Category Archives: Tutorials

Sketchup tips from Steven Gray: Part 3, expand functionality with plugins

Shapeways Shop owner Steven Gray of MyGadgetLife shares some advice for designing with the amazing free design tool Sketchup. This is Part 3 , click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

7. Get some Extensions (aka plugins), scripts that expand Sketchup’s functionality. I only use a couple generally, the first and most important of which (for 3D printing) is ‘Solid Inspector’. This tool checks for holes or stray lines or duplicate faces or interior faces or anything else that could potentially ‘break’ your 3D print. Shapeways systems are smart and also perform checks – and attempt to fix any faults, sometimes with indeterminate results – upon upload, but it’s better to have a model that’s ‘correct’ before upload.

Sketchup_SW_02

The other plugin I use regularly is ‘RoundCorner.’  At its simplest, this clever extension applies chamfering to edges, but can also fillet interior edges, round off edges and corners in models. Even the tiniest rounding (0.25mm or 250 in mygadgetlife units) helps remove sometimes harsh edges that manifest themselves in the finished prints. It’s not foolproof, so don’t get put off if it generates odd geometry on acute bends and corners – just Ctrl-Z and try another approach.

Sketchup_SW_04

For these plugins and more, head on over to SketchUcation.com (sign up required); it’s a great resource for anyone using Sketchup.

These are just a handful of techniques I use in my Sketchup workflow and I hope it helps you make even better things!

For more of Steven’s tutorials check out his Youtube channel!

Sketchup tips from Steven Gray: Part 2, viewing your model

Shapeways Shop owner Steven Gray of MyGadgetLife shares some advice for designing with the amazing free design tool Sketchup. This is Part 2, click here for Part 1.

6. Don’t be afraid to change the camera type often. While the Perspective View can be used most of the time, it’s often useful to see plan or elevation views of the model. Switch to Parallel Projection view, then choose one of the Standard Views from the menu, or click the corresponding view icon (Windows – with the ‘Views’ toolbar open) or press Cmd-1 to Cmd-6 (Mac) to switch between orthogonal views quickly.

Don’t be afraid to change the shading view often either. So switch away from ‘Shaded Textured’ to X-Ray or wireframe to see if there’s any pesky stray geometry inside your model. Use the Hidden Geometry option to reveal edges incorporated into curved faces (with this selected, individual facets of a curved face become selectable).

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Note that you can change camera or shading type during a tool operation – handy if you’re zoning in on an area of complex geometry while drawing.

This leads me to the last and most important tip about the camera. Remember the early 3D video games where the camera would suddenly and disturbingly clip your character or a piece of scenery and you’d see ‘inside’ the model? Well don’t be afraid to do that on purpose in Sketchup. If you zoom in on a part enough, the camera will clip the geometry and you’ll be looking at the ‘inside’ of the model – the part normally occupied by whatever material the object will be printed from. You can use this ‘feature’ to your advantage and seek out stray or unnecessary geometry that might affect your upload success. This camera clipping only works when the ‘Perspective View’ is selected. If you get lost, use Ctrl-Shift-E (Windows) or Cmd-[ (Mac) to show the whole model.

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It was suggested to me that the Section Plane tool does this too (and in a lot of ways, is easier to use!), but I guess I just prefer ‘walking’ through the model. Try both techniques and see what you prefer.

 

Understanding Shapeways materials for scale models

Shapeways shop owner Dain Penman of MadasU shares some insights into choosing the right material for printing scale objects meant to be part of a larger train set.

When you are looking at a model to purchase, the material choices available can be confusing.  While some models are offered in only a single material, others are offered in multiple materials which have different characteristics.  Where a model is only offered in one material, sometimes you want to understand why.  Let’s explore the main material options used for scale models:

 

HO scale 44-gallon drum groups

HO scale 44-gallon drum groups

Strong and flexible plastic – this plastic comes in a variety of colors and finishes.  The finishes available are unpolished which is only black and white or polished which includes white and a range of seven great colors.  This material is fairly flexible, depending on thickness but quite strong.  The finish does show print lines or ‘stepping’ although this can generally be taken care of with some post-production light sanding and painting.  This can be seen in the barrels.

 

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1000 gallon watertank (HO)

Metallic plastics – available in both polished and unpolished. Very similar to strong and flexible plastic, although comes in a metallic finish.  This can be great when the model is either entirely or in part based on a metal prototype as you won’t need to paint the model before placing it.  Have a look at the corrugated iron water tank for an example of metallic plastic.

 

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Scale HO luggage set

Acrylic plastics (black, white and transparent) – These are more detailed plastics than the strong and flexible plastics, but still have thicker wall requirements.  So they are good for showing surface detail on a model, but not good for fine pieces like thin walls or wires.

 

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Four single station lights (HO scale)

Frosted detail plastics – the two frosted detail plastics (ultra and extreme) allow for the finest level of detail, with the smallest thicknesses of any product.  This makes the material perfect for models with a lot of fine detail including thin walls or wires.  While these models look great raw, they will need to be painted for a realistic effect.  This material is the most expensive in terms of volume, but allows for finer details and thinner walls so the models are not necessarily more expensive.

 

So which material is best?  The answer to this is entirely dependant on the model and how it was designed.  Firstly, have a look if multiple options are available as often the designer will make the choice on your behalf.  This will usually be a balance between the design and the cost, with the quality of the design the most important of the two.  If you do have a choice, look at the price of each material as there are no absolutes with pricing.  Some of my models are cheaper in the more expensive materials!  Now you can compare the qualities of the different materials and determine the best choice!

Sketchup tips from Steven Gray: Part 1, scaling and measuring

Shapeways Shop owner Steven Gray of MyGadgetLife shares some advice for designing with the amazing free design tool Sketchup. 

Sketchup Make is a great free tool for getting into 3D printing. And the export output is compatible with ‎Shapeways!

