Category Archives: Education

STUDENTS: Apply Now – $5k in 3D Printing Grants Up for Grabs

Exciting news: the Shapeways EDU Spring 2017 Grant deadline of March 15 is fast approaching. So, get your application materials together today and submit them to for a chance at one of five $1,000 grants.

A piece from previous grant recipient Alexis Walsh

Not a designer or engineer? No worries — we’ve awarded grants to students doing work in psychology, computer graphics, fashion and more. If you’re pushing the boundaries of 3D printing or experimenting with new applications for 3D printing and design, then your project more than qualifies. See our education page for complete grant application details.

Tutorial Tuesday 6: Making Your Designs Customizable with CustomMaker


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

Getting Started with CustomMaker

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

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

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


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

CustomMaker Resources

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

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

Customizable Products on Shapeways

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


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

Tutorial Tuesday 3: Beginner 3D Design With Tinkercad

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


First steps

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

OK, let’s get started!

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


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

Designing a Model

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


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


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


Tinkercad models on Shapeways

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

keychain yring coffee

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

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

Share your work and join the discussion

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

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

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

How I Made It: Lost Earring, Found

Our How I Made It series takes us inside the projects that have inspired our designers, shoppers, and makers. Here, Shapeways Shop Owner Natalia shows us how she set out to recreate a beloved lost earring — and ended up improving the design in the process. Leave a comment if you’d like us to feature your latest project.


It’s the season of cold weather, scarves… and losing earrings. Fun winter fact: unwrapping a scarf is the most common way to lose an earring. Ask any earring-lover for confirmation!

One of the first things I made using 3D printing was the bubble earring design below. Everyone who saw them loved them, and I would always end up selling the ones I was wearing and making myself a new pair. Before Shapeways offered printing in metal, that involved getting a mold of the original bubbles-only, hook-free print (3D printing was expensive back then!) getting it cast in sterling silver at a casting house, cleaning it up by hand, soldering on a wire, bending that into a hook, and polishing them. Just by itself, the process of making each pair by hand took days of waiting for castings, then about an hour of work in the studio, which is not exactly cost- or time-effective. Thankfully, Shapeways makes it much easier now, as long as you start with a design file that is ready to be printed and shipped.

The lonely remaining earring

The lonely remaining earring

Recently, I finally lost one of my own pair (thanks, scarves!), and recreating the earring easily would mean reconfiguring the design for full 3D printing, hooks and all. I realized that this presented the perfect opportunity to go back to the drawing board and improve the design, this time using Fusion360 as my modeling software. This way, I would learn a new digital tool, while making this design fully 3D printable — and sellable in my Shapeways Shop.

The only real challenge to overcome was creating a 3D printable, integrated hook. I had seen a pair of earrings someone had printed where the hook was just an “unsupported wire,” so I wanted to test if this would work for these earrings with their long hook. If it was truly 3D printable as one piece, without any work on my part to hand-finish them afterwards, I would feel confident selling them in my Shapeways Shop.

First, I worked backwards, measuring everything on the earring I had left using my calipers, and integrating those measurements into a new 3D design file in Fusion360. Calipers could be the only tool you need for 3D printing besides a computer, so it’s worth buying the best. Accuracy is everything when going between the screen and the real world.

I measured the thickness of the earring, sizes of the circles, and the thickness of the ear hook. A standard ear hook is 0.8mm in diameter (as mine is) but you can go up to 1mm and it will remain mostly comfortable. I checked the design guidelines for sterling silver, and luckily an unsupported wire can be 1mm. I figured that after polishing it would be a little thinner, so would be more comfortable in the ear. (I was right: After Shapeways’ post-print polishing, the wire is 0.9mm thick, so there is a little material lost, as stated in the guidelines).

The remaining earring and 3D render of the replacement earring

The remaining earring and render of the replacement earring

While recreating the earring in Fusion360, I took the opportunity to make adjustments for printability and visual appeal. In the original, there was a small gap between two circles that I know could cause material to get trapped and would be impossible to clean, so I joined them completely. I also made the whole design slightly larger and slightly thicker so they would feel more substantial and have a bit of weight to keep them in the ear.

When I solder on an ear hook at my studio, the solder forms a fillet around the wire, giving it a bigger surface area of attachment to the body. In 3D modeling, I wanted to recreate this strength, so I added a large fillet between the wire and the body. This will be the weakest part of the earring where it is most likely to break, and the fillet helps to strengthen it.

