Category Archives: 3D Modeling

10 Years Ago, Shapeways Was Sparked

_RVM5193

Ten years ago today, Shapeways was just an idea. “I remember the day well. Walking into a small office in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, there was a chair, a table and that was it. I had a plan, but also a lot of figuring to do.” It was March 1, 2007 – Co-Founder & CEO Pete Weijmarshausen’s first day working full-time on Shapeways, and the unofficial birthday of the company. Still, to Pete, it seems like yesterday. “I almost can’t believe it has been 10 years. It seems time flies when you are having fun!”

Having fun has a lot to do with why Pete was drawn to the idea of Shapeways; he’s always loved to geek out on futuristic tech. “I love to share cool technologies with as many people as possible, and I felt 3D printing was one of the coolest, most magical technologies I’d ever seen.” And, it’s no surprise that the idea for the company was born in the 3D design community – the same community that still fuels and sustains it. “When I learned about 3D printing, the first thing I thought was, ‘OMG, this is something I need to share with my friends in the Blender community!’ I knew that so many people use 3D software (like Blender) to create beautiful things they are passionate about on their computers, in the digital domain, but could not hold those in their hands. I wanted to change that.”

I sat down with Pete to talk about how he took that vision and turned it into a 10-year-old company that’s now the world’s largest 3D printing community.

What would you say is the biggest or most unexpected challenge you’ve encountered and overcome since starting Shapeways 10 years ago?

The biggest, perhaps not unexpected challenge was (and perhaps still is) that the technology we call 3D printing was not initially made for manufacturing. When we started Shapeways, the technology was called Rapid Prototyping or Rapid Manufacturing. It was for the largest part used for prototyping, which has totally different requirements than manufacturing in terms of quality, speed, and especially cost. The challenge for us was to use what was and is available for manufacturing.

The biggest challenge of the three components was cost. For years we struggled to make the products our community wants at a cost that was a good fit. We have made huge progress in that front, but I do not think we are done yet. That is also why I am still very excited about the entry of HP into the market. They have built a new machine, starting with the idea that 3D printers are not (completely) made for manufacturing, that they are too expensive, do not yield high enough quality, and are too slow. The new machine we are currently testing seems to fix that to a large extent. But again, we are not done.

Pete's opening Shapeways' New York office in 2010

Pete opens Shapeways’ New York office, 2010

The landscape of 3D printing has changed widely since 2007. How has Shapeways adjusted and remained a big player in the space?

The market of 3D printing final products for consumers almost did not exist when we started. We are still growing that market. It is really cool to look back 10 years and observe what has happened.

When we started, there was no one that knew about 3D printing, although the technology had existed for almost 20 years, even back in 2007! So, our first hurdle was to create awareness. Together with MakerBot, we started the 3D printing hype. Where we have the vision that consumer 3D printing is a platform play, the industry seemed to think it was the desktop machine.

I think what has happened over the last two years or so is that the idea of the desktop printer being the answer for consumer 3D printing has been debunked. In a sense, we have stayed true to our vision that giving consumers access to high-end 3D printers is the way to unlock their creativity and enable them to make amazing products. We continue to work to make our website easy to use, adding features and tools that unlock creativity, and helping our users to get what they want. We also continue to work to make the quality top-notch, for a great price, and as fast as people want – which is now! The progress we have made and the things we can still do will further unlock the market.

What does the future of consumer 3D printing look like?

I think as the technology matures, both on the printing side and on the creation side (3D software), it will become easier and more relevant for anyone to use it. I think that the announcement of HP’s entry into the market has incentivized other big players like CANON and Toshiba to consider making 3D printers.

HP's groundbreaking printer arriving at our Eindhoven factory

HP’s groundbreaking printer arriving at our Eindhoven factory

At the same time, new players are preparing to and are entering the market, like Carbon3D and Desktop Metal. But, it has also re-incentivized existing players to accelerate their R&D. All of that leads to enhanced abilities to deliver amazing products for consumers. Meanwhile, the software is getting better and better. New web-based 3D software like Onshape, but also Oculus Medium (a VR 3D modeling tool), Sixsense (VR) and 3D scanning are becoming mature. All of that will enable people to more easily express what they want. Shapeways’ role is to be the platform to connect people with all this technology, making it easy for them to get amazing products.

Are there any Shapeways designers who have been with the community since the beginning? How did you form those first relationships?

Yes of course! I remember well the first time I talked to Bathsheba Grossman and Oskar van Deventer. I think Bathsheba found us through our website. I noticed what she was doing and I reached out. Bathsheba was already using 3D printing way before we started and could tell me a lot about the industry. She also introduced me to Oskar, who unleashed the 3D printed puzzle scene! In those early days it was incredibly difficult to get designs uploaded (I remember Oskar having made a tutorial several pages long to get his puzzles uploaded – things have changed!)

I’m glad to see that after all these years they are still a loyal part of our community!