So here I’ve put together a few tips that I discovered along the way that will help you big time on the road to your first 3D print.

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1. Choose the right template. Sketchup will prompt you to choose a template the first time you start it. This choice is remembered on subsequent sessions (but it can be changed) – and there’s even one for 3D printing! But I wouldn’t select this template, preferring at first to have a completely clean canvas to work from. So what’s the best template to choose? Personally I go for the woodworking template. It offers a neutral background, no horizon and clean corners (choose an architectural template to see what I mean).

If you want to change the template, go to the Window>Preferences>Template (Windows) or Sketchup>Preferences>Template (Mac) and pick another one. The chosen template will activate on the next new window opened, so you can’t update an existing design to different template. But (top tip) you can cut and paste objects from designs using a particular template to another window with a different template.

 

2. Use the metric system. Of course I’m in the UK so we use metric anyway, but seriously, if you’re not already, why not? It will improve [your 3D printing] life immeasurably (no pun intended!).

 

3. So you’re using metric? Good job! Now think 1000x times bigger! The thing is, ‎Sketchup is/was aimed at the building design sector, and as such it’s accuracy starts to break down when you begin to work with sub-millimeter values. The solution is to work in *metres*! That’s right, for every mm multiply by 1000 – Sketchup can handle it.

 

In fact when I’m designing I don’t think in dimensions as such, rather than units of measure. So half a mm is 500 units in my Sketchup model. 10cm would be 10000. And so on. (Don’t get confused by rotation – 90 degrees is still 90 degrees, no scaling here!)

The great thing about this scheme is that when you go to upload your model to Shapeways, all you have to do is choose ‘millimetres’ as the scale and, boom, the systems Shapeways use scales the model to the correct size. You will not receive a 20 meter diameter ring in the post!

4. Type in your dimensions. When you start a line with the pencil tool, or begin a circle, you’ll quickly notice the cursor ‘sticks’ to one of the axes (this is the Sketchup ‘inference engine’ at work). Once Sketchup ‘knows’ which direction you’re taking the line, just start typing in the dimension – it will appear in dimension field at the bottom right of the window. The same approach works for moving, rotation and scaling, the push/pull and offset tools – just type the value you require, then press Enter.

skp_dim2

5. While talking dimensions, use the measure/guide tool often to get a handle on wall thickness, separation distances etc. If you’re having trouble getting the tool to ‘stick’ to one of the axes, or perhaps you’re trying to measure from reference point, hit a cursor key on your keyboard – this has the effect of constraining the tool to an axis. (You can use this constrain tip in other situations where you need a tool to ‘stick’ to an axis.) The keys are left – green axis(Y); up/down – blue axis(Z); right – red axis(X).

 

Easy steps to get started 3D printing right now

Dain Penman is a member of Shapeways Crew and the owner of the Madasu Designs Shapeways shop

This blog outlines what you need to do to start 3D printing, based on my own experience.

The first thing you will need (aside from an idea) is a design program – unless you would like to use one of Shapeways Easy Creator Apps. I am currently using Autodesk’s 123D Design which is a free 3D design program I downloaded (http://www.123dapp.com/design). Autodesk also have a number of associated programs such as 123 Catch which is a 3D scanner using a smartphone and Meshmixer, an editing program where you can update textures, combine models and generally play around with 3D models.

To create a design, there are 3 main methods I use (often in combination):
Working with functions such as using 3D objects like cubes, spheres and cylinders. I then modify these objects to end up with a 3D model;
Create 2D sketches using 2D objects like squares, circles and lines and make them 3D by applying a thickness, or;
Importing 2D sketches from the internet.

The process is best explained using an example of a pair of cufflinks:

get into 3D print pic 4

I started by importing a 2D image (which I found on the internet and converted to a .svg file), as below:

get into 3D print pic 1

The imported file becomes a 2D sketch, to which I applied a thickness – so I then had a 3 dimensional object shaped like the above. The picture was quite large (about 20cm across), so I used a scale tool to reduce the size down to around 2cm across. The program has a grid, so I estimated the size against the 5mm grid the object was placed on.

get into 3D print pic 2

I then checked the thickness by using the measuring tool as I wanted a more precise measurement for the height. I made it 2.5mm high.

To make the backs for the cufflink I created two cylinders. When I create the cylinders I specify the radius of the cylinder and the height. I created one short, wider one for the back piece and a taller, thinner one for the piece joining the front and the back.

I then filleted the edges on the cylinders to create smooth edges. Where the angle is external, it trims away and makes a smoother edge. Where the angle is internal (like where a wall meets the ceiling), the rounding ‘fills in’ to make a smoother corner, much like a cornice on a wall/ceiling join.

get into 3D print pic 3

Once all this was done and a single cufflink was complete, I duplicated the design to make the pair. I then exported the file in a .stl format which contains the model data including the size of the model.

The file is uploaded to Shapeways on the design page where the model is automatically checked against a number of characteristics to check it can be printed.

The requirements differ between different materials, so you should have an idea what materials you are designing for before you start.

Once it is checked, Shapeways gives you prices for different materials and you can then order your model! You can also select materials to sell and set the price. You can add tags, categories and a description for the model, to get the final product:

get into 3D print pic 4What was your first 3D printing project? What inspired you to get started and what resources were helpful?

Easy tips to scale a model for 3D printing from Stony Smith

Posted by in How To, Tutorials
3D printed miniature trains tutorial scaling models

Z scale Fuel Tender by Stony Smith

Can you enlarge or shrink your model to another size? Yes! It takes only seconds to mathematically change the computer model from one size to another. But, to ensure you are happy with the results there’s a few factors to think about. In this tutorial Stony Smith explains what to consider when scaling a 3D model for 3D printing. You will learn how to scale your model considering polygons and price in this tutorial. Looking for more 3D printing tutorials? You can visit the Shapeways tutorial hub.

How I Made a mini 1:12 scale pendant light for my dollhouse in SketchUp

Written by Megan Hornbecker

I’ve been fascinated with miniatures for as long as I can remember. 8 years ago I became addicted to modern miniatures. I had been carting around the dollhouse my mom made for me as a kid and thought it would be a fun project to redo the Country Victorian interior into something more contemporary. I searched online and found a few blogs that showcased modern miniatures and I was hooked. The only problem was there are very few artists out there making them. I started a blog, Modern Mini Houses, to feature the artists and designers I found making modern miniatures.

Megan-Headshot

Since I couldn’t find some of the decor and furniture I’d see in designer stores and magazines, I figured I should try to make them in miniature. The next problem was I knew nothing about 3D modeling. I found Shapeways and tried out a few of the free 3D modeling programs they recommended and had the most success with SketchUp 8.

By no means am I an expert modeler, I taught myself by trial and error. I’d have an idea of what I wanted to make and would search for videos and tutorials until I figured out how to do it. I’m writing this tutorial to share some tips and tricks for beginners to get started making 3D models in SketchUp. I was using SketchUp 8. It has been updated and the new free version is SketchUp Make 2015. The tool icons look a little different but they work the same as in this tutorial.

3D printed dollhouse light 1:12 scale

My designs are inspired by modern décor I want in full scale and by small pieces I find online or at random stores. I find something I like, work out the dimensions in 1:12 scale and then start designing. I found these LED battery operated earrings that I thought I could make into a cool light. The above two full-scale hanging lights inspired me to make a modern hanging pendant light with my LED lights, I like the structural supports on the bottom and the tall pendants.

I cut the clip-on earring attachments off the backs, arranged them where I thought they would work and measured the perimeter = 2.5″ x 1.25″. Each light is about 12mm wide by 10mm tall. To make sure the lights fit in the pendants I added 1mm of wiggle room and 1mm for each side of the wall so the pendant needed a 15mm diameter. I guessed the pendant should also be 15mm tall to hide the LED with room on top to be lit up by the light.

The Basics: Getting started in SketchUp

When you select the tool you want to use, the first mouse click in the drawing space starts the action that the tool is supposed to do and the second mouse click stops the action wherever you clicked. This works great for freehand design. If you want an exact measurement, click once where you want the action to start, move the curser the direction you want it to go, then type whatever dimension you want and hit Enter. There is no need for a second click, Hitting Enter will stop the action. Typing will fill in the dimension field in the bottom right corner field without having to click in that box. This field changes depending on which tool you have selected. If you select a tool, click once, but when you start to move the curser something crazy happens you didn’t want, just move the cursor back to the tools and click on another tool and the action will disappear. Undo/redo will be your friend as you get started figuring out how everything works.

Step 1: Add guides to define the perimeter of the light. Start to make first pendant.

3D modeling SketchUp dollhouse light

1A Select the Tape Measurer tool. Click once anywhere on the Green Axis, move the curser to the right to move the guide, type in 2.5 and hit enter (the default is inches so you don’t need to type the “ symbol).

1B Zoom in so you can see the line. (On a Mac: 2 finger scroll up on our track pad to zoom in, down to zoom out. On a PC: Select the Zoom tool. Click and drag anywhere in the drawing area. Move the cursor up to zoom in and down to zoom out.) Click once anywhere on the Red Axis, move the cursor up to the right, type in 1.25 and hit enter. Now we have guides marking the perimeter of the light.

1C Select the Circle tool. Type 100 and hit enter. (This changes the Sides to have more line segments making the circle’s edge smooth and round. Sides set to 24 or 48 will print corners or ridges on the circle’s edge. If you zoom in really far, you’ll see that the circle is actually made up of lines). Click once anywhere outside of your guides and move curser to the right.

1D Type in 7.5mm and hit enter to set the Radius (=15mm diameter divided by 2).

Step 2: Make base of pendant

3D modeling SketchUp dollhouse light

2A Select the Push/Pull tool. Click once on the circle to select it, drag the curser up to make the base.

2B Type 1mm and hit enter to set the distance. Note the default is inches so sometimes it will change the Dimension to inches like ~ 3/64″ after you hit enter, other times it keeps the Dimension in mm.

Tip: I make all of my miniatures at least 1mm – 1.5m thick so it can be polished and so it looks true to scale. Sometimes I do thicker, but under 1mm is too flimsy, the walls can bend, and everything I’ve tested under 1mm wasn’t high enough quality for me so I ended up redesigning to be over 1mm. Save yourself some time and just start at 1mm or thicker.

2C Select the Offset tool. Mouse over the top outside edge and click once when it says “On Edge”. Move the cursor towards the middle. Type 1mm then hit enter.

2D Select the Push/Pull tool. Click once inside the 1mm ring you just made and move the cursor up. Type 14mm then hit enter (the base is already 1mm, so add14 mm and that gives us the 15mm height I determined at the beginning).

Step3: Move pendant inside perimeter guides

3D modeling dollhouse light SketchUp

3A This will pull the walls up so we have the first pendant for our light.

3B Next, I want to move the pendant into position on the middle edge of the perimeter we measured out in Step 1. Select the Tape Measurer tool. Mouse over the intersection of the Blue, Green and Red Axis until the yellow “Origin” dot shows up, click once then move the curser up the Green Axis. Type .625 then hit enter (half the length of the 1.25″ side). If you haven’t saved yet, now is a good time.

3C Select the Orbit tool. Click and drag anywhere in the drawing area. Move the cursor to turn your perspective so you are behind the pendant. Select the Select tool (arrow in top left) and draw a box around the pendant to select the whole thing.

3D Select the Move tool. Find the most outer “Endpoint” on the pendant and click once, then move the curser to the “Guide Point” and click a second time to move it into the correct position.

