Category Archives: Inspiration

Designer Spotlight: Sonia Verdu

Shapeways designer Sonia Verdu hails from Madrid, Spain – and she embodies the creativity of the city she calls home. “I was born in a very creative and not too conventional-minded family,” Sonia told us, adding, “I think this helped me follow heart rather than my head.” Her Shapeways shop captures that spirit, with designs that run the gamut from an intricate star-shaped locket to a series of adorable phone stands to fully articulated doll and robot figurines. We talked with Sonia about how she got started, and what inspires her.

How did you learn to design in 3D?
I’ve always liked sculpting and painting, and although I did not see many career opportunities in the world of art, I decided to get a Bachelor of Arts at university and study Artistic Ceramics in an art school. I learned digital modeling in 3D mainly on my own. At university I learned only traditional techniques of painting and sculpting, as I considered it very important to have that base. Later, I worked as a designer, and since I was really interested in digital modeling, I started to watch tutorials on the internet and fell in love with Blender, a professional-grade, open source software. I’m still learning to model with this program and I think I still have a lot to learn. 

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
A friend, Gianluca Owen, an expert in 3D printing, suggested it. I listened to him and started to share my designs here. I think this is a fantastic website where you can find a huge number of interesting designs, and it’s a great source of inspiration – besides having the possibility to test different materials to print my designs.

In terms of who has served as an inspiration, well, this question is very difficult to answer because there are many designs that inspire me. Some of the designers are Brian Chan, Nervous System, and Rustylab.

Your smartphone holders are adorable. How did you come to that idea?
My idea was to create several mobile holders in the shape of animals, that were cute and childish and at the same time very simple.

What inspired the two tiny robots in your shop?
The idea of designing these robots came up after designing toys for my children. I wanted to create cute robots and, like the above mobile holders, with a childish appearance and rounded corners.

Lantea the Jointed Doll is incredibly well-designed. Was it a challenge having to keep assembly in mind when designing for that model?
Yes, Lantea was a great challenge for me and, although it took me a long time for the complexity of the assembly, it was a lot of fun. Besides, in every new design of a jointed doll I learn new things, and that encourages me to do more and more.

If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
Since I left university, I’ve had in mind the idea of making sculptures and combining them with water, and I believe 3D printing could be a great tool for this project. I would like to make it come true someday.

We hope Sonia does realize her dream of multimedia 3D printed sculptures. We’ll make sure to share them when she does. Do you have a project you’d like us to showcase? Leave a comment below!

Amazingly Accurate Off-Road RC Car Wheels

Shapeways designer Gafsa Design has a shop full of incredible jewelry, gadgets, and accessories, most of them miniature versions of familiar objects. But, he recently shared a project on our forums that brings him solidly into RC car territory: amazingly realistic off-road wheels, printed in black Strong & Flexible nylon plastic:

Gafsa Design’s off-road wheels

The wheels were commissioned by a customer of Gafsa, who also shared some exciting in-progress glimpses of the Land Rover Defender 110 under construction:

The wheels post-installation, inspiration in the background

The body of the Defender

Gafsa created the wheels in SolidWorks and Rhino. Thanks for sharing these incredibly realistic off-road wheels, Gafsa! We can’t wait to see the finished product.

Do you have a cool project to share? Post a comment below for a chance to be featured on the blog!

We Cosplayed at PAX East

Last weekend, Community Manager Andrew Thomas and I were in Boston, Massachusetts for PAX East 2017, the festival that’s all about gaming. It was an amazing opportunity to check out the latest and greatest in video games, tabletop, and overall hot tech trends.

I went full cosplay

To give you an idea of the scene, there were tens of thousands of people in the Boston Convention Center, dozens of panels (ranging from how-to video game creation to tips on creating the best D&D campaigns), cosplayers galore – even the signage was in character:

PAX rules

Getting pixeled

We checked out a bunch of tabletop games and booths of designers who use Shapeways for prototyping. It was pretty incredible seeing how Shapeways enabled these designers to bring their tabletop games to life, letting them physically conceptualize the games before moving toward mass production. We spent some time in particular with the Dragoon and H.E.A.D. Hunters teams — stay tuned for interviews with both.

H.E.A.D Hunters

While Andrew and I are no strangers to cosplay (trust me, just click the link), this time, I wanted to wear something that really showed the magic of 3D printing. In my quest, my knight in shining armor was Lumecluster’s Melissa Ng, who let me borrow eight pieces of her Sovereign Armor. This was enough that I could mix and match the parts to create different looks, all easy to travel with. Thanks to Melissa I, got to cosplay like the best of them (and I did – check out my dance with the Yip Yip aliens).

muppet cosplay time with @ladybuglise #paxeast #pax #paxeast2017

A post shared by shapeways (@shapeways) on

On the subject of dressing to impress, Andrew and I ran into some cosplayers we’d met at 2016’s New York Comic Con. Among the friendly faces was Thomas DePetrillo of Extreme Costumes, wearing his Reinhardt cosplay from Blizzard’s Overwatch. We met Tom at Kotaku/iO9’s Cosplay Ball last year (where we scanned him). We learned some amazing things about the Reinhardt costume:

  • It measures 9’6” / 2.89m and weighs 85 pounds / 38.55 kgs.
  • It took three people working nine weeks to create it.
  • The original costume was seven feet tall, but it’s since been rebuilt four times.
  • The only parts that remain of the original are the top part of the skeleton, the upper half of the external chest, the hammer, and the feet.