The long hook design means they hang down like dangling earrings but also have staying power. Unlike a shorter curved hook, they don’t come out easily. I added a small bend at the end of the hook to guide them into the ear hole. I also rounded the end of the wire to be smooth. You don’t want to forget this part —  a wire that just ends will have a flat profile with sharp edges, but filleting the edges to be half-round makes it smooth and comfortable to put in your ear. A good rule once you have finished a model is to go over the design and fillet any joins and edges. I will often fillet all edges, but in this case the “sharp” edge definition is part of the design, so I left them on the body. I filleted the joint and the wire end.

Once I had the design finished, I uploaded it to Shapeways and used the 3D Tools to check for wall thickness and wire thickness. Since I used the design guidelines as I was modeling, all the checks were green.

I wish we could rush metals, but beauty takes time, so about two weeks later I got the box!

The updated design, fresh out of the box

The updated design, fresh out of the box

Fresh out of the box, they look great! A beautiful, even polish and a lovely weight in the hand. I immediately put them on, and realized that despite all my measurements, I had missed a crucial measurement: the distance between the curved hook wire end and the body of the earring.

The updated design, left, and the original earring, right

The updated design, left, and the original earring, right

As you can see, the original piece has a distance between the point and the body almost twice as big as the new pair. My earlobe doesn’t easily pass in that gap and it means they take a bit of wiggling to put on. For the final, in-shop iteration, I changed this, so they’re easier to put on.

The other major thing I noticed is how soft the wire is. While it is quite easy to bend it back into shape, it leaves a kink.

An unexpected consequence: wonky wires

An unexpected consequence: wonky wires

In the studio, I “work-harden” metal to make it rigid and stop it deforming. This is especially important for earring hooks, which see a lot of repetitive stress. There are many ways to work-harden silver. The easiest is burnishing, which involves running a smooth metal tool over the wire until it hardens. It takes about a minute and also polishes the metal.

Work hardening the wire with a burnishing tool

Work hardening the wire with a burnishing tool

Since I had bent the wire I needed to straighten it too, quickly done with a set of parallel pliers. Squeezing the wire like this also work hardens it, but it’s not as effective as burnishing.

Straightening the wire with pliers

Straightening the wire with pliers

Once that was done, the earrings were perfect! All in all, I’m really happy with this experiment. And, if someone bought them, they would be pleased with them even without work-hardening the wire hooks.


After receiving the earrings, I shortened the hook in the design to make the earrings easier to put on. Here are the finished earrings, with the shortened hook:

Finally, they made it into my shop!

Finally, they made it into my shop!

Now that we know how we can integrate hooks right into the design, what kind of winter-proof earrings will you make? Have you tried making hooks an integral part of your design?

Tutorial Tuesday 2: Full-Color Printing and Character Models

fc3dp 1

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

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

3D Printing in Full Color

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

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

fc3dp2    fc3dp3

Advanced Character Printing

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


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

fc3dp5    fc3dp6

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

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

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

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

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

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

1-SW_3D_printing_tutorials_grid-border   SW_youtube_videos

Creating simple designs

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

2d_to_3d_video    beginner_3D_playlist

Design considerations for 3D printing

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

3-wall_thickness_1-border (1)    wall_thickness_2

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

hollow    keep_in_mind

Materials and Costs

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

3d_materials    choosing_materials

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

Design for Low Cost: Nylon    low_cost_fancy

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

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


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


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.


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



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


1. Create Dye Mixture

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

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

2. Dye Products

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

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

3. Air Dry

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

Dyed Strong & Flexible pieces

Dyed Strong & Flexible pieces

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

Shapeways Goes to India: Maker Fest Ahmedabad

Perched on the western side of India sits Ahmedabad University, the site of the fourth annual Maker Fest Ahmedabad. This past weekend Shapeways attended the three-day event which welcomed over 30,000 attendees from Gujarat and around the world.

Maker Fest was founded by Asha Jadeja, an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and philanthropist. Jadeja’s vision for the festival is “to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship in India at the grassroots level.” Maker Fest is fulfilling this vision through the incredible artisans, makers, and hobbyists who showcased. These included everyone from ceramicists with wheel-throwing tutorials to local drone startups. The diverse group of regional and international makers offered over 45 workshops throughout the three-day event.