Step 4: Copy and place second pendant

3D modeling SketchUp dollhouse light

4A Select the Tape Measure tool. I’m not exactly sure where I want to put the second pendant so I’m going to mark two distances. Click once on the Intersection of the Green Axis and the guide on the left of the pendant. Type 20mm then hit enter. Repeat and type 22mm then hit enter.
4B Since we already have the pendant selected in blue, copy and paste (under Edit tab, or Ctrl+c/Command+c and Ctrl+v/Command+v), then click once to drop the copied pendant farther away from our workspace.

4C Select the Orbit tool, click and drag to move around the side. Zoom in or try the Pan tool (white hand) to get the perspective you need.

4D Select the Move tool. Find and click on the outer Endpoint then move and click on the 20mm Guide Point.

Step 5: Copy and place third pendant

3D modeling SketchUp dollhouse light

5A The 20mm Guide was a little too close so I used the Move tool to put it on the 22mm Guide Point. I grabbed the wrong Endpoint so I used Orbit/Zoom/Pan tools to check on the bottom that the right Endpoint was on the Guide Point (if the pendant is on the line it’s perfect, if part of the pendant is over the guide line try grabbing the Endpoint that is over the line and move that to the Guide Point).

5B Orbit to the top, copy and paste the third pendant.

5C Orbit then select the Tape Measure tool. Click on Origin and move curser up the Red Axis, type 22mm then hit enter.

5D Move Endpoint to Guide Point.

Step 6: Copy and place other half of light

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse Light

6A Orbit/Zoom out, select all (under Edit tab, or Ctrl+a/Command+a). This will copy all three pendants and the guides.

6B & C Paste (under Edit tab, or Ctrl+v/Command+v) and move cursor outside the perimeter and click to place. Select the Rotate tool. Click once on the top guide line when it says “On Line” so the Rotate tool is flat, then move cursor parallel to Green Axis so it is drawing a green line when it says On Green Axis then click a second time. Type 180 then hit enter.

6D Select the Move tool and match guide lines to move it into the perimeter.

Step 7: Move and add center guide points

3d modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

7A Looking again, it seems too tight so I moved it more to the right half an inch.

7B Orbit to the bottom. Select Tape Measurer click on any Endpoint edge of any circle, then move curser towards the middle. Type 7.5mm then enter. Do this on all of the pendant bottoms so we have the middle point to attach the supporting beams.

7C Select the Tape Measure tool. Measure from center guide point of one end to the other, which equals ~2 9/32″

7D Select the Rectangle tool. Click once above and away from current model and move curser up and to the right. Type 2 9/32, 2mm then hit enter. (Tip: I’m making the support bars 2mm thick to be strong enough to connect all six pendants so everything stays together in the polisher, and 2mm looks the most realistic at this scale)

Step 8: Add support beam

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

8A Select the Push/Pull tool and click on the new rectangle.

8B Move the curser up and type 2mm then hit enter. Use Select tool to draw a box around the new rectangle bar to select it.
8C Orbit to side view.

8D Select the Move tool. Click once on the Midpoint of the rectangle bar then move curser and click on the Guide Point in the middle of the pendant bottom.

Step 9: Fix length and measure cross beam

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

9A Orbit to the other end of the rectangle bar and Zoom in. It’s a little short.

9B Select the Push/Pull tool. Click on the square end and pull forward then click on the Guide Point to line it up perfectly in the middle.
9C Orbit then measure the next center Guide Points = ~21/32″

9D Select the Rectangle tool. Click once above and away from current model and move curser up and to the right. Type 21/32, 2mm then hit enter.

Step 10: Add first cross beam

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

10A Select the Push/Pull tool. Click on the rectangle, type 2mm then hit enter.

10B Select the Select tool and draw a box around new cross bar to select all of it.

10C Orbit to side. Copy and Paste. Click to the side of the first bar to place the copied bar next to it. Select the Move tool. Click on the Midpoint.

10D Move curser to and then click on the Guide Point. (You know it’s in the right place if the tops of the two bars are flat.)

Step 11: Add second cross beam and adjust length

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

11A Repeat for the other cross bar. Use Select tool and draw a box around the other cross bar. (Tip: for any part you plan to move, it’s best to leave it far enough away from other components so you can easily draw the select box around it without selecting other things near it. You know it’s too close when you try to move it and things you didn’t intend to move go with it. Never fear, that’s what Undo is for. You will use it a lot. Just zoom in and adjust your perspective to be able to isolate a section you are trying to surround with the select tool in order to move only it.)

11B Select the Move tool. Click on the Midpoint of the bar, move curser to and then click on the Guide Point.

11C Orbit to the other side and we’ll see the bars are a little short again.

11D Zoom in and select Push/pull tool. Click on the end move curser to and click on the Guide Point.

Step 12: Add cross bars to attach hardware

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

12A Orbit to the top. Almost done, but we need to add holes to be able to add hardware to hang the light. Measure between pendants (the two green dots in photo) = 5/32″. Select the Rectangle tool. Click once away to the left side of the light (sorry no photo, I didn’t take enough screen shots here) and move curser up and to the right. Type 5/32, 2mm then hit enter. Then use Push/Pull to grab the top and type 2mm then hit enter to create a small cross bar. Copy and Paste moving the second one out of the way.

12B Zoom in between where 3 of the pendants meet. The two horizontal lines are where the cross beam is connecting these two pendants and the dotted vertical line is the Guide we started with that runs down the middle. We’re going to add our new bar above this to create a hole. Select the Tape Measurer. Click on the Intersection of the middle guide and the lower horizontal line. Move the curser up until it is drawing a blue line parallel to the Blue Axis and sides of pendants. Type 2mm then hit enter.

12C Select the Select tool and draw a box around one of the new short cross bars to select all of it. Select the Move tool. Click on the Midpoint.