Oskar van Deventer's (unofficial) world-record-breaking puzzle

Oskar van Deventer’s record-breaking puzzle

Bathsheba Grossman's Gyroid sculpture

Bathsheba Grossman’s Gyroid sculpture

What are some of the biggest growth areas for the community, and the company in general? Do you have any predictions for the next 10 years?

We are building a platform that provides access to the next generation of manufacturing for anyone to use, which will play a huge part in the 3rd Industrial Revolution. This platform works in two ways: We give our community access to incredible machines, and we help 3D printing companies gain access to the biggest community of Makers. As a result, we are going to see some incredible growth in the amount of products made, and what it’s possible to make.

The new 3D printers coming to the market will be the next generation of professional 3D printers which will enable our users to make even more compelling products, at an even higher quality. The machines will be made for manufacturing, making it easier for our team to get those products in the hands of our community faster (next-day shipping!). In terms of materials, true full-color plastic will really open up a lot of creativity.

From a software perspective, I expect it to become easier and easier for people to express what they want. The rise of VR tools, next-generation online 3D software, and 3D scanning will have a large role to play in that.

Overall, I think we will see the mass adoption of 3D printing as a way for Makers to get their own products, and just as important, as a way for anyone to engage and get the products they want. This will massively disrupt how we think about the way products get made, and even have an impact on society at large. I think and hope Shapeways will play a pivotal role in this change, that we continue to earn the trust of our community, and that they continue to see us as the one-stop platform to make their dreams come true.

Tutorial Tuesday 6: Making Your Designs Customizable with CustomMaker

0-coverimage-custom_jewelry

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

Getting Started with CustomMaker

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

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

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

2-screenshot_custommaker

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

CustomMaker Resources

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

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

Customizable Products on Shapeways

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

4-tile

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

The Week in 3D Printing

This week, we learned what it will take to 3D print homes for humans on distant planets, how 3D modeling of your head and face can give you new hair — or just perfectly fitted sunglasses — plus, we found out how to turn used analog sound equipment into smartphone-connected wizardry.

Printing a New World

This is not a 3D printer, but one day, it will have 3D printer friends

This is not a 3D printer, but one day, it will have 3D printer friends

Pioneering USC engineer Behrokh Khoshnevis told NBC how he’s working with NASA to use found materials on Mars to create 3D printed homes, machines, infrastructure… basically anything humans need to choose that Martian lifestyle. That means technologies like 3D-printing method Contour Crafting (CC), which Khoshnevis used to print a 2,500-square-foot building in less than a day — back in 2004. Our post-Earth future is looking up. Now, if we can just figure out how to get to TRAPPIST-1.

Trump Should Check This Out

ABC brought us the touching story of a woman whose upcoming wedding compelled her to address her thinning hair. Thankfully, a high-tech hairpiece created using 3D printing saved the wedding day. The result is so realistic, our hairdo-in-chief should probably know about this (please, someone tell him).

It's definitely more realistic than this

It’s definitely more realistic than this

Sunglasses, Sports, Mullets

In the search for the perfect-looking pair of sunglasses, it’s often impossible to find a pair that actually, literally fit your face. Not “too big or too small for my face shape” but rather “don’t dig into my cheeks, fall off easily, or squeeze my head oddly.” Guess what can help? 3D printing! Skelmet (they originally planned to make bike helmets) takes scans of your head and face and creates custom frames to your specific measurements, as TechCrunch reported. However, as they also noted, these frames are strictly sporty, so you’ll either end up looking like Lance Armstrong or Dog the Bounty Hunter, depending on your hair length.

Skelmet's scanning-for-sunglasses app in use

Skelmet’s scanning-for-sunglasses app in use

Pump Up the Jams

Geeky Gadgets got a little less geeky this week when they pulled a DJ move, showing us how to mix vintage knobs and switches,  3D printed parts, and an Arduino to create a smart MIDI controller. Recycled, digitized, and made with 3D printing? Pump it up.

Screenshot 2017-02-25 10.43.25

The MIDI controller of your 3D printed dreams

 

 

Is There Anything This Designer CAN’T Make?

Fashion has always been a rich breeding ground for design innovation, and 3D printing has ushered in new ways of creating for designers from every discipline. Rarely, however, do we see a single designer whose work spans fashion, industrial design, miniatures, and much more. Bilal Khan of BMK Design, whose Shapeways shop reveals only one facet of his incredible range, let us in on a groundbreaking jewelry project that he completed for his client TooShoes. Using Shapeways to iterate and test his design, Bilal developed a gorgeous, elegant shoe adornment designed to withstand daily wear — and turn simple pumps into statement-making, one-of-a-kind footwear. For a glimpse inside the mind of a truly versatile designer, read the full interview below.

Heel jewelry created for TooShoos

Heel jewelry created for TooShoos

In your Shapeways shop, you focus on amazing figurines. Normally, we don’t see designers cross over from fantasy characters to jewelry, so I’m particularly interested in how you came to design the gorgeous heel jewelry you shared with us. Outside of Shapeways, do you focus on jewelry design?

