’s basically the Bob Ross of 3D design. That gentle voice, those mad 3D modeling skills. A wig, a Wacom Intuos4, a free download of MagicaVoxel, and a few hours later, we had launched The Joy of 3D Design With Andrew Thomas.

Check out the first episode below, and don’t miss Uncubed’s awesome feature on the making of The Joy of 3D Design. Then, all you have to do is subscribe to our YouTube channel, and let The Joy of 3D Design take you away….

Tutorial Tuesday 3: Beginner 3D Design With Tinkercad

This week, Tutorial Tuesday is for beginners. If you’ve never designed a 3D model before, then this post will show you how to get started. We’ll start with showing you how to design simple 3D models with a free program called Tinkercad, and then how to send those models to Shapeways for 3D printing. It’s easier than you might think! Get a cup of coffee and join us. You’ll have designed and ordered your first 3D design before you’re done with your coffee.

TT3tinkercad 

First steps

If you’re completely new to 3D printing, then one of the best ways to get started is with Tinkercad, a free 3D modeling program that runs right in your web browser. The Tinkercad user interface is extremely intuitive — just drag, drop, modify, and combine 3D shapes to create a 3D design which can be exported for 3D printing. To use Tinkercad, you’ll have to set up an Autodesk account, which is free and only takes a minute. Go to www.tinkercad.com and sign up now before reading any further, so you can play along.

OK, let’s get started!

When you log into Tinkercad for the first time, you’ll start inside the Learning the Moves Tinkercad Lesson, which teaches you how to navigate around and move 3D objects. If you’re an absolute beginner, we recommend working through this and other Tinkercad Lessons to learn the basics. Click on the step arrows in the upper left for instructions within each Lesson, and to move ahead to the next Lesson.

staircase

There are a LOT of Tinkercad Lessons, and some of them are more technical than others. Don’t feel like you have to complete them all right now. When you’re ready to exit the lessons and make your own design, click on the multicolored Tinkercad logo to go to your main Designs page, and click on “Create New Design.” 

Designing a Model

To jump in right away, simply drag objects from the right sidebar in Tinkercad onto the blue Workplane, then use the “handle dots” on your objects to change their size or shape. For detailed instructions and tips on how to do this, watch Tinkercad’s beginner-friendly video Introduction to Tinkercad Beta.

autodeskvideo

Tinkercad switched to a new ground-up redeveloped Beta version last year, and there are lots of new features that make designing in Tinkercad even easier than it was before. If you’re already a Tinkercad pro and just want to know what’s different in the new Beta that came out this year, check out the Tinkercad video Updates: TinkerTour and Tinkercad Beta or the Tinkercad Beta Participant Guide. If you’re completely new to Tinkercad, the video Tinkercad Beta – New Features: Shape Controls is a good place to get started learning about the powerful new Beta features.

shapecontrols

For a comprehensive one-stop-shop introduction to Tinkercad, including beginner and intermediate videos, links to 3D models and projects made with Tinkercad, check out the Tinkercad Jumpstart resource page on Thingiverse.  While you’re there, be sure to learn about the key Tinkercad tools Align, Ruler, Workplane, Group, and Hole — they are the secret to creating interesting Tinkercad designs.

jumpstart

Tinkercad models on Shapeways

Tinkercad seems like a simple program, and it is, but you can still use it to make beautiful 3D models. Here are three products on Shapeways that were made with Tinkercad: on the left, a metal Shapeways Keychain made by Shapeways user The Void; in the middle, a simple but elegant Y Ring made by moyer; and on the right, a practical Hario Skerton Coffee Grinder Bottom Bracket made by erin.io.

keychain yring coffee

So, how do you get your Tinkercad models to Shapeways for 3D printing, or even to sell in the marketplace? First, click the Export button in the upper right of your Tinkercad window, then export your model as an .STL file. Then, open a new browser window and navigate to the Shapeways upload page, and click “Upload a 3D model” to get started.

Pay close attention to the size of your model — its size will have a big impact on the cost and printability of your design. Large objects cost more to print, and models with very small design features may not print reliably. You can use the “Ruler” tool in Tinkercad to measure and scale your object before exporting, or, after exporting, use the Scale button on your model’s Shapeways page to change the size of your model. You should be able to order a small physical 3D print of your first Tinkercad model in Strong & Flexible nylon plastic for less than five dollars!

Share your work and join the discussion

We love to hear from you, and we’re here to answer any design/printing questions you have. Want some advice on aligning objects? Exporting to Minecraft? Importing 2D images into your designs? Let us know in the comments.

What’s more, if you make your Tinkercad design public, then you can share it with others. Click on the “list” icon that is third from the left in the top menu bar, then click on the “gear” icon near your design and select “Public.” Then, just copy the URL for your design and share it in the comments below to show off your design.

Better yet, you can easily make your design public on Shapeways so that your friends and fans can order prints of their own. If you’d like to do this, go to your model page on Shapeways and choose “Edit product with this model”, then check “Offer for sale to others” and “Display to the public,” and fill in category and pricing information. Share the URL in the comments, and maybe you’ll get your first customer!

Tutorial Tuesday 2: Full-Color Printing and Character Models

fc3dp 1

Welcome to the second Tutorial Tuesday! There’s a lot of 3D printing and design information on the internet, and it’s our job to sort it out. Let us know in the comments what you’re working on and learning about, and we’ll try to tailor future Tutorial Tuesdays to your needs.

We’ll pick up where we left off last time, with a second round of design and printing tutorials from right here at Shapeways. This time we’ll get technical, focusing on some of the more specialized issues that arise when designing, exporting, and printing 3D models. If you’re already a designer or 3D modeler and need technical advice on how to convert and export your designs and animations for 3D printing, then this week is for you.

3D Printing in Full Color

There are lots of options for 3D printing in one color or finish at a time, but just one if you want to print multi-color objects at Shapeways: Full Color Sandstone. The printed colors of your 3D model can be determined by a detailed UV texture map that you upload with your design, or by adding colors to the faces of your design in some 3D modeling programs. With full color printing, you can create some amazing models like those shown above.

Get started printing in full color by reading the step-by-step Shapeways tutorial on Exporting to VRML and X3D for color printing, or watching the Shapeways video Full Color 3D Printing. Full color printing is especially great for printing 3D character models from video games or animations. But not every 3D character design is suitable for 3D printing; what looks good on the screen might have areas that are too thin for printing successfully, or the mesh of the digital model might have problems that affect printability. Not only that, but a digital 3D character model doesn’t have to worry about gravity or balance, but a physical, 3D printed version of that model might not be able to stand up without falling over, due to tiny legs or an awkward pose. Learn how to convert your favorite video game and animation designs into 3D-printable models with the Shapeways tutorial Tips and tricks for character models.

fc3dp2    fc3dp3

Advanced Character Printing

Even if you’re a professional 3D modeler, it can be difficult to convert your digital models into ones that are suitable for 3D printing. Shapeways member BhushanArekar is a ZBrush sculptor who has created many 3D printed full color designs, including this model of Xev from The LEXX:

fc3dp4

The following detailed two-part Shapeways tutorials by Laurie Berenhaus will help you turn your intricate characters into real-life printed models: Part 1: How to Prepare your Render/Animation Model for 3D Printing, and Part 2: Adapting your Character or Animation Model for 3D Printing, which includes a video.  If your model has articulated or mechanical parts, then you may also appreciate the tips in the Shapeways tutorial Designing mechanical parts for 3D printing.

fc3dp5    fc3dp6

Even after all that, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the tutorials that Shapeways has to offer — but that’s enough for this week!  This week we got technical, but next week we’ll go back to the basics and explore how to create 3D designs with one of the most easy-to-use 3D design programs, Tinkercad, so stay tuned.

We’d love to hear from you, so if you’d like to share your own experiences 3D printing in color or with converted character designs, please join the discussion in the comments. And as always, if there is a topic or technique you’d like to learn more about, let us know and we’ll try to make it a topic of a future Tutorial Tuesday. Have a great week!

Introducing: Out of Shape

I obviously love wearing jewelry from our marketplace, but I want to start making my own!
I obviously love wearing jewelry (and 3D printed crowns, naturally) from our marketplace, but I want to start making my own!

Being surrounded by brilliant people at Shapeways every day — and seeing the incredible designs available in our marketplace — it’s impossible not to catch the design bug. That being said, I fall into the segment of the population that’s super excited about 3D printing, but simultaneously intimidated by the world of 3D modeling. Since we’re starting a new year (and there’s no way I’d ever resolve to eat less), I’ve added 3D modeling to my list of “wanna learn” resolutions.

image1

Like most people, I’ve always been better at sticking with things when I’m publicaly held accountable. So, Out of Shape will be the column where I document the joys and struggles of my 3D design journey. This is the place where I get to share my weird, wonderful attempts to learn the world of 3D modeling while also trying to inspire others who find themselves in my shoes to do the same (but only after they give me back my shoes).