12D Move curser to the Guide Point and click to connect it. Orbit to the other side and repeat steps 12B C D to attach the second new short cross bar into place.

Step 13: Upload and print

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

13A DONE!! Save if you haven’t lately. Then go to File > Export 3D Model… then select Format: COLLADA File (*.dae)

13B Go to Shapeways, set up an account and then click Upload. Select your .dae file. Make sure you set the Model Units to “millimeters”.

13C Once the file is uploaded you can see which materials it is printable in and if there are any issues that won’t allow it to be printed. (If there are problems Shapeways explains the issues and links to more details on guidelines for each material and has a cool option to Fix Thin Walls for you.) I selected to print this in White Strong & Flexible Polished.

13D I ordered it on Jan 12 and it was on my doorstep on Jan 24. Every time I get an order from Shapeways, I still get excited. It’s just so cool to hold something in your hand that you created in digital format.

3D modeling SketchUp Dollhouse

To save drying time, I painted the cross beams with a gold Sharpie (the strong & flexible material is very porous so GO SLOW as it easily sucks up the paint and spreads where you might not want it go. Or just use regular acrylic paint and a tiny brush). There was a little bit of powder residue in the holes to attach the hardware; I poked that out with a toothpick and then attached a wire to hang the pendant light 2.5” above the table (standard suggested height). Here is the finished pendant with the lights on and off in my dollhouse kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Quick Email Marketing to Boost Sales of Your 3D Prints

Love-Letter-Target-Shapeways-3DP

This is the ninth in a 10 part Shop Owner Bootcamp series counting down to black friday. Last week we focused on Supercharing Your SEO and this week we’re talking Email. Pictured above is Love Letter: Square by Target. Learn more about our partnership with them here

Are you beginning to feel the heat of Holiday Season yet? If you’re not, let me be the first to tell you, it’s go time, Shapies! We just released our holiday gift guide are in full-steam-ahead holiday mode. If you do no other marketing for your Shapeways shop today, do this: remind your friends, family and former customers that you make awesome products through 3D printing and that just about anything can be personalized through your skills and the technology. If you’re concerned that it will come off as spammy, we are happy to take a look in our Holiday Messaging Help forum. I also ask that you trust me when I say, your network will be interested. While it’s no longer new to us, 3D Printing, especially in our unique material portfolio, is still very cool and new to most folks outside the Shapie universe.

The email can be simple: 

Hi friends, 

2014 has been a great year, and I’m grateful you were a part of mine. I just wanted to share the 3D printed products I’ve created this year, and let you know that if you’d like any of them or any other custom products for holidays I’m here to help. 3D Printing is very cool and personal, and it’s not just plastic. Shapeways prints in Steel, Brass, Silver, Gold and even Platinum, too. Holiday season is fast approaching.  

(Insert a few photos of your work)

(link to your shop) 

Cheers, 

I bet you’ll be surprised how few people are aware of what you’re truly capable of, and what’s more fun than supporting a friends business and also giving a great gift? We see so many touching stories and personalized products come through our factories, I can’t help but encourage you to let your network know you’re there.

For those of you with Existing Email Newsletters:

I get many of your independent newsletters each month and enjoy them all. The one thing that all Shapies have in common is how genuine your passion is. This comes through in your communications and in your work. Keep it up! And don’t worry, if you don’t have an email list yet, Holiday is a great time to make one. Just add a link to a google form (or whatever signup mechanism you prefer) in your shop description and watch it grow!

Two Emails You Should Send:

  1. Next week, ideally Tues-Thurs (higher open rate): Holiday preview and/or reminder about your shop including top sellers & latest creations. You can even offer design services.
  2. Small Business Saturday: A holiday mostly celebrated in the US, but one worth letting your customers know about. Black Friday is historically retail centric, Cyber Monday (a great day to send an email as well) is all about digital, but SMB Saturday offers a different unique opportunity to showcase how 3D Printing is enabling your Small Business and say thank you to those contributing to it’s growth.

Here’s a great example from Somersault 18:24‘s Monthly Newsletter:

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.34.39 AM

 

Their message goes on to include links to their shop and updates about the science and 3D printing world. It’s helped grow them to one of the most successful shops and collections on Shapeways.

Would it be helpful if included easy to share news stories you could include in your emails in our Shop Owner Newsletter? What emails that we send do you like best? And worst? Be honest with us the way you want your customers to be honest with you :) .

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Five Easy Ways to Supercharge Your SEO

This is the eight post in a 10 week series leading up to our busiest sales weekend of the year. We’ve covered everything from getting press for your 3D printed products to how to promote your products on social media and much in our Shop Owner bootcamp series. This week’s post comes from our performance marketing pro, Jeanne, we’re focused on SEO.

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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.

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#3 Give Your Images Captions with Keywords

A picture is worth a thousand words. More and more people are finding Shapeways products through image searches on search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, etc). Including a 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?

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Seven Steps to Get Press for Your 3D Printed Products

This is the sixth edition of our ten week series counting down to Black Friday. Previously covered topics include engaging forums, tagging products, photography, market research, and reputation.

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Have you dreamed of seeing your products on your favorite website, blog or media outlet? Are you ready to expand your audience? Believe it or not, it’s easier than you think. Getting promoted on Shapeways is always a great start; and by targeting publications and outlets with audiences that align with your target customer base, you can really see your sales go through the roof. Write out the checklist below and seek holiday press, one article can make you thousands of dollars; really.

Seven Steps to PR Success:

1) List Your Dream Publications to be Featured in: Where have you always wanted to have been featured? What would validate your company or give you bragging rights amongst those less familiar with how great your business is. Make the wishlist of publications you want to be featured it, you’ll check them off over time, I promise. Plus, visualizing where you want to be helps make it happen.

2) Identify the Reporters that Cover Your Niche: Almost all reporters have topics or “beats” that they cover. Make a list of 1-2 journalists at the publications that you want to be featured in to target for coverage of your work. Communicating with the right people at a media outlet is essential to you getting featured and saves everyone time.