I’m basically a design enthusiast with experience in varying design fields and contrasting skill sets as far as modeling tools and design methodologies are concerned. By profession, I’m a mechanical engineer, and I’ve been independently developing products for clients for the past four years. My urge for design — and being inspired by all types of designers — from digital sculptors to industrial designers and fashion designers, led me to learn and develop skill sets away from my core expertise. To date, I’ve developed products in consumer, mechanical equipment, automotive, medical, fashion, and footwear. I also spend time developing interior designs for building spaces and front end web designing.

One heel jewelry option, designed for TooShoos

One heel jewelry option, designed for TooShoos

The Shop

I have been blessed to have been introduced to these varying fields by my clients for whom I take the challenge of developing these novel products in various segments. The miniatures you saw at my shop were the result of an offshoot of the skills I developed while creating board game miniatures for my client. But, I did not want to stop at just that project and decided to enhance my skills and extend it to the physical desktop toys that you see at my shop.

Jewelry for Heels

Similarly, this jewelry design project regarding heels was also a brainchild of my client who did not know how to approach it to make a complete working product out of the idea. I was eventually able to design this latching mechanism with a clamping, modular jewel holding option. The process of developing the product required some engineering, loads of brainstorming, and a few iterations of prototypes to perfect the fit. Obviously, the prototyping was possible because of Shapeways. I printed most of the prototypes, developed during the project, from Shapeways, and for the final piece, we produced the product with gold-plated brass from Shapeways.

From TheBMKdesign.com

From TheBMKdesign.com

Focus on personal jewelry designs

In the past I’ve developed jewelry for my family and friends. I’m currently working on developing my line of jewelry focusing on Mughal and traditional styles alongside contemporary and modern art pieces. You can find a few pieces on my website, though they’re still a work in progress. When it’s ready, you’ll see these and many other designs up on my shop at Shapeways.

A gorgeous work in progress

A gorgeous work in progress

Tell us a bit about the heel jewelry you designed. This seems like a completely novel way to approach shoe adornment, but it’s also lovely, practical, and feels like a natural evolution in footwear accessories. How did you come to the idea?

Indeed it is. To be honest, the idea was brainchild of my client. My part of the job was to make it real and develop a mechanism that would work and yet be aesthetically pleasing. Initially the client wanted a single piece of jewelry that somehow clings on to the heel and the embellishment can give a new look to the shoe every time. The real task was to make sure that the latching mechanism clings on to the heel somehow having minimum visibility of the latching mechanism and maximum visibility to the jewel, keep the cost low and make it durable.

After critical design analysis, I realized that the best way to cling to the heel would be via the bottom, other approaches considered included a Velcro based approach that basically hugged the heel just like a cloth would but that and a few other options were quickly disregarded because of lack of durability and ruggedness. Eventually we decided to go for a metal approach, where the jewel and the latching base were both made out of metal.

I also realized that making the product modular would save our customers cost and would provide the same effective product. This was the reason why the jewel and the base latch were developed as separate components.

A brief on the development process can be found here.

Now, these designs are on the shelves at TooShoos, a UK-based jewelry company. Being a designer of the product, it gives me great sense of achievement that my client was able to generate a business through the product.

A heel jewelry attachment designed for TooShoos

A heel jewelry attachment designed for TooShoos

What’s next for you? Any other projects you’d like to share?

There are loads of ideas and personal projects I am working on in parallel. One of my upcoming lines is called pencil heads. I will be featuring those on my Shapeways shop too. These are cute little animals (coated full color sandstone) which would act both as a paperweight and a pencil head. I have already ordered them from Shapeways and as soon as I receive them and complete my tests they will be up for grabs at my shop.

Another project is a tool for craftsmen and armatures alike called happy thumbs, it will also be up for grabs on Shapeways soon.

The upcoming Pencil Heads project

The upcoming Pencil Heads project

Thanks for letting us in on your design process, Bilal! If you’ve worked on an amazing product you’d like to share, or have any questions for Bilal, make sure to leave a comment below.

Tutorial Tuesday 5: Quick Fixes With MeshLab

Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! This week we’ll discuss three methods for modifying 3D meshes with the free software MeshLab. When you export a 3D file to STL format, what you’re doing is creating a file that describes the surface of an object with a mesh of tiny triangles. Sometimes there are problems with that mesh that cause printability issues, and MeshLab can help you fix most of those issues to make your files ready for printing.

We’ll focus on the top three issues that can arise with meshes: having too many triangles (too fine a mesh), having triangles that are oriented incorrectly or inconsistently, and having triangles that intersect with bad geometry. MeshLab has a dizzying array of menu items with long names, but if you know just which ones to choose then you can repair these three types of issues very quickly. Let us know in the comments if you have other mesh-repair techniques to share!