The author at Maker Fest

The author at Maker Fest

Lauren Slowik (Shapeways Design Evangelist) and I represented the Shapeways community at the event. We featured a bevy of Shapeways designers and offered a variety of workshops from 3D scanning to hand-dyeing 3D printed products. The visitors, of all ages and expertise, were introduced to the different 3D printing methods and the possibilities of the technology.

Lauren Slowik demonstrates 3D modeling

Lauren Slowik demonstrates 3D scanning

The Maker Fest included over 15 speakers with a keynote by Jan Jannink, Stanford professor and entrepreneur. The lecture covered the importance of A.I. to modern society and what the future may hold.

india 4 

To learn more about this continuously growing event, click here. Let us know in the comments what local maker events you love, and where you’d like to see Shapeways go next.


Hacking Arts Conference 2016

Last week, Shapeways sponsored the Hacking Arts Conference at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hosted by the MIT Media Lab, the three-day conference brings together students and professionals from technology and the arts to discuss interdisciplinary creativity.

Shapeways’ Community team was there to greet panel goers and give them a chance to get their hands on some of the 3D printed materials and products available in the marketplace.


The conference also included a hackathon and some amazing performances. Below is a moment from audio/visual artists the Holladay Brothers during the opening ceremonies.


A video posted by Andrew Thomas (@andrew.s.thomas) on


The Hacking Arts Conference was also a great opportunity to see old friends. Artist and Shapeways Shop Owner Bathsheba Grossman came by to play with some of her math-inspired Klein Bottle openers, printed in a variety of materials.


We had a great time talking to hackers, artists, and lifelong learners at the Hacking Arts Conference. Are you a student combining design and technology? You can sign up for our education program here.


Shapeways EDU Fall 2016 Grant Winners!

We are pleased to announce the Fall 2016 EDU Grant Winners. The Shapeways EDU Grant provides $1000 in printing support, awarded twice a year to university-level students and professors whose proposals push the boundaries of 3D printing materials and technology. This fall’s grant recipients are:

Wooyeon Byun – Fashion Institute of Technology, New York
These avant garde fashion pieces will incorporate the structures found in the species Phyllocrania paradoxa or ghost mantis.

Eduardo Fiorin – Universidade Vila Velha, Brazil
Eduardo’s project will explore developing a made-to-order protective jacket for non-professional motorcyclists. The equipment is brought to life by 3D printing, including the fabric mesh, closures, and finishing – all tailored to the user’s body in order to provide the best performance and fit, optimizing effectiveness of the protective parts in case of an accident.

Robert Hemlich – DePaul University, Illinois
Robert is working to bring 21st century tools to stop motion animation. By keeping the scale of the figurines and number of frames relatively small, Robert wants to prove that it is possible for filmmakers to make fascinating art without any major barriers or extreme costs.

Dingzeyu Li – Columbia University, New York
Ding is developing a system to identify 3D printed parts using sound ID tags. As more people print objects to perform specific functions, it will become difficult from a user’s perspective to ensure that the design indeed functions as expected. Invisible tagging will investigate how to accurately embed invisible tags through optimization of 3D models.

Cliff Weitzman – Brown University, Rhode Island
BoardBrake is a removable foot-activated brake for longboards/skateboards. There is currently no effective way of stopping a longboard/skateboard. Bicycles have brakes, scooters have brakes, but longboards do not. BoardBrake allows riders to be safer, ride faster, and have more control.

Congrats to our latest grant winners and thank you to all the students who applied! Past grant recipients have completed projects in the fields of applied psychology, product design, and mathematics, to name a few. Our next grant cycle closes March 15, 2017. More details about the application process can be found at

Shapeways EDU $1000 Grant – Deadline Extended!

Attention university students: Apply to receive up to $1000 in 3D printing to support your project!

Exciting news: the Shapeways EDU Fall 2016 Grant deadline has been extended to November 10! This means you have a whole extra week to get your application materials together and submit them to

Not a designer or engineer? No worries, we’ve awarded grants to students doing work in psychology, computer graphics, fashion and more. If you’re pushing the boundaries of 3D printing or experimenting with new applications for 3D printing and design then your project more than qualifies. See our education page for complete grant application details.