I’ll be using the tools and tutorials available on Shapeways so that I can attempt this self-taught thing as much as possible. But, if I really, really, reaaaally need help, I’ll tap my colleagues, Community Manager Andrew and Design Evangelist Lauren Slowik. My hunch is that once I get started, it’ll be a pretty manageable effort. The problem is that I’m definitely overthinking where to start. I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities: Do I want to create a cute little figurine for my desk? Should it be a series of personified feelings? Is hungry a feeling? Or maybe, do I want to design a jewelry line? Deep breath. Okay.

I’m going to start by just opening up some free applications like Tinkercad, Meshmixer, and 123D Catch, and start futzing around, getting familiar with the tools, and drawing some basic shapes. That being said, I’m gonna make sure these are the most awesome shapes ever.

Is this post a bit of an excuse to delay diving in? Yep! But it worked, didn’t it? So… anyone have any advice for a newbie venturing into the world of 3D printing? Or any tips on whistling with fingers? I need all the help I can get!

Tutorial Tuesday 1: The Basics of Designing for 3D Printing

Welcome to the first Tutorial Tuesday on Shapeways! Each week, we’ll explore 3D design tutorials to help designers of all levels create and 3D print digital designs. This week, we’ll begin at the beginning with a tour of the basics: How to create simple designs, work with 3D printing constraints, and optimize models for materials and costs. Make sure to let us know in the comments what you’re looking to design, and share any questions or requests you might have along the way.

Whether you’re a 3D printing beginner or a seasoned pro, if you’ve tried looking for 3D printing and design tutorials online, then you’ve probably noticed that there are already a lot of tutorials out there. The hard part isn’t finding design tutorials, it’s figuring out which of the many available articles and videos are worth reading or watching! On Tutorial Tuesdays, we’ll be curating and discussing the best existing tutorials so that you can focus on designing and printing cool things.

Before we venture out into the big bad internet, let’s take stock of we have here at home. Shapeways already has dozens of great 3D printing and design tutorials to help you create, print, and troubleshoot 3D models. This week we’ll be covering the very basics, taken from the Shapeways 3D Printing & Design Tutorials collection and the Shapeways YouTube Channel.

1-SW_3D_printing_tutorials_grid-border   SW_youtube_videos

Creating simple designs

If you’re completely new to 3D design, then the first thing you’ll need to know how to do is create a digital model. One of the fastest and easiest ways to do that is with the Shapeways 2D to 3D Creator Tool, which enables you to quickly turn a 2D image into a 3D-printable model. To get started quickly, check out Laurie Berenhaus’ video Using the 2D to 3D Tool and you’ll be up and running in just four minutes. If you’ve got more time on your hands, try working through the detailed six-video playlist Beginner 3D Modeling for 3D Printing: How to turn a sketch to a 3D model to a 3D Print by Lauren Slowik, Design Evangelist for Education at Shapeways. In that series of videos, Lauren will walk you through the process of using Photoshop to convert a sketch into a digital 2D file, then show you how to use Tinkercad to turn that sketch into a digital 3D file, then finally uploading the model for 3D printing at Shapeways.

2d_to_3d_video    beginner_3D_playlist

Design considerations for 3D printing

However you create your 3D models, in order for them to be 3D printable, they will have to meet certain design constraints. For example, you’ll probably want to make the walls of your models as thin as possible to keep 3D printing costs low, but at the same time you’ll need to keep those walls thick enough so that your design can 3D print successfully. Check out the Shapeways Minimum wall-thickness for 3D printing tutorial for tips about identifying thin walls and features, and the Shapeways Thin walls tutorial to learn strategies for designing delicate features for printability.