Reducing Triangle Count

Shapeways can accept 3D models with up to one million triangles, but it’s surprisingly easy to go over that threshold, especially if you’re working with 3D scans or a sculpting program. To reduce the overall number of triangles in your model, open the model in MeshLab and from the Filters menu select “Remeshing, Simplification, and Reconstruction” and then “Simplification: Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation.” For more detailed information, see the Shapeways Tutorial Polygon Reduction with MeshLab as well as Mister P.’s video Mesh Processing: Decimation.

meshlab-QECD

P. S. to MeshLab veterans: Good news! MeshLab updated to a long-awaited new version in late 2016, and in the new version you can perform “QECD” multiple times in a row without crashing the program! There’s still no “undo” in MeshLab though, alas. :/

Orienting Normals

If some of your model appears “inside out” (like the black area in the image below), then you should select and flip any reversed normals using the method outlined in the recipe Using MeshLab for fixing normals in the 3D Printing with RepRap Cookbook.

meshlab-normals

Or, try a quick overall fix in MeshLab by selecting “Normals, Curvature, and Orientation” from the Filters menu, then choosing the “Re-orient all faces coherently” tool.

Removing Non-Manifold Edges

If the mesh of your model has faces that meet together in geometrically unpleasant ways, then you’ll need to repair it before 3D printing; see the Shapeways article Fixing Non-Manifold Models. “Non-manifold” edges and vertices look those like the ones shown below from Martin Sälzle at PCL Developer’s Blog.

meshlab-non_manifold

You can identify and select non-manifold elements from the Filter/Selection menu in MeshLab; look at the bottom of the view window for a count of the number of bad faces. To repair any bad geometry, use the method from the MakerHome article Shrinking and Remeshing the Fidget Cube: from the Filters menu, choose “Cleaning and Repairing”, and then try some combination of the tools “Remove Duplicate Faces”, “Remove Duplicated Vertex”, “Remove Faces From Non Manifold Edges”, and/or “Remove T-Vertices by Edge Flip”.

What are your favorite fast fixes for repairing and simplifying meshes? Let us know in the comments so we can all learn how to handle mesh problems quickly and get back to designing and creating!

The Week in 3D Printing

Rumors swirled around a possible iPhone 8 3D scanner, an animator took loading screens from digital to analog using 3D printing, plus: laughs, limbs, pills, and backbones got the 3D printed treatment, and we resurrected both dinosaurs and a thinner you — all this week in 3D printing.

Take a (3D) selfie

Appleinsider brought us some pretty serious-sounding speculation that Apple will roll out a 3D scanner with its iPhones 8. Some see an opportunity for scanning and printing almost anything, others see an opportunity for Snapchat to get even creepier.

Back it up now

Some people love to wait. Take Raphael Vangelis. Aside from having a preeeetty awesome name, the director/animator also appreciates the art of loading screens — enough to take them from digital to analog format, creating stop-motion animations with his own special twists, as The Verge reported. Now, hurry up and wait:

Analogue Loaders from Raphael Vangelis on Vimeo.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss back pain goodbye

Printing in space got even more interesting somehow this week when the Made In Space printer aboard the International Space Station produced a “laugh” (a print of a 3D model of sound waves emitted during laughter, natch). Get all of the laughs on Space.com. MEANWHILE IN SYRIA, Vice brought us the moving story of Ibrahim Mohammad, a refugee who’s working to bring relief to Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon — in the form of 3D printed limbs. Read the whole beautiful, harrowing tale here. Less dramatic, but no less useful was the revelation that 3D printing is a better way to produce pills, as reported by 3Dprint.com. And, in an even more stunning innovation for 3D printing, a woman in India received 3D printed titanium vertebrae implants, and was pain-free 12 days after the 10-hour, life-threatening surgery that this entailed. Slow clap.

Image courtesy flickr user Vagawi

Image courtesy flickr user Vagawi

Ride a dino

As TheHindu.com reported, Paleontologists in New South Wales are using 3D printing to recreate a dinosaur they’re quickly digging up. Combined with a planned VR experience, they’ll use the model they’re making to immerse people in an encounter with a dino. Just don’t get too friendly… or get any ideas about cloning extinct dinosaurs for inclusion in a theme park-like setting.

Get that (3D) model body

Most of us know David Barton gyms as body-conscious places where people go to “tighten things up” to the beats of a hired DJ (really). Now, as CBSNewYork tells it, members have a chance to drill down on what exactly that weight loss routine is doing, thanks to 3D scanning and a personalized 3D model you can use to “sculpt” a new you. Now, we can all have a model body.

Low Poly Human Male derived from a 3D PD model, by GDJ

Low Poly Human Male derived from a 3D PD model, by GDJ

3D Printed in Space: A Teen’s Winning Design

tools in space

Robert Hillian’s Multi-Tool, 3D printed on a Made In Space printer on the ISS

While just a senior in high school, Robert Hillian took on a challenge most of us can only dream of: design a tool to be used — and printed — in space.

It was all part of the Future Engineers competition hosted by NASA, SpaceX, and Shapeways, with in-orbit printing courtesy of Made In Space. Since winning the competition with his Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool, he’s graduated and now attends college in Huntsville, Alabama. These days, Robert keeps his eyes on even bigger prizes, hoping to one day work with NASA and SpaceX again. We caught up with him recently to ask about his design process, his future, and how he went from high school kid to NASA engineer.

Tell us a bit about what you set out to do for this contest. What was the goal?

My goal for the contest was fairly simple. I focused on delivering the best design I could, without over-complicating it. I was more determined to produce my best design in the limited time I had, rather than trying to win.

The tool you created for NASA — it’s a relatively simple idea, but the execution is really elegant and efficient. What inspired the design? Had you already been interested in tools and engineering?

Thank you, my design was inspired through my process rather than anything else. But one object that definitely influenced the final product was the Swiss Army knife. I enjoyed using tools but I never thought about designing one until the competition,  however I have always been interested in engineering. Creating new things is my passion, and engineering helps me to do just that.

The tool Robert designed for NASA and SpaceX Future Engineers competition

The tool Robert designed for NASA and SpaceX Future Engineers competition

How did you develop the tool? What was the design process like?

I have an elaborate personal engineering process. I first spent a few hours doing as much research as possible on everything from tools astronauts currently use on station to how 3D printers work. From there, I sketched out the maximum build dimensions, and started deciding on where I should place each tool I wanted to include. Afterwards, I had the final product.

What was it like to see your model printed aboard the International Space Station?

It was incredible to simply sit in the Payload Operations Integration Center [at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center] and see the astronauts onboard the station. But seeing that my design was in space, in the hands of astronauts, was unbelievable.

Were you always interested in space travel or engineering for space missions?

Ever since I was eight, I fell in love with space travel, and I don’t remember ever being more passionate about something.

Is this the first step in a career in space, or do you have other things in store? Does being in Huntsville keep you oriented toward NASA?

I definitely think this is a first step towards a career in space — as well as a step toward more ambitious career goals and opportunities. Being in Huntsville definitely helps keep me oriented toward my goals. I hope to one day soon start a company and work with NASA as well as SpaceX.

Any words of encouragement for other young people looking to get into 3D engineering?

My one piece of advice to aspiring engineers would be to never stop brainstorming. And that it’s a lot harder to succeed in engineering if your ideas do not sound crazy to some people.

Robert, center, at the Alabama State House for NASA Day

Robert, center, at the Alabama State House for NASA Day

How to Turn Your Hobby into 7000 Items Sold

Grant 4-4-0 Metal - Zscale by Stony Smith Designs

Grant 4-4-0 Metal – Zscale by Stony Smith Designs

What do you doodle on the margins of your notes? Stay up late reading about online? Build communities around? Whatever it is, chances are you have something 3-dimensional to contribute to it.

For Stony Smith, who just sold his 7,000th scale model railroad accessory on Shapeways (!!), the seeds of that hobby were planted early on. His parents “were both very crafty, and very strongly into Do It Yourself,” he told us. Today, Smith is a uniquely Shapeways kind of success story – one that proves that, with the right tools, an individual’s hobby can end up enriching a whole community.

As we celebrate his 7000th sale, we thought it was a great time to ask him about the secrets of his success. Take note!

Start With What You Love, and Make It Better

Stony Smith took his love of drawing, combined it with his love of architecture, and then, went 3D. “I’ve worked with 3D design/drawing since 1974, but it was always limited to just 2D renders until 3D printing came along. In 2008, I started building a Zscale (1:220), but I found that the choices for buildings in that scale are extremely limited. I fumbled for a good while with trying to make paper model buildings. Sometime in 2009, I read about Shapeways on the HackADay.com website, and thought, ‘I wonder if 3d printing would work?’ I built a model [of a house], uploaded it, and received a ‘Manifold Error’ message. After several misdirections, I redrew the house using OpenSCAD, and poof! It worked!” OpenSCAD is a great way to create 3D models if you have some programming experience, or have zero 3D modeling experience. Learn more here.

The real-life house that inspired Stony's first 3D printed design

The real-life house that inspired Stony’s first 3D printed design

Get to Know Your Community, and Follow Their Lead

Stony was immersed in a community of makers who all loved scale models, and who challenged each other to create and innovate. “Since 2008 I’ve participated in a forum of fellow ‘Z-heads’ and [I] showed the model to one of the members, Steve Van Til (RIP), who then asked me the crucial question: ‘That’s cool, but can you make one of these?’ That’s where it all started. I could blame all of this on Steve. It’s been a never-ending cycle of ‘That’s cool, can you make one of these?’ ever since.”

Stony's response to "That's cool, but can you make one of these?" The Taconite Orr Car II

Stony’s response to “That’s cool, but can you make one of these?” The Taconite Orr Car II

Embrace Making as a Pure Hobby (Unless You’re Looking to Become a Brand)

Sometimes, you want to make a huge mark on an industry. Sometimes, it’s better to let your day job be your job, and your hobby be purely fun (even if it makes you money). Stony stresses, “This is a HOBBY for me. There’s enough ‘work’ in my day job to keep me fully active. I get a significant amount of relaxation and satisfaction just while doing the drawings, and that’s why I only work on designing things that look interesting to me or catch my attention. I don’t need the distraction of trying to become dependent on the income. That would make this a ‘job’ not a ‘hobby.’ And when someone takes one of my items, paints it properly and places it on their layout, then if I see it in a photo or IRL, the thrill of ‘I did that!’ is what keeps me going.”