Tom DePetrillo’s Reinhardt cosplay

We met another member of Tom’s Extreme Costumes team, Nick (of Squiby Props fame), and he joined us for a Facebook Live, where he shared how he used 3D printing for his Ornstein from Dark Souls cosplay. He 3D printed his mask by himself, which took a whopping 200 hours.

Nick’s Ornstein cosplay

Andrew was also interviewed during a Facebook Live with GeekMom’s Karen Walsh, who was covering PAX East. She even shouted out Shapeways as one of her favorite things at the convention!

There were so many things to see and do, we could never have done it all, but we met some amazing cosplayers— many using 3D printing in ways that blew our minds. Let us know in the comments if you use 3D printing to bring your cosplay to life.

On the floor at PAX East — until next year, Boston!

 

Alienology’s Latest: Audiophile-Approved 3D Printed Speakers

Designer Igor Knezevic, AKA Alienology, has had quite a year. After helping create artist Anouk Wipprecht’s incredible Living Pods and being nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “Passengers,” Igor’s taking things in a new direction: cutting-edge audio.

Last week, Knezevic and sound engineer Edin Secibovic launched a Kickstarter for their innovative T3TRA loudspeakers. With frames in colorful Shapeways Strong & Flexible nylon and panels in laser-cut birch plywood, the speakers combine two of the most popular digital manufacturing techniques. The single-piece tetrahedral frame also offers a distinct audiophile advantage, dramatically reducing vibration (and the usual small-speaker tinniness). The result is a small-but-mighty portable speaker. I asked Igor about what led him down this new path in product design.

What inspired you to create the T3TRA speakers?

I thought, “Let’s try to use the simplest geometric forms,” which make great sense for hi-fi sound (no hard edges, no corners, so fewer resonances, etc.), and try to make all the pieces digitally, with a minimum of post-processing. The frame is 3D printed and the sides are natural plywood (birch), laser-cut to fit perfectly into the 3D printed frame. As a result, T3TRA speakers have great sound, especially in this size group.

The finished T3TRA, and in concept form

What advantages did the 3D printed element bring to the speakers?

The tetrahedral frame of the loudspeaker is 3D printed in SLS nylon, giving it great stability and excellent sound properties because of the shape (no parallel edges), rounded edges (better for sound diffusion) and perfect uniformity of nylon material. In short, it’s a “unibody” frame. This is quite hard to achieve with other manufacturing methods. Plus, it can have that really intense Shapeways dye color. The color really pops – like candy.

Available color options

What was the process of creating them like?

This sound system as a form/shape was designed by myself, but the real sound expertise was provided by my friend and co-creator Edin Secibovic, who is a sound engineer. As we tried out some ideas, we realized that by combining two digital manufacturing methods, we can achieve an affordable speaker design which can be produced on-demand and hand-assembled relatively quickly. As far as sound quality is concerned, it worked at first try! We were very pleasantly surprised. Even deep sounds were apparent, which can be a problem for small-form speakers. A few tweaks were needed to make the parts fit perfectly, but it was pretty painless.

The 3D printed frame and laser-cut side panels

Overall, what makes these speakers special?

It’s about having the minimum number of parts, which fit perfectly together since they are all fully digitally manufactured – making for excellent sound distribution. In sound, less is definitely more. It turns out SLS nylon is a very good material for sound applications since the material is perfectly uniform in all directions and sizes are always exact.

We also have another design in the works – this one fully 3D printed, and with a different form factor. Coming soon, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out the Kickstarter for the T3TRA speakers, and don’t miss the incredible pieces in Alienology’s Shapeways shop. Let us know in the comments: have you used 3D printed parts in gadgets you’d like us to feature? Leave a note below for a chance to be featured on the blog.

The Week in 3D Printing

Houses got built in a day, the hot-but-flawed new Nintendo console got crowdsourced fixes, neon plastic met medical science, and car companies got additive — all this week in 3D printing.

We’re gonna need bigger printers

This 3D printed house went viral this week — with good reason. Built in a day for only $10,000, it’s not only incredibly cute (who doesn’t love a tiny house these days?), but it was also built by an unbelievably cool, enormous Apis Cor printer that had to be moved with a crane. Plus, the house was built in a snowy lot during a Russian winter, which should qualify it to work on Mars, at least in theory.

When you buy the latest toy way too soon

The Nintendo Switch made waves last week for being, well, the latest Nintendo console to hit the market. But, as Gizmodo reported, it’s might not have been… ready — at least as far as the design is concerned. Enter the internet’s most resourceful 3D designers, who’ve been sharing 3D printed solutions for everything from a faulