Category Archives: Tutorials

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

xsf

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

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

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

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

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

Materials Required:

  • Pick Tool Set

  • Small Brush

  • Metal Pot & Water

  • Nylon or Synthetic Fabric Dye

  • Drying Rack & Paper Towels

CLEANING PROCESS

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

picks xsf

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

brush

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

 

DYEING PROCESS

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

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1. Create Dye Mixture

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

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

2. Dye Products

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

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

3. Air Dry

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

A dyed bracelet, top, and a bracelet fresh from Shapeways, bottom

A dyed bracelet, top, and a bracelet fresh from Shapeways, bottom

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

Scanning Stories: Fine-Tuning Your 3D Scans

A group of 3D Selfies

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

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

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

There are multiple ways to edit your file:

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

skanect 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

skanect 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Step 1: Find a 2D image

giphy

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

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

 

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

giphy-1

 

3: Adjust the size on the left:

giphy-3

 

Then, give it some more thickness:

giphy-2

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

That’s it!

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

How TheLaserGirls Create Faux-Steel Swords

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

The Final (Fantasy) Products!

The Final (Fantasy) Products!

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

Prep Work

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

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

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

Test Cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint in Titanium White: matte finish

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

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

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

Raw Paint Tests

Raw Paint Test Chips 2

Close Up of Silver Chips

Close up of Black and Gray Chips

Raw Paint Test 3

Raw Paint Test 4

Raw Paint Test 5

 

Base Coat: First Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

All Chromed Up: First Impressions

Krylon Metallic Silver

Liquitex Metallic Silver

Gloss White

Alsa Black

Dark Grey

Matte White

Light Grey

Gold Tests

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

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

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

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

Conclusions and Decisions

 

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

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

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

Some Takeaways:

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

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

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

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

- Sarah C. Awad and Dhemerae Ford

This blog has been reposted with permission from TheLaserGirlsStudio.

How to Make It a Model (Train) Holiday

CNSM 741 – 776 Silverliner Series Coach by Box Car Models

The holidays always evoke nostalgia for family traditions. For my family, one of these traditions was to put a model train set around the base of the Christmas tree. It was that finishing touch that said the holidays were really here. This week, we’re offering gift ideas from all the Tiny Worlds our designers create, and I hope you’ll be inspired to make model trains a part of your family’s holiday traditions.

Shapeways offers an enormous variety of model trains that are as detailed as those you’d see on tracks around the world. But, 3D printed models do require a few finishing touches. Model trains are printed in a number of scales and sizes, and generally produced in Frosted Detail Plastic. The post-processing of these trains in Frosted Detail requires a few tools:

  • Acetone or Simple Green

  • Primer

  • Synthetic Paint Brush Set or Airbrush Kit

  • Acrylic or Enamel Paint

  • Matte or Satin Varnish

Once the tools are assembled, you are well on your way to getting your perfect model train ready.

1. Model Prep

If there is any residual oil or wax support material left over from the production process, this can easily be removed using acetone or Simple Green solvent. You can simply dip and air dry the model. Or, using a paint brush, you can lightly spread the solvent on the train and air dry.

**TIP** If you notice an excess amount of residual support material or details are distorted, this may call for a reprint. Please send an image and order number to service@shapeways.com.

2. First Coat – Prime

Primer is added as a first coat in order to provide a uniform surface and offer a stronger hold for your paints. Recommended primer colors include black, grey, or white. Your primer color selection will depend on the colors you decide for your top coat.

In order to keep the finest details visible, it is best to use a thin primer. For example, Krylon Color Master Primer will do the job.

3. Paint

Models can be painted in a variety of ways. The most common methods for painting a high-detail finish include airbrushing and hand-painting.

Airbrush painting is a great method for coating large areas of your design more quickly. This will require a fine-tip sprayer kit and masking to cover the areas that are not intended to be painted.

Hand-painting might be a bit more accessible to those who don’t want to invest in an airbrush kit. For this method, a range of small-sized synthetic brushes are recommended. The synthetic hairs do not fray, have a longer life span, and allow for finer points due to their stiffer structure.

With hand-painting, we suggest using acrylic or enamel model paints. First, add your larger base details using a larger brush. Then, with a smaller brush, use the lighter colors to make your details pop. Once painted, let the material dry completely before moving on to the next step.

4. Clear Coat

The final step to finishing your model train is to add a varnish. This will seal the paints and offer the appropriate sheen. Choose a matte or satin finish depending on your glossiness preference.

The varnish should be thinly applied and set to dry. Once dried, the model is ready to be displayed.

HO scale 1:87 CSX SD40-3 Wabtec Cab by Boxcar Models

This year, we hope you’ll make model trains a part of your holiday tradition, whether you make and give them as gifts or set them up for all to see. Who knows? Maybe hand-finishing model trains can be your new favorite family holiday pastime.

And, for everyone on your list, make sure to check out our Holiday Gift Guide. It’s also full of ways to bring all kinds of Tiny Worlds to life.

Do you have any tips or tricks to finishing your model trains? We would love to hear them, so please share them with the community on our forum or in the comments below.

Five Easy Ways to Supercharge Your SEO

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

eggbot-mygadgetlife-shapeways

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

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

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

#1 Use Specific Keywords in Your Product Titles & Descriptions

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

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

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

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

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

#2 Update Titles & Descriptions to a Certain Length

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

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

Description

#3 Give Your Images Captions with Keywords

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

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

Image caption

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

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

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

#5 Your Shop Description is Prime for SEO Opportunity

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

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

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

Shop Description

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

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

 

This post has been updated by Angela Linneman.

