Category Archives: Tutorials

Tutorial Tuesday 9: Help!

Where can you go when you need help with a model or mesh? If you’re like Lise, you can ask your colleagues at Shapeways. But, what’s the next best thing? The Shapeways Forums! They’re a great place to ask for advice, check out what community members are working on, and help other other people with their questions. The Shapeways forum community is super active, and many contributors are more than willing to lend a helping hand. This week, we’ll talk about our favorite Shapeways forum groups for designers and modelers.

Help With Design

Three of the Shapeways forums are especially helpful for design questions: First, the Design and Modeling Forum, where you can ask questions about converting models for 3D printing, repairing meshes, or solving design issues. Or, you can answer other designers’ questions if they overlap with your areas of expertise.

Second, the Software and Applications Forum is a great place to ask program-specific questions. You’ll find people talking about software like Fusion 360, Blender, and Netfabb, or discussing software-specific tools and techniques.

Finally, for questions about customizing your designs with CustomMaker or other tools, check out the Customizable Products & Design Forum. This is a great forum to explore if you’re considering making your designs easily personalizable.

Help With Printing

There are also specific forums focused on questions about 3D printing and physical post-processing. Here are three that are of particular interest to designers and product creators.

First, for questions about the 3D printing process itself, check out the Technologies and Hardware Forum.

To ask questions about printing with Strong & Flexible nylon, Alumide, plated metals, or any other types of materials, visit the Materials Forum.

And finally, to learn more about the various post-processing options you could apply to your models after they are printed, check out the Finishing Techniques Forum.

If you’re stuck on a design or printing issue, try looking through the forums for answers. If you can’t find one, just ask a new question. Chances are, a kind soul from the Shapeways community will come to your rescue! And, if you’re an expert or can solve problems, then pay it forward by answering other people’s questions. Do you have a favorite forum on Shapeways? Let us know in the comments!

 

Top and cover image photo credit: gruntzooki via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Tutorial Tuesday 8: Using Sculptris to 3D Model With “Digital Clay”

If you want to make an organic-looking sculpted character head or body, and you want to do it for free, then you’ll want to know how to use Sculptris. Sculptris is a free beginner 3D digital sculpting program made available by Pixologic, the company that produces the professional-grade sculpting software ZBrush. It’s very easy to learn how to use Sculptris to create complex 3D models by pushing, pulling, and stretching a digital ball of clay.

Video Tutorials

For a nice introduction to the basic tools, plus a walkthrough showing how to create character heads, check out the Sculptris Reference Tutorial video by IntroducingEmy.

To dig in even deeper, try watching these three in-depth video lessons that Mr.Brooks made for his students: Becoming Familiar With Digital Sculpting in Sculptris, Using the Grab, Scale, Rotate, Draw, Crease Brushes in Sculptris, and Using the Flatten, Inflate, Pinch, and Smooth Brushes in Sculptris.

For even more Sculptris resources, dive into the extensive Sculptris Jumpstart resource page on Thingiverse, and the video resources on the main Sculptris site.

Sculptris Models on Shapeways

Here are three fantastic Shapeways models that were designed with Sculptris. First, a beautiful Dragon Wall Hook by Kai Bracher:

Next, an elegant and mysterious Woman bust by oekart:

Finally, a scientifically intricate Honey Bee model by PeterAndrew (with wings made in ZBrush).

Have you created any models with Sculptris? Let us know in the comments. We love to hear how different designers are using sculpting software, from free programs like Sculptris to commercial software like ZBrush.

Tutorial Tuesday 7: What 3D Design Software Should I Use?

Which 3D design program should I use?

Every day, people ask us, “What design software should I use to create a 3D model?” The answer: Everything you can. Each 3D design software has its own unique personality; different programs are good at different parts of the design process. MeshLab is good at modifying meshes, Tinkercad excels at drag-and-drop modifications, and ZBrush enables you to sculpt. While creating one 3D model, you might utilize multiple 3D design programs, depending on what you need at various stages of your design. In this week’s Tutorial Tuesday, we’ll talk about five examples of designs that together use over a dozen different 3D modeling programs. Buckle up!

Inkscape + Blender

As a simple starting example, let’s look at the angel ornament design created in the Shapeways tutorial Creating a design with moving parts. This design used Inkscape to import a drawing and then create nested offsets (shapes within shapes) of that image. Inkscape is great for manipulating 2D images, but to extrude to 3D and add beveled edges and hinges, the designer had to move to Blender.