3) Find and Document Ways to Reach Reporters: Twitter handles, news tip forms, and individual emails are all great ways to get in touch with journalists. I have found that twitter handles are often the fastest way to get in touch with someone, followed by email. Platforms that journalists check in real-time are always best. Make a list or spreadsheet of these.

4) Engage with Reporters BEFORE you Ask for Coverage: In order to get what you want (coverage) you need to give (engage). Follow those journalists online and interact with the content they create.  Comment on their articles, share those you and your audience will find relevant and make yourself known on their radar before you ask for a feature.

5) Ask for Attention: The notion that if you model it the journalists will come is naive. Everyone is overwhelmed by the amount of content online, and the best way to stand out is to contact writers directly. For example, if you design camera parts, tagging the reporter at Engadget that reviews cameras and saying “Hi John, loved your article on DLSR’s last week, I made this mod for my Canon,” etc. are great ways to get the conversation about you started.

6) Post Your Products on Platforms Journalists Often Search: You may not get a journalists attention the first time you reach out, but since what you’re creating is so cool, they’ll notice the buzz you stir up. Getting an existing online community excited about your work, like we discussed in last week’s forum tips, can really boost the exposure of your products to journalists and potential shoppers alike.

7) If at First You Don’t Succeed: Try, try again! Journalists are busy and on tight deadlines. Just because they don’t cover you today, doesn’t mean they won’t cover you next week. Share your latest creations with them, reminding the writer why their audience will love to hear about what you’ve done.

There are Shop Owners already doing a great job with this, and you can too! Some great recent examples include:

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Remember, both your products and your story as a 3D designer are noteworthy. Don’t be bashful, start growing your audience today!

Bonus challenge: Share your list of target outlets and reporters in our Marketing Your Shapeways Shop forum thread – the more we all work towards getting exposure for our work, the more journalistic interest there will be in all of us. One lucky list sharer will get $25 Shapeways credit.

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Reach New Customers Through Existing Forums

This is the fifth is series of 10 Shop Owner Bootcamp posts counting down to Black Friday. We’ve covered reputation, photography, market research, tagging your products and today we’ll be talking about engaging with your audience and community on forums.

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Do you want to get more traffic to your shop? Do you wish that everyone in ___ niche, category or community knew about your products? You can tell them yourself by taking part in other existing online communities. Much of our referral traffic comes from community powered forums and message boards like reddit,  PhantomPilots and TheMiniaturePage. The Shapies who engage on these forums often reap the greatest financial benefit from those visits. David Dewey, of d3wey designs, is moderator on PhantomPilots and generously shared his top 10 tips for engaging on forums. Use these to guide you in your quest to grow your audience and evangelists.

    1. Read the “Sticky” Topics: If they have them then, always read a Forum’s ‘sticky’ topics. These will often answer frequently asked questions. Failing to read them and then asking one of the questions answered within can cause some of the less friendly in a forum to be… well less friendly.
    2. Understand and Familiarize Yourself with Forum Terminology: A ‘post’ is an individual bit of writing (a posting) from a user. Posts are found inside a ‘thread’ (also called a topic). A thread is basically a discussion going on between users who’s comments are ‘posted’. When you start your own ‘thread’ it will sometimes be via a rather confusing ‘post new topic’ button (in other words start a new thread).
    3. Google Acronyms: Acronyms are everywhere and Google is your friend! If you see abbreviations or acronyms that you don’t know then Google them. If you can’t find an answer don’t be scared to ask but again you may find a ‘sticky’ that tells you all of them. Then you’ll know your I.M.O (“In my opinion”) from your IIRC (“If I Recall Correctly”)
    4. Use the Forum’s “Search” to Uncover Answers: Learn to use the search tools to answer your questions. Some forums have really good search tools (some are awful). Try where possible to do a ‘search in topic title only’. This will get you much more relevant results than searching all posts. “motor failure” for example could be written in any post in a discussion about the risks of wiring something wrong “careful or it could result in motor failure”. Search for topics with “motor failure” in the title and you are more likely to get a page full of discussion about “Why have I got motor failure?” The search on our forum works great, too!
    5. Post in the right place: Make sure if you are going to start a discussion thread or ask a question, to do so in the correct place. “Why do I have motor failure” in a sub forum called “Classifieds” isn’t going to get you anywhere.
    6. ALL CAPS IS YELLING: Remember that people will read your post based on the mood they are in. If you type in caps you will, rightly or wrongly, be seen as shouting.
    7. Beware the ‘Troll’: Love it or hate it there are people in all forums that that will just be rude, blunt and unhelpful. Ignoring is the best method and while it is noble to step into someone else’s argument it will end in raised blood pressure for little gain. You will never win them over so why waste the time trying.
    8. Forums are a Give and Take: Give back in some of what you take out. If you ask a lot of questions and get a lot of answers to begin with then drop back in from time to time and look at others who might be asking the same. Help them out and point them in the right direction. Forums are only good if the knowledge is shared.
    9. Do as Others Do with Photos: Learn how to post photos in the forum’s preferred methods (usually found in a sticky!). Many forums now allow you (and prefer you) to attach images like you would an email but some require you to post via a linked photo. If this is so Photobucket is a great free place. Create an account, upload your image, click the ‘share links’, copy the [IMG]http://www.linkisinhere.com[/IMG] link and paste it in.
    10. Video, Video, Video: A video says a thousand words. If you have a question with a problem that can be demonstrated then try and video it! Pop it on Youtube (unlisted link if needed) and post it on a thread. People are MUCH more likely to press play on video than read 500 lines of text. Most forums embed the video on the post so people can click play from there. Speaking of video, here’s a fun one David took near Loch Ness: 

Big thanks to David for sharing this awesome tips with us. His shop is full of treats for your DJI Phantom quadcopter, with everything from battery doors to GPS and GoPro mounts. There’s no mystery that the more people who see your products, the more sales you will have. By engaging with people interested in things like your products, you not only show that you’re eager to contribute to the community at-large, but you may also find work & inspiration from those communities.