Let Your Other Passions Inspire You

For Smith, a career that he truly enjoys inspires how he manages his Shapeways Shop. “My day job is in high-powered big data analytics. Throughout my career, I’ve always been ‘the computer guy.’ There are a number of methods/tools from the day job that I bring over to watching the status of my shop here at Shapeways, like knowing that I’ve sold 7000 items!” He’s also surpassed $10,000 in sales, as we reported last year.

So, what are you waiting for? Do you have a hobby you’d like to take to the next level, but you’re not quite sure how? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll be happy to connect you with the resources you need. Ask away!

Cover image: Ferris Wheel – Zscale by Stony Smith Designs, photo by Karin Snyder

Scanning Stories: 4 Steps to a Perfectly Printable 3D Selfie

3D Selfie Row

In our most recent Scanning Stories post, we talked about making your full-body Skanect Structure Sensor 3D scans better using MeshLab and Meshmixer. In this fourth entry in the series, we’ll show you four steps between a full-body scan and printing that you’ll want to take to make sure your 3D selfies are true-to-life.

Step 1: Exporting your scans

Today, we’ll start by taking you through the process of exporting your Skanect scans as OBJ files. OBJ is a file format that contains 3D coordinates (polygon lines and points), texture maps, and other object info. By exporting your scans as OBJ files, you will get both a texture file AND a mesh file, as well as a file containing all data. This will help you better edit specific parts of your scan’s shape and appearance.

1

Start by exporting your Skanect scan file (for more info on creating scans, see this past post and this tutorial by Skanect) as an OBJ file.

Once you’ve exported the OBJ file, you’ll notice that Skanect has made three files for you: an OBJ, an MTL, and a PNG.

2

The MTL file contains all data, the OBJ is the actual mesh (the polyhedral version of your scanned object), and the PNG is the texture map, or surface detail file.

As a pro tip, the colors in the texture file tend to be a little too dark once printed so we we’ll show you how to lighten it up.

You can do this in programs like Photoshop or Lightroom.

Step 2: Compare textures before and after editing

If you look below, these textures look incomprehensible, but don’t worry, the computer understands how to read them. These are the colors that are what the computer is referencing to give texture to the print. The only problem is that the colors in the scan might not be vibrant enough once put onto the 3D model. Just like any form of photography we may need to do some image manipulation to make the colors look the best possible. Therefore, we’re going to bring this texture map into Lightroom and make some adjustments so they’re brighter and will look better.

The textures before lightning up

The textures before lightning up

After lightning up

After lightning up

While editing the images, keep an eye on the details — they can be sharpened if needed. The settings we use in Lightroom are below:

exposure +1.4
contrast +40
highlights +20
shadows +10

 

Step 3: Editing the mesh and texture in ZBrush

When you scan with a hand scanner (like the Structure Sensor from Occipital that we use), you sometimes end up with a file that is not as sharp, complete, or accurate as you would like. You might have holes in the model that shouldn’t be there, or the texture might have flaws that need to be edited. You can make files like this printable using ZBrush or any other 3D program that can handle 3D files with textures like 3DMax, Blender, etc.

Here’s a super helpful tutorial for editing scans in ZBrush:

Zbrush tutorial to repair 3d scanned models

Other tutorials that might be helpful to you:

Pixologic ZBrush YouTube channel

Blender tutorial to repair 3D scanned models

How to Make Your 3D Scanned Models Look Amazing – Beginner Blender Tutorial

Step 4: Replacing the base of the scan

When you create a scan of a person, cleaning up the scan can often mean adding a platform, or base, on which the 3D print will stand. We generally remove the original base from the scan (which is either the ground, the floor, or a temporary platform the person was on) and replace it with a nice, freshly modeled platform because it will look much cleaner and stand upright.

To do this, follow the steps below:

1. Remember to always export the edited file in ZBrush as a VRML file. You’ll have something like this when you’re finished in ZBrush:

5base

2. Make a platform. You can make a platform in any 3D modeling program. We made this simple platform in Solidworks. We made ours by drawing a square, extruding it to have thickness and then filleting the edges to make them less sharp. Once we were pleased with the platform we exported it as an STL file:

6base

We then use Netfabb to merge the two files together. For us this is handy because our printers are set to work with Netfabb. Netfabb has a free version for you to experiment with.

3. Import the mesh AND your platform into Netfabb. Scale your model and/or your platform to a desired height/width. Place the platform underneath the model file (be sure they overlap, because if they don’t the finished file will end up as two separate parts and won’t merge during printing). Select both files and merge them together. Export the final file as a VRML.

4. Finally, create a zip file containing both the texture map PNG and the VRML model file and upload this to Shapeways.com.

The result is always a perfect finished product that can stand on its own.

Happy scanning and editing!