Below is a video of one of our recent grant recipients, demonstrating just one of the incredible ways in which these grants are used:

Also, are you interested in seeing which schools won our Campus Battle? Check out the winners here!

3D Inspiration at Dutch Design Week 2016

We’ve just closed out the 15th annual Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, The Netherlands! Here at our Dutch Shapeways headquarters, we have been giving factory tours and showing off our amazing community’s wide variety of work. But we’ve also had a chance to tour the rest of the citywide event to take in the most cutting-edge designs.

Dutch Design Week was started by the Design Academy Eindhoven as a one-day event that has grown to span nine days, thousands of square meters of exhibition space, and hundreds of events, including music shows and interactive sites. Here are a few of Shapeways community member displays as well as innovative products and concepts from some the the Netherlands’ best design minds. While VR and AR are definitely having a moment in the interactive design space, the work we’ve seen over here is still very much meant for the physical world.


Pierre Niviere’s The Trophy is a 3D printer powered by human energy


A visitor is 3D scanned at Shapeways EXPO at Dutch Design Week


Shapeways Designer Anna Ruiter’s jewelry on display at Dutch Design Week


3D printed sound board elements from Shapeways designer Retrokits


The WastedBased recycled furniture collection by StoneCycling and Ultra Studio


CAD vs. Modeling: Which 3D Software to Choose?

One of the most common questions we get from those who are new to digital manufacturing is “If I want to design something, which software should I learn?”

The answer to that is a little complex, but it hinges on one simple idea: What are you trying to make? There are lots of great software packages for 3D design out there, each tailored to a different type of product design. Knowing what you are trying to make will dictate the type of software you will use.

Overall, design software falls into two camps: CAD and 3D Modeling. CAD software is used when creating industrial, mechanical objects. Alternatively, 3D modeling packages more commonly used for making organic elements used for film special effects and video games.

Depending on the goals of your design, you may use both types of software at different stages of the design process to make the final 3D-printable design.

Below, we’ll go over how they are different and provide a few examples of each software type.


CAD (Computer Aided Design/Drafting)

CAD programs ask the user to “draw” a 2D shape and then turn those drawings into 3D forms, as either solids or surfaces. Drafting software comes from a long lineage of product designers, architects and engineers who would draw 2D plans, complete with measurements, which would be handed over to technicians or craftspeople who would interpret the designs and make the said object. This could be done manually or with a successive process of machining. Nowadays we have tools like 3D printing so that the design can be interpreted by other software (CAM or Computer-Aided Manufacturing) to create the tool path or slicing for 3D printing.

CAD programs take these 2D drawings and digitally translate them into 3D rendered “objects.” In some cases these are just “shells” or surfaces, while other programs treat the object as mathematically solid material. Simple shapes can then be added or subtracted to create more complex forms.

Because CAD software takes its roots in 2D drafting it is mainly for functional, measured 3D objects. Any functional object around you (your phone or computer that you’re reading this blog on) was designed in CAD software.

Examples of CAD:

Solidworks: Industry standard CAD software


Fusion 360: Free for students, startups, and makers!


Tinkercad: great for beginners


Onshape: Cloud-based with free option


3D Modeling

CAD software is great for functional objects, things that need to work mechanically or fit to a real world device. That said they may not give direct enough control over a design to allow for freeform, artistic work. This is where 3D modeling software comes in. Long used by the film and video game industry to make animation and special effects, you can also use these programs to create printable 3D models.

Modeling softwares are based around surfaces created from 3D geometry. This may be based around a system called NURBS, or may be simple polygons composed of vertices, edges, and faces. In many cases, programs will let you switch between these systems with ease, depending on your workflow. These points and surfaces come together to form the edges of a 3D object.

The advantage of modeling over CAD is that modeling software gives users direct input into each vertex or surface individually or as groups. This always for different ways to manipulate the shapes, often in ways that look more organic.

Some programs are even designed to treat 3D models as if they were lumps of clay so that designers can take a more sculptural approach. Using tools that emulate traditional artistic techniques, artists can get the most out of the geometry of a digital object.