3-wall_thickness_1-border (1)    wall_thickness_2

But what if your model doesn’t have any thin walls at all? Well, that might be a problem. For example, printing a solid cube can be very expensive to 3D print, because of the amount of material the 3D printer must use to create such a model. A hollowed-out cube — that is, a thin cubical shell with a small escape hole so that 3D printing material can be removed from its interior — will cost far less than a solid cube of the same size. If you’re used to printing on a desktop filament-based 3D printer, then hollowing out models might be new to you, but it is an essential part of modeling for printing with SLS nylon powder and in other materials at Shapeways. To learn how to turn your solid models into hollow ones for printing, read the Shapeways tutorial Creating Hollow Objects. Even more importantly, some digital 3D models aren’t 3D printable at all, at least not initially. For technical details about making your designs “watertight” and “manifold” for printability, take a look at the Shapeways tutorial Things to keep in mind when designing for 3D Printing.

hollow    keep_in_mind

Materials and Costs

We’ll finish this week with some hints on how to keep costs down while printing with different types of 3D printing materials. For detailed information on each type of 3D printing material that Shapeways offers, check out the 3D Printing Materials guide. For tips on choosing the right 3D printing material for your design, especially if you want to print in cast or plated metal, read the Shapeways tutorial Choosing the best material for your products.

3d_materials    choosing_materials

Whatever material you use, your 3D printing costs will depend on the volume of your object, and/or the amount of space it takes up in the machine, and/or a per-part handling fee. If you’re printing with SLS nylon, also known at Shapeways as Strong & Flexible Plastic, then you can reduce printing costs by hollowing out your model and by enclosing or connecting multi-part models. See the Shapeways tutorial Design for Low Cost 3D Printing: Strong & Flexible for details. To learn about cost-optimizing techniques for more exotic materials, check out the Shapeways tutorial Design for Low Cost 3D Printing: Detailed Plastics, Full Color Sandstone, and Metals.

Design for Low Cost: Nylon    low_cost_fancy

Stay tuned, because next Tuesday we’ll dive deeper into printability with our second round of tutorials, including information about designing, exporting, and even repairing digital models for 3D printing. Have a great Tuesday, and make sure to leave your questions, ideas, and requests in the comments. And, don’t forget to share what you’re working on as you learn to 3D model. See you next week!

Post-Processing Tips: Hand-Dyeing Strong & Flexible Plastics

xsf

Though a lot of people know how easy it is to use Shapeways to create simple designs or 3D print their own existing designs, fewer people realize how easy it can be to customize jewelry, miniatures, and other pieces after you receive your prints. In today’s post, we’ll explore an easy custom jewelry finishing technique for Strong & Flexible plastic.

Strong & Flexible plastic is an incredibly versatile material. When this material is designed thin, it’s flexible enough for catapults or springs. When designed thick, it’s strong enough for a variety of tools or structural components.

Strong & Flexible is printed using SLS, or selective laser sintering. This process uses two lasers to sinter together nylon powder, layer by layer, until an entire printer build is complete.

The nylon powder that is used always begins as white. If a color is selected during the checkout process, we will hand-dye the material to your choice.

If you decide you would like to create custom colors at home, here’s how to get started:

Materials Required:

  • Pick Tool Set

  • Small Brush

  • Metal Pot & Water

  • Nylon or Synthetic Fabric Dye

  • Drying Rack & Paper Towels

CLEANING PROCESS

The cleaning process is required to remove the excess support material (in this case, nylon powder) from the 3D printed products. This will allow for a clean and smooth surface to finish the designs. If all of the powder is not removed you may be left with areas that do not receive dye.

picks xsf

Pick Tool Set: gently scrape away any excess support material (nylon powder) caught in crevasses or holes.

brush

Small Brush: Using a small brush, wipe away the remaining powder.

 

DYEING PROCESS

The dyeing process requires just a few materials: synthetic fabric dye, a metal pot, and water.

rit

1. Create Dye Mixture

Measure out the appropriate dye and water for the material you will be dyeing. The instructions on the packaging should list out the appropriate amount.

Allow water and dye to come to a simmer and stir until dye is completely dissolved. If dye floats to the top, just scoop off the excess material.

2. Dye Products

Using a sample piece of material, test the dye and the timing for desired results. The amount of time the model remains in the pot will vary depending on your design and desired results. This can range from 3 – 10 minutes.

Submerge products fully within the hot liquid mixture. Follow your test results for perfect timing.

3. Air Dry

Air dry until the material is no longer wet to the touch. You may pat dry the products using paper towels to remove any excess water or dye.The dye should have saturated the top layer of the product. If not, replace the model in the pot for further dyeing.