Interlocking Angel design

Photoshop + Illustrator + Tinkercad + 3DS Max

Here’s another design walkthrough that illustrates how multiple software programs can be used to convert a 2D drawing into a 3D printable designs: How I Made: Custom Bat Wing Earrings by Ghostgirl. This design uses Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to prepare a 2D image of a hand-drawn sketch, Tinkercad to extrude into 3D, and then 3DS Max to round the edges.

Bat Wing Earrings

Sketchup + MeshLab

Sometimes you need an extra software program to export to the correct format for 3D printing. For example, Shapeways community member aeron203 wrote an excellent tutorial on Textured Models with SketchUp and MeshLab showing how to use SketchUp to create a photo frame with an embedded color image texture, and then MeshLab to convert that model to VRML97 format for printing in Full Color Sandstone.

Mathematica + MeshLab + TopMod + Meshmixer

Here’s an example of a design created using four different software programs: the mathgrrl Deltoidal Hexecontahedron model. First, we used Mathematica to export the polyhedron’s vertex set to STL, MeshLab to resize the object by a particular scaling factor, and TopMod to create and stylize the wireframe. You can read about this design process in the Stylized Catalan Wireframes post on MakerHome. A fourth program, Meshmixer, was used to optimize thicknesses and size for printing at Shapeways.

Blender + ZBrush + Rhino

Finally, consider this amazing Skull Ring by tesserato, who was kind enough to write a detailed design walkthrough How I Made: A Skull Ring. Starting from a 3D medical scan, tesserato used Blender to create a stylized low-poly version of the mesh, and to form a ring shape, then ZBrush to do some detailed sculpting, then Rhino for precision scaling before exporting for 3D printing. Here are physical prints of all the stages of the design:

Notice that in each example, designers use what is most convenient for the task at hand. Sometimes that’s based on what tool is best for the job, and sometimes it’s just based on what software they are already comfortable with. What’s in your 3D modeling toolbox? Let us know in the comments!

Out of Shape 2: Kill It With Fire

Second Out of Shape column, you guys! Get excited – this one’s a fun/disturbing one.

After hearing lots about Tinkercad, it was the program I used for my very first official foray into 3D design (aside from my sassy pendant project).

As predicted, a lack of inspiration/purpose proved to be kind of a design roadblock so I was just aimlessly creating — which led to this weird bird (rocket?) thing.

The 3-axis trickiness really challenged my brain when trying to move the beak onto the body, and I couldn’t figure out why it would end up completely off the body while looking like it was attached from certain angles. Remember when I said I’d only ask for help if I “really, really, reaaaally” needed it? This felt like one of those times, so my colleague Seth came to the rescue, basically reminding me that I was 3D designing instead of just designing on a flat plane. This led to the creation of BirdRocket, which I shared with my best friend (hi, Leigh!) because she’s my #3 cheerleader (my mom and dad are #1 and #2, but they’re not really online much). Her reaction was favorable because she’s a wonderful human.

Feeling like I wanted to explore my other 3D modeling options, I downloaded Sculptris because Chandler Rowland from Things You Want To Buy had recommended it. It’s like virtually sculpting clay. Chandler’s shop is a collection of hilarious creatures with brilliant names like Vjorm Loh the Tunabear and Lobgoblin so naturally had to ask how they were inspired. Chandler said, “I get ideas from everywhere and sometimes nowhere. I’ve been inspired by an alternate meaning of a common phrase, the name of a podcast I listen to, and random ideas that just pop into my head. I also often get ideas from nature, mythology, and other forms of fiction, which I try to combine in new ways.”

Because I didn’t have any ideas in mind, I pulled inspiration from the Omnom Paperclip Holder I’ve had on my desk for ages. It’s from Wondercat, a shop full of figurines that are full of personality and cheekiness (like Soul of a Burnt Marshmallow, OMG). In my attempt to recreate this cute ‘lil’ bunny, something went horribly, horribly wrong — leading to the creation of BearPig (model screenshot below). It’s probably an indication of some deep, undiscovered inner darkness of my psyche but that’s okay — especially because Morgan, the designer behind Wondercat, said, “People tell me my toys terrify them all the time, so don’t let that stop you.”