Examples of 3D modeling software:

Sketchup: Free and popular


Maya: Industry standard for film and animation


Blender: Free, open source, and runs some of Shapeways’ backend tools


ZBrush: Professional digital sculpting software


Sculptris: Simpler, free version of ZBrush for beginners

Overall, knowing what you want to achieve with your design is vital to choosing the right tool for you. If a design needs to be functional, fit to other real-world objects, or have specific measurements, starting with CAD is the way to go. If a design needs to emulate a real-world or imaginary object or showcase your artistic vision, modeling could be a solution. If a design wants to do both, try mixing and matching software within your process.

Shapeways at Dutch Design Week 2016

Dutch Design Week is here! Based in Eindhoven (Shapeways’ hometown), this annual nine-day festival draws designers and design-lovers from around the world. Each year, we join forces with our community of independent designers to showcase their amazing creativity. And in keeping with this year’s theme, The Making Of, we’ll be opening our factory to visitors — giving them a chance to see where (and how) the magic happens, get 3D scanned, and take part in workshops and presentations by some of our Dutch Shapeways designers.

Keep reading for a rundown of how you can join the fun at Dutch Design Week.

Visitors to Shapeways' Eindhoven factory during Dutch Design Week 2015

Visitors to Shapeways’ Eindhoven factory during Dutch Design Week 2015

Shapeways EXPO | Shapeways Factory | Oct. 22-30

Every day, we’ll be inviting visitors into our factory to explore how our community of independent designers is using Shapeways to break new ground in product design. We’ll also be offering:

  • A 3D scanning booth to bring more fans into the world of 3D Selfies. (11 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily)

  • Community Workshops and Presentations to connect visitors with Dutch designers and the products they’ve brought to life with Shapeways. (1 p.m. – 3 p.m. daily)

  • Factory Tours that provide a rare glimpse into how files are turned into finished products. (10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. weekdays; registration required)

A winning design from our 2015 Helsinki Design Week CHIL-DISH Project

Shapeways Presents: CHIL-DISH Project | Yksi Expo | Oct. 22-23

After our successful event with CHIL-DISH at Helsinki Design Week, we’re partnering up again to unleash kids’ creativity at DDW. At the CHIL-DISH Project:

  • Kids will be invited to reimagine everyday objects using paper and crayons.

  • We’ll then choose 10 designs to be 3D modeled by CHIL-DISH designers, turning the kids’ drawings into 3D printed porcelain objects. (11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Oct. 22-23)

Wired Life Tiger by Shapeways Designer Dot San

Wired Life Tiger by Shapeways Designer Dot San, on display in our Eindhoven factory

Shapeways Presents: Community & Materials Exhibit | Yksi Expo | Oct. 24-28

  • Come explore some of the materials we use and check out how our designers are exploring these unique and versatile media. (Oct. 24-28, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.)

A group of 3D Selfies

A group of 3D Selfies

Shapeways Presents: 3D Scanning | Yksi Expo | Oct. 29-30

  • Don’t miss your chance to get scanned for a 3D Selfie.

  • We’ll take a scan of your head and shoulders using Occipital’s Structure Sensor and an iPad. Then, you can easily order your mini likeness through Shapeways. (Oct. 29-30, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.)

If you make it to Dutch Design Week, be sure to come to one of our events and say hello! And if you can’t make it, keep an eye on the the blog, where we’ll be highlighting talented Dutch Shapeways Designers throughout the week.

Gravity Sketch Launches a Kickstarter Campaign

We’ve been huge fans of what the Gravity Sketch team has done to make 3D design more accessible to everyone through their iPad app, Gravity Sketch iOS, which is being used by thousands of creators across the world.

As a result of all the user feedback from the app, the Gravity Sketch team embarked on developing a more advanced tool to even further lower the barriers to 3D literacy by creating a desktop and virtual reality version and have just launched a Kickstarter to fund the project.

The new experience offers users a “what you see is what you get” interface where users can interact with 3D creations in real time, in a truly three dimensional space. The team was inspired to extend this fully immersive creation experience, allowing you to tap (literally) into simple tools that enable you to create complicated shapes in seconds– all of which are sketched the exact size as you see it.

Ready to take 3D modeling into your own hands? Gravity Sketch is ready to make this possible with this VR experience. As a fun bonus, for a limited time, backers that support the Kickstarter campaign for about $19 (£15), you’ll be able to pick and receive a Shapeways 3D printed ornaments that was designed by a Gravity Sketch artist, right in time for the holidays! Check out the gorgeous options below, they’re printed out of strong and flexible plastic, with some nifty little interlocking parts!