Dyed Strong & Flexible pieces

Dyed Strong & Flexible pieces

Strong & Flexible nylon plastic is an extremely versatile material in its potential uses and finishes. We would love to hear how you customize this material at home. If you have your own post-processing techniques, please share in the comments or on our post-processing forum here.

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

giphy

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:

giphy-2

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).

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.

Five Easy Ways to Supercharge Your SEO

To help our shop owners get ready for the busiest sales weeks of the year, we’re re-sharing this post from our Shop Owner bootcamp series. All insights courtesy our performance marketing pro, Jeanne, who shows us how to make your SEO airtight — and drive shoppers to your store.

eggbot-mygadgetlife-shapeways

Scottish Shapie Shop Owner MyGadgetLife has some of the best product descriptions on Shapeways. Check out his eggbot (above) and his moon mobius to get inspired for your shop!

5 Easy Ways (Under 5 Minutes) to Get Your Products Picked Up by Google

We’ve already talked about various ways to get customers to your shop, but today we’re going to dive even deeper and talk about the importance of search engine results (SEO). Currently, organic search results are one of the top drivers to Shapeways. The more you can get your products in search engine results, the more likely a potential customer will visit your product page and make a purchase. Below are five tips to get your products search engine optimized in minutes.

#1 Use Specific Keywords in Your Product Titles & Descriptions

Your model titles and descriptions are used not only on your model page on Shapeways, but in search engine search results – a two for one! So, titles and descriptions with specific, relevant keywords will help your products appear in and get people to click (which helps it to surface even more frequently).

Action: You can spend a lot of time on keyword optimization, but here are two easy ways to get started:

  • If you were to search for your product, what would you type in a search engine? Make sure those keywords are in both your title and description

  • Be as specific as possible with your description, including all the peripheral search terms that might be relevant (synonyms, the category that your product belongs in, types of customization or personalization, etc.)

For example, if I title my product “Holiday Ornament,” the likelihood that my product will show up on the first few pages of Google is very low (there are a total of 22.8m search results). Sucks, I know. But if I title it “Custom holiday ornament with initial,” I’m competing against 8.7m search results. And in my description, I’ll write “Christmas or holiday ornament can be customized with initials, monograms, names, images, and is a great unique gift for your loved ones.” Sounds wordy, but it works.

#2 Update Titles & Descriptions to a Certain Length

Anything too long or too short is suspected by search engines to be of low quality. There is a min and approximate max, and you are penalized with less opportunity to turn up in search results for it.

Action: Titles should be about 6 to 8 words (55 characters), with the most important words in the beginning. Descriptions should be at least 15 words (160 characters) with keywords described above in it, as that’s the snippet that gets viewed in search results so you want it to be enticing! Use natural language (the way you would normally talk or write) in your descriptions, including facts and statements to help viewers see the value of your product immediately.

Description

#3 Give Your Images Captions with Keywords

A picture is worth a thousand words. Your product photos should be clear, product-focused, well-lit, show materials variety, and be in as high a resolution as possible. More and more people are finding Shapeways products through image searches on search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, etc). Including a clear photo and a description with keywords will increase the likelihood it will get picked up in image searches (known as an “Alt text”).

Action: In the Details tab of your model, fill in the image caption with keywords, starting with the ones most relevant to your product. For example, for this ornament I created with Shapeways ornament creator, my caption is “Custom Christmas holiday ornament with organic design”

Image caption

#4 Every Product is Unique, so its Title and Description Should Be Too!

Every model should have a unique title and description. Duplications are penalized by search engines because it assumes the viewer won’t have a good experience if there’s a lot of too-similar content.  Unique titles and descriptions will help your products get shown by search engines.

Action: Give your product titles and descriptions. Your products are unique and their titles and descriptions should be too.  little bit different is better than no difference at all.

#5 Your Shop Description is Prime for SEO Opportunity

Your shop page is full of opportunities for search engines to pick up, with your product and their titles, image alt text, and the robust area to write in a shop description.

Action: Update your Shop Description in your Shapeways Shop Settings with examples of your products types, your background and your expertise designing them. Feel free to elaborate on your designs and products, as the more relevant keywords on the page compared to non-relevant keywords, the better.

Bonus: Also add an extended description for your shop page.

Shop Description

Search engine optimization is a time-intensive and ever-evolving process, but the key tenets are consistent: quality content, natural descriptions, and following basic guidelines will go a long way.

What keyword search do you wish you were the #1 result for?

 

This post has been updated by Angela Linneman.