BHDA Finishing Tips and Techniques: Support and Nub Removal

BHDA — or black high definition acrylate — is the newest material added to our roster. Starting as a maker material, BHDA was recently released to all shoppers because of its amazing detail, finish, durability, and color. However, this material does have one aspect that not all shoppers or makers may expect upon opening the box: tiny support nubs on a portion of the surface.

IMG_0242.JPG

 

Why does this material have nubs?

These support 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. 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

A small pilot group has recently launched which allows users to receive their models complete with supports. These users 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

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

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.

Teach 3D Design On Skillshare, Earn $100

IMG_1623cropped

Shapeways and Skillshare challenge you to create the 3D printing class you wish you could have taken when developing your design skills. From top tips for using CAD, to how to design 3D printed jewelry, to the best 2D to 3D design tools, we want you to share your 3D printing expertise with a global community of students two million strong. Go to Skillshare for more information and to sign up your class for “More Than Plastic: Teach 3D Printing and Design on Skillshare”.

As a teacher on Skillshare, you’ll build your brand and reputation as a designer while earning money for every student who enrolls in your online class. No prior teaching experience or special equipment is needed. To make a class, all you need is your passion and computer and Skillshare will give you the support and resources you need to create your curriculum.

Now is the time to jump in. If you complete and publish a class in June, you’ll be eligible for a $100 cash bonus.  And if your class is truly extraordinary,  it could also get featured here on Shapeways.

How I turned my drawing into a keychain

Beyond working as a Community Manager at Shapeways, I love to draw.  Recently I realized that it could be cool to turn some of them into products. By using the Keychain creator and Adobe Capture on my iphone. I was able to quickly take an idea from my head and turn it into a readily available 3D printable file for printing. The whole process took me about half an hour, making this process a great way to start 3d designing.

First I made a drawing, then I took a picture of it with Adobe Capture and turned it into a vector image. This tool is great because it lets you choose which lines to use and smooth things out. As you can see the light on my drawing isn’t great and I made it on a lined piece of paper, but Capture can still find the shape I want.

IMG_0880IMG_0879

Once I make the raw vector image on my phone it is automatically put into m Adobe creative cloud library. I just need to connect to wifi and hop on my computer, open Adobe Illustrator and find the little ghost.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.52.09 AM

The image has all the vector anchors and handles already present, this is a huge timesafer if I need to make some adjustments so it can turn into a printable 3D object later on. Looking ahead, I know that the 2D to 3D creator is going to extrude the black parts into physical material and turn the white parts into open space. This means that I have to make sure all the black lines are thick enough to print and interconnected so they come out as one piece. The image can also be greyscale to show thickness. In this case I decided to do both to show you the results.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.53.23 AM

The eyes need to be connect to the rest of the body if I wanted them to print as one part, so I draw some new lines to connect them. I also tweak some of the anchor points in the lines to thicken them and clean it up.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.59.43 AM

After, I port it over to Adobe photoshop to add the grey. This will fill it in with some material but allow the lines I’ve drawn to be strong outlines. I also decided to fill in the black area around the eyes so its solid for aesthetic reasons.

ghost

I have my final image ready so I go to the Shapeways Keychain creator and click “upload design” to load my image. It takes a moment and shows me an interactive 3D rendering of the model generated from the image. On the side I can control the perimeters and size to make sure its exactly what I want.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.25.15 PM

Since this is a keychain, I need to add something to attach the chain. I click the blue button that sales “+ Add a loop for a chain” and then right-click on the interactive view of the model where I want it to be. Again, I can change the perimeters of  loop so that its the way I want.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.25.24 PM

Once I’m ready I can click the button at the bottom to finish my keychain, choose a material and place my order. I click “create my keychain” and wait until I get a notification that its ready. I can also go to the “my models” page and find it there.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 11.25.57 AM

Using the keychain creator, the possibilities for turning my drawings into products are endless. What will you create?

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Details in Glazed Porcelain

As Shapeways has developed our brand new Porcelain material, we’ve focused on using the most vibrant and beautiful colored glazes to really make each product pop. If you’re designing for Porcelain, it can be daunting to know which glaze is the right one to choose for your model.

Glazes aren’t just colors – each is a uniquely colored glass being applied to the surface of the model and will behave differently when put on the same geometry. Glazes have different levels of translucency and viscosity, so after glaze firing they may settle and move around the geometry in different ways. This may be most noticeable on the small but essential details of your model.

To help, we’ve printed some samples to show you what the effects of embossed and engraved text in OpenSans font are at different sizes with each glaze. Overall, the lesson here is to think big when it comes to detail, especially if it needs to be legible.

Another note is to use more translucent glazes if you need to have legible text. The top four glazes are more translucent, while the bottom four are less.

Gloss Celadon

Gloss Celadon

Gloss Cobalt

Gloss Cobalt

Gloss Blue

Gloss Blue

Gloss Oribe Green

Gloss Oribe Green

Gloss Red

Gloss Red

Gloss White

Gloss White

Gloss Black

Gloss Black

Matte Black

Matte Black

The Original 3D Model

The Original 3D Model

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.

 

625x465_2987423_9395208_1439945372

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.

 

625x465_2992556_9398185_1439945288

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?