Our forum is very active here at Shapeways, and is one of the ways we keep in closest touch with our community. Have you visited our forum before? What forums do you wish you were more active in but haven’t had the time or guts to join?

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Five Reasons You Should Tag Your 3D Prints

This is the fourth in a 10 part bootcamp series counting down to Black Friday. We’ve covered reputation, photography and market research already and this week we’re talking about tagging.

How is your work currently being discovered? There are now millions of models on Shapeways, and the best way to stand out from the crowd (aside from photographs of your great products and collections) and be discovered by shoppers is by tagging your products properly. Yes, it can be monotonous, but it is literally how we and others discover many of you. Since the tag is a plus sign, there was no more fitting lead image here than Lucas Goossen’s Solid Plus Pendant.

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Here are five reasons taking the time to tag your models is worth it:

Tags Equate to More Sales Through Organic Search (aka SEO) – Tag words help your products get found on and off our site. The more people that find you organically, the more “popular” your products become in our search engine, leading to greater sales. For example, when I search “Drone” Shapie MaikelsDesigns takes the top spot.

Drone copy

Niche Communities Have a Home on Shapeways - the products that are most unique are often the most successful on Shapeways. Products that fulfill needs not met by other markets. The search terms on our site are always very specific. Think about the words your target audiences uses and would use to search for you and be sure to include them. When shoppers view products like yours, they often are served your products in the “related items.” Looking at the Pitch Control Lever of Maikel’s above, Shapie shoppers are served products from four related drone mod designers:

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Trending Tags Lead to New Shopping Hubs- We’ve built awesome features now that allow us to create tag pages. Connect with people who model similar things in our interest groups forum and come up with a shared model tag. Share the tags on social media so shoppers (and us) can easily spot them. You can always post in “feature this” on our forums, include the tag you & others are using, and we’ll direct shoppers looking for products like yours straight to you! Here’s an example of the DJI Phantom Niche Hub:

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Tags are Often How We Curate our Newsletter & Homepage- Wonder how we pick the products on our homepage? Aside from catching them in feature this, we find them by searching key terms. Recently we searched “space” for our space themed newsletter and “pumpkin” for fall finds. Thinking about seasons and holidays your work may be popular at is a great way to get extra eyes on your products.

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There is a Higher Chance Your Products Will Get Advertised if They are Tagged Properly- Tags can lead to your products being featured in our retargeting and Ad Words campaigns. Not only does properly tagging benefit you through the promotions we run, the models we feature, and relevant surfacing based on customer searches, it can even get you advertised courtesy of Shapeways.

Bonus: Tagging is also a way to sort through your shop inventory!

The best time to test tags is the holidays. Apply your learnings from google analytics, monitor which of your products get the most hits and optimize your collection’s tags based on that data. It’s great for your sales and makes our curation easier. Remember, we generally only feature products with photos, and tag those beautiful creations so they can be found by the whole Shapie community.

What tags do you wish had a more prominent home on Shapeways?

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Building Your 3D Printing Brand & Collection Through Market Research

This is the third in a 10 part Shop Owner Bootcamp series counting down to Black Friday. We’ve covered reputation and photography in our last two posts and are looking at branding and collection building today. This is last post in the polishing your shop for holiday phase, next week we’ll begin talking about building the relationships necessary to optimize your sales over holiday.

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Do you ever wonder what to design next? Or what makes a product sell? Do you have a product in your shop that outsells all the others and wish that you could get more products on that level? This week we’re focused on building your brand story and developing your collection through market research. I know that “market research” sounds boring and stale to the creative mind, but it doesn’t have to be! Shapeways Shop Owner mentor Vijay Paul is back this week to discuss how he became Dotsan, and how walking around Scotland inspired his stag and the “wired life collection” that followed.

Building Your Brand: Why it’s Personal (and Should Be)

Vijay highlights in this video how going from VDesign to Dotsan was a big turning point for his business. It was when he realized that this was going to be more than a hobby, and a place that people could come for products and art that he created for them. Many of you have developed your brands and logos, but are you giving your shoppers all of the story?

Every time someone buys something from your shop you have the opportunity to create a new brand evangelist. If they love your work, they’re going to come back to your shop time and time again, likely referring others who are interested in your products. They will expose your products, and in turn your brand, to their in-real-life communities. Ask yourself, have I highlighted my design process and inspiration in my shop? Have I armed consumers with a story they can tell about the creation of this product and increase the likelihood they’ll send others to my shop? If you have to hesitate, take this opportunity to refresh your shop and product descriptions. Your brand should tell your story.

Many of you have already developed great brands, so I challenge you to think about how that can be illustrated through out your shop. Perhaps watermarking your photos or integrating your brand into your avatar. People see your designer cards on every product page now, use that opportunity to remind them how awesome it is to buy from you.

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Market Research: It’s as Easy as Going to Look at Beautiful Things

Every successful business has conducted market research at some point in their growth; and if they’re smart, likely multiple times at regular intervals. Vijay knew he wanted to design something that would appeal to a lot of people, and wandering around Scotland he noticed there were Stags everywhere. He saw them in museums, on signs, buildings and iconic Scottish settings. This observation drove his design decisions and gave birth to the Stag, which originally was a 3D render meant to live in 2D. After creating the render he was curious to see if it could work as a wireframe 3D print, I think it’s very clear that it did :) .

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Think about your audience: are you trying to sell to people in your region/country or are you trying to sell to people who like a specific category of things? What is popular in the culture your products speak to? For example, if you are making masks, you should always be up on the latest cosplay fashions. If you’re doing household products, keeping up with industrial design trends can be clutch. If you’re modeling drone accessories, you should pay attention to what drones people are buying. I don’t believe Vijay ever expected to sell as many stags across as many countries as he has, but he went into designing it with the confidence that at least locally, he would receive some interest.

Build Your Collection: Your Best Customer is One Who Buys Again

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There’s a famous marketing stat that 20% of your customers will be responsible for 80% of your future business; and Shapeways is no exception. Our marketplace is full of passion, and folks who have a great buying experience from you once are likely to brag about it. How can you keep them coming back? Ask yourself, what other types of things to people interested in your subject matter like? Have you ever asked your customers what other products they think would compliment the one they already purchased from you? Think about ways you can expand the collection and have multiple top-selling products. Our Interest Group forums are a great place to get the conversation going.

Sets are very appealing during the holiday season. Think about which of your products could go together and that could expand the story of your work/brand.

Alright everyone, we’re now just 7 weeks from Black Friday- we’ll be focused on building digital and physical relationships that will help your holiday sales in the coming weeks, so take advantage of the opportunity now to ‘dust the shelves’ and put a fresh coat of paint on your ‘open’ sign.

What brands and designers on Shapeways do you look up to?

Shop Owner Bootcamp: The Importance of Taking Photos of 3D Printed Products

Shop Owner Bootcamp is a 10 week series aimed to help Shop Owners prepare for holiday. Week 9 is focused on product photography and the importance thereof.

Have you been thinking about taking photos of your products but been making excuses for why you don’t need to? Keeping your shop up is no easy task, but a little effort upfront leads to significantly greater sales. If sales aren’t enough, we are constantly looking for great models to feature on Shapeways and promote through our press and media opportunities. Most publications won’t print renders, and there is nothing more disappointing than not being able to feature a Shop Owner because we don’t have any photos of their great products. Plus, photos help build your reputation too, as Vijay discussed last week.dragonfly-shapeways-paul-liaw

I was a very late adopter of iPhoneography, despite having been a smartphone user for nearly a decade. Admittedly, I’m not sure I would have felt 100% genuine telling you to shoot your holiday collection on your phone before last week. Paul Liaw, the designer behind NeoNouveau is a legend; an award winning digital artist, a Adobe showcased 3D Printing designer, and is this week’s Shop Owner mentor. When not 3D modeling, he brings the lucky community team at Shapeways cheesecake!

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This week’s challenge is to take photos. Products that have sold, sell 10x more when they are photographed. It is impossible to stress enough how much photos can make a difference in your sales. Use these quick tips to make your products sing:

  • Use a single tone background – while white is classic, any solid color can do. Don’t have a plain table or desk? Lay down some 2D Printer Paper or a bed sheet. It’s amazing how far you can get with resources around the house.paul-bracelet-alligator
  • Stabilize your camera or smartphone; books, tables and trees work in a pinch – the easiest way to screw up a great shot is to blur it. I always shoot products here at HQ on our white Ikea desks, with my iPhone in landscape mode, resting on the table.
  • Shoot multiple angles – without the ability hold your product in their hands, customers want to see every angle. Pretend you’re taking it out of the Shapeways box for the first time and capture the angles you examined first. Even if you feel silly taking the photo, it could be the one that makes the sale. No need to hold back with the shutter, thanks to our smartphones, a tap is all it takes to discard extras. Paul-Liaw-Fish-Side-Shapeways
  • Always shoot in landscape – our product photos are 625 x 465 and its much easier to crop them when you’re shooting horizontal. In fact, if you’re shooting in landscape, you’re likely already framing your products in this ratio.
  • Show Scale – The average consumer can’t visualize millimeters the way we all can. People, pets, currency, common household items, even fingers cad add crucial context for your consumers.fish-coin-paul-liaw-shapeways
  • Tag materials in your photos – this is the easiest way to set customer expectations. When the material in the image matches the swatch the price reflects, the anxiety surrounding a first time buy is eased. It’s easy to forget this important step; and yet we see it convert to sales, and with material filters, it really helps surface your great products. Click the camera icon in the upper right hand of your product photos to check and set the material tagged in each.
  • Compare Materials and Finishes - Not everyone is as familiar with our materials as we are, showing the difference makes a difference. For example, here are Raw Brass (top) and Raw Bronze (bottom) version’s of NeoN0uveau‘s wheat bracelet. Paul-Liaw-Wheat-Bracelet-Shapeways
  • Have fun! Customers will be drawn to your personalities and you can tell a lot about yourself and your brand through your photos. We encourage you to upload as many photos as you want, invite friends over and get creative with your product shoot.

What’s the greatest barrier between you and great photographs? How can we help?

HOW TO: Create a Rubber Prototype Using a 3D Printed Mold in 14 Easy Steps

Will Harris at Design That Matters has posted a fun tutorial on HOW TO: Create a Rubber Prototype Using a 3D Printed Mold that is a step by step process that is easy to follow and looks like the kind of fun that will have you pouring liquid rubber into 3D printed molds for months.

how to 3D print a rubber mold

You can flex your industrial design skills in software such as Solidworks or Inventor which both have great tools to help you boolean and split a mold from your designed part.  Will also includes practical design tips such as including registration pins and escape vents into your mold to ensure bubbles do not form and you can add extra material to your 3D printed mold if required.  (or you can mix colors and/or materials if you want to get a little more experimental).

The best materials for 3D printed molds are usually polished Nylon or Acrylic if you want to do smaller, higher detail molds from your 3D prints.  Some people also spray the molds with silicone as a mold release to ensure you do not end up simply gluing your mold together with the filler material.

Why stop at rubber, you can use your 3D printed molds for many materials, soap, crayons, wax, ice, jello, or even, mature cheddar cheese.

NOTE: 3D Printed materials may not be food safe, mature cheddar cheese molded from 3D prints are for decorative use only.