Upon showing them, my colleagues were on Team Terrified and Seth has petitioned to “kill it with fire” (stay tuned for this Facebook Live). I printed BearPig in white nylon. It was the first design of my own that I’ve ever brought to life (again, not counting my Pitch, Please pendant adventure). The resulting print was a pretty solid ball of nylon (I guess I should have hollowed him out a bit more) with tiny, razor-sharp teeth. Here’s a photo of PigBear hanging out with the source of his inspiration; Wondercat’s rabbit looks aptly upset to be doing so. I think I may paint him at a later time, but that’s a whole different skill that needs mastering if it’ll look halfway cool — anyone wanna tackle that with me?

So, onwards and upwards from BearPig. Per all of the great advice I got on my last blog (thank you all for the awesome comments!), I wanted to earnestly find some design inspiration that would guide the next step in my journey — while also hopefully discovering some less sinister designs. So, I reached out to Alex, the creative genius behind WebComicName, a bunch of comics featuring human (and animal) blobs in awkward, hilarious, and often relatable situations. Alex has given me his blessing to 3D model the characters gracing the panels of his comics, like this one:

http://webcomicname.com/post/157782364124

All of the characters are these amazing little blobby shapes that should be basic enough to be an accessible 3D modeling project. And, worse case? Look at how cute Alex makes failure look!

http://webcomicname.com/post/157288106399

Okay but seriously, now I have some questions for you guys:

  • What’s the best program I should use to bring these little WebComicName blobs to life? Someone here suggested Sculptris but I’m worried about a) trying to form these characters starting with a sphere and b) it resulting in BearPig II.
  • How should I design these characters to stand up/lay? Should I give them a base? Design them to lay flat? I tried to flatten out the bottom of BearPig but did it in the wrong place/not enough so he kind of rolls and settles on my desk facing upwards (probably roaring at the sky, but it’s cool).

3 Ways to Make Your Prints Cheaper

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

1. Make your design smaller and thinner

optimize-scale    optimize-carve

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

2. Hollow it out

optimize-hollow

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

3. Make it easier for us to print

loopingedit2

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

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

 

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

Tutorial Tuesday 6: Making Your Designs Customizable with CustomMaker

0-coverimage-custom_jewelry

One of the most powerful things about 3D printing is the ability to create customized, one-of-a-kind objects. You could choose to make many different personalized jewelry pieces from one ring or pendant design by making modifications on a case-by-case basis in your own design software. Or, you can use Shapeways’ CustomMaker tool to make your shop designs personalizable with just the click of a mouse, enabling yourself or your customers to add their own text or images to parts of your designs. This week on Tutorial Tuesday, we’ll talk about how you can turn your existing designs into easily personalizable, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Getting Started with CustomMaker

CustomMaker runs on Shapeways’ own Javascript voxel-based design language ShapeJS, but you don’t need to know anything about that to apply it to your designs. Using CustomMaker to add customizable text and image fields is as easy as dragging and clicking with your mouse.

So how does it work? Suppose you have an existing design on Shapeways that you want to make personalizable. Start by going to the “Customization” section of the product edit page for that design and activate the “CustomMaker” radio button.

Then, select either “Add Text Box” or “Add Image Box” and click somewhere on your object to make the text or image box appear. You can drag to move or re-size the text or image box however you like. The tool will even automatically curve your text or image around rounded parts of your design! Choose whether you want the text or image to be “embossed” (protruding out from your model) or “engraved” (carved into your model), set the detail depth and font parameters, and click “Preview” to see an example of how the customized text or image would appear on your design.

2-screenshot_custommaker

You can change settings while in the Preview mode and the design will automatically update. To change the placement of text/image box again, press “Edit” to exit the Preview mode. To add a second customizable feature, first “Save Changes” and then return to the Customization menu and preview. You can add up to one text box, one image box, or one of each type of box.

CustomMaker Resources

For a video overview, check out Lauren Slowik’s tutorial How to Use CustomMaker:

For more in-depth information see the Shapeways tutorial Getting Started with the CustomMaker Tool. To discuss CustomMaker issues with the Shapeways designer community, check out the Shapeways forum Customizable Products & Design.

Customizable Products on Shapeways

To see existing CustomMaker designs on Shapeways, check out the list of All Customizable Products in the Shapeways Marketplace. Or just search for anything on Shapeways and then click the “Customizable” checkbox in the left sidebar to restrict to personalizable items. One of my favorites is the elegantly simple Tile by 3Dprintingdog, which lets you upload any image, drawing, or emoji to personalize the design:

4-tile

Have you used CustomMaker on any of your designs? Do you have any questions about applying CustomMaker to your existing models? Let us know about it in the comments 🙂

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!