Brigitte & Astrid

Designer Spotlight: Jin Kyeom – VITAMIN-IMAGINATION

When I was a child, I wanted to be a paleontologist (a scientist who studies fossils) because I thought dinosaurs were absolutely incredible. My parents took me to the Museum of Natural History here in New York, where I discovered that paleontologists slept in tents during their digs — and promptly changed my mind on that career. Alas. Over twenty years later, at my post as PR Lead here at Shapeways, I stumbled upon Jin Kyeom’s Shapeways’ shop and felt positively giddy; Jin’s incredible 3D designs bring dinosaurs back to life (in the artistic sense, obviously). Jin lives in South Korea and works as an educator teaching people of all ages about dinosaurs.

Sifting through the array of models in Jin’s shop, it’s impossible not to let your imagination run a little wild, assisted by the fact that many of the designs are paired with an animation of the 3D modeled dinosaur in action (running, attacking – it’s all there). Due to my weakness for awkward-looking animals, the Carnotaurus model is my favorite  look at its tiny little arms! How does that dinosaur give hugs? Scratch its head? Do anything, basically?

Carnotaurus (Medium / Large size) by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Carnotaurus (Medium / Large size) by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Obviously wanting to fangirl, I asked Jin lots of questions about his models for this Designer Spotlight, so without further ado:

What do you use to guide the dinosaur designs?
Because dinosaurs are extinct, restoring them in a scientifically accurate way is not an easy task. I collect not only the skeleton pictures of the dinosaurs I want to make, but also skeleton data of similar animals. In addition, since extinct dinosaurs are steadily studied, I review the latest academic information. If the collected scientific data and my imagination are in the wrong combination, we can create a strange monster so I review skeletal data of existing animals that are similar to the dinosaurs that I want to restore. The skin patterns of reptiles, for example, are extremely beneficial in guiding the creation of my dinosaur designs.

I use ZBrush for dinosaur-making, Rhino3D for product structure, and KeyShot for rendering. When I prepare a lot of materials, I make the dinosaurs with a ZBrush. In the middle, I get advice from a dinosaur researcher in South Korea. So I try to make nice designs of scientifically accurate dinosaurs.

Tyrannosaurus vs. Triceratops Skeleton by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Tyrannosaurus vs. Triceratops Skeleton by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Your dinosaur designs are now incredibly complex and highly detailed. How long did it take you to master 3D design?
I have been studying ZBrush since 2011 and have been using it until now. In the beginning, my ability was a mess. Recent dinosaurs I have made are better in design and scientific knowledge than my past dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs I had studied and worked on for about two years were the first to receive praise. While I’m much more knowledgeable than when I first started, I continue to study, learn, and strive to improve my skills because there’s always room for growth.

Jin’s earliest Breeding Kit models

How long does it take to model each design?
Typically, I invest a week to design one dinosaur, but it’s a continuation of a long process of research, collecting data, and consulting experts. When the print has been completed, the work is post-processed with paint.

Ceratopsian small package by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Ceratopsian small package by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Check out Jin’s shop – it’s a very realistic-looking blast from the past (which is also what probably killed the dinosaurs, womp womp). There are also Jin’s adorably cartoonish baby dinos in the New Breeding Kit section, for all your cuteness needs.

Triceratops Head skull flower pot by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Triceratops Head skull flower pot by VITAMIN IMAGINATION

Finally found Waldo? Check out Hidden Folks, a game from community member Sylvain Georget

HiddenFolks-Banner2048

Our community is a giant melting pot of creative designers, where 3D design is only a fraction of what the designers, makers, engineers and creators are capable of. A while back we celebrated the Academy Award nomination of Alienology, and today we want to highlight community member Sylvain Georget (visit his Shapeways shop Tegroeg), as he took his extreme detailed drawing skills to the next level by launching his own video game Hidden Folks today.

Hidden Folks is an interactive search-find-and-click game. At first, the concept might remind you of Where’s Waldo, but Hidden Folks has much more to offer. The miniature landscapes you’ll navigate through have many funny elements you can control by simply poking. Open tents, slam doors, poke crocodiles — there is so much to explore, we recommend you try it yourself. What really defines this game (besides the hilarious sound effects) are the amazing black-and-white graphics, all hand-drawn by Sylvain. Don’t let the minimalistic look of the game fool you; the world of Hidden Folks is rich in an insane amount of small but great detail — and gimmicks.

ezgif.com-a38e97da07

Sylvain has been drawing miniature worlds for quite some time, and he’s translated some of them into 3D to sell in his shop Tegroeg.

Sylvain-1
13 House by Sylvain Georget

Sylvain-2
House 7 by Sylvain Georget

During the past years we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Sylvain a bunch of times, in projects for Dutch Design Week and KunstVesting Heusden, plus we printed his designs for STRP-Festival 2015, and Sylvain even attended the official Eindhoven Factory Opening event back in 2014. Seeing Sylvain use his detailed drawing skills for a whole new platform is truly inspiring.

Sylvain, congratulations to you and Adriaan de Jongh in bringing Hidden Folks to life — we can’t wait to play again!

Hidden-Folks-Indians

Congratulations, Winners of the Sketchfab #3DSculptTabletopWars Challenge!

At Shapeways, we love working with fellow design communities, so we were delighted when we got the opportunity to sponsor Sketchfab’s monthly 3D sculpting challenge. We asked their community to come up with the coolest tabletop wargaming miniatures they could. They didn’t disappoint — the quality of each submission was phenomenal.

Judging with a combination of Sketchfab and Shapeways Community members and staff, including Shapeways Shop owner mz4250 of the The DM Workshop, we chose from the entries here:

 

…And the winners were:

Winner: 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

We loved seeing these designs take form in the Sketchfab forums, and we can’t wait to see how they’ll turn out 3D printed! Until then, share your latest designs in the comments below for a chance to be featured on the blog.

Tutorial Tuesday 4: Using OpenSCAD to Design With Code

Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! This week, we speak to the geeks. Did you know that you can create 3D-printable designs with code — no 3D modeling required? OpenSCAD is a programming language for solid modeling, specifically built for creating designs that are exportable as triangular meshes for 3D printing. In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics and show off some Shapeways designs created with this powerful parametric modeling software.

openscad_screenshot_sweeper_sized

Getting Started With OpenSCAD

If you’re an experienced programmer, then you’re going to love this. But even if you’ve never written a line of code before in your life, you’ll be able to learn the basics of OpenSCAD and get started modeling right away! Start by downloading a free copy of OpenSCAD and bookmarking the very useful OpenSCAD User Manual and OpenSCAD Cheat Sheet.

user_manual_sized

For a quick start, check out the Hello OpenSCAD one-page starter document with OpenSCAD sample files. For extensive documentation and examples, see the Thingiverse OpenSCAD Jumpstart page and OpenSCAD discussion group. Or, get started in less than 10 minutes by watching and playing along with the video PolyBowls – A simple OpenSCAD code walk-through.

polybowls_video_sized

If you like learning by video, then you should also check out Patrick Conner’s video playlist of OpenSCAD tutorials. This playlist is how I initially learned about OpenSCAD and the videos are very clear, simple, and easy to follow.

openscad_patrick_conner_sized

OpenSCAD Models on Shapeways

OpenSCAD is particularly good for creating models based on equations or data, or that are procedurally generated. Here are four beautiful jewelry models on Shapeways that were designed with OpenSCAD:

 

sponde  tentacle

rhumb  lorenz

Going beyond jewelry, OpenSCAD is also a great tool for making abstract sculptures, processing and modifying data, and even creating household objects. Here are four more Shapeways models made with OpenSCAD:

 

12star  loxodrome

sappho  dyson (1)

Do you create with OpenSCAD? Let us know what you’ve made in the comments. If you’re just getting started and have any questions, let us know that too. See you next week!

The Week in 3D Printing

This week in 3D printing, we went from the bottom of prehistoric oceans to the remote villages of Appalachia, picking up some precious metals — and helping the blind to read — along the way.

Printing money

Fortune (appropriately) brought us the story of Desktop Metals, a company that has the likes of Alphabet, BMW, and Lowe’s ponying up $45 million in investment in the hopes of bringing down the cost of 3D metal printing. Takes coin to make coin.

And the blind will see

“Braille” by Roland DG Mid Europe Italia, licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Braille” by Roland DG Mid Europe Italia, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mashable reported on Team Tactile, a group of undergrads at MIT who are tackled the long-ignored, ripe-for-disruption world of braille translators for 2D text. Their model could cost a tiny fraction of the price of existing machines, thanks to 3D printing. While giving 2D-to-3D a whole new meaning.

Jurassic SeaWorld

Popular Mechanics branched out this week, detailing how scientists from the Smithsonian are basically living a paleontologist’s wildest dream — they’ve discovered a treasure trove of prehistoric, extinct marine life, and are using 3D modeling to reconstruct the ancient creatures. Safer than Jurassic Park, and almost as cool.

The Beverly Hillbillies should invest

Bloomberg told the tale of an innovator and a dream: Julielynn Wong, founder of 3D4MD, who wants to bring medical supplies to impoverished rural areas using 3D printing. Even in places where wood stoves still provide the heating, like remote Appalachia, or, one day, the frigid poles of Mars. Not exact black gold, but way more useful in a pinch.

This Dog-Sized 3D Printed Robot Might Haunt Your Dreams

When Shapeways first teamed up with Instructables on their Design Now: 3D Printing contest in November, we couldn’t have dreamt of the level of ingenuity and innovation that would result. Not only would Grand Prize winner Brett Turnage rock the RC world with his 3D printed RC motorcycles, First Prize winner Scott Hatfield, alias Toglefritz, would shake things up in a different way.

Toglefritz’s 3D Printed Quadroped is one of the most fully realized DIY bots we’ve seen to use 3D printed parts. A Playstation 2 controller, hobby servos, and Arduino-compatible microcontrollers under the hood bring the dog-sized robot to life. And when we say life, we’re not exaggerating:

PqAifCjQzsKE8

Check out all the winners (and download their designs) at Instructables, and share your latest projects with us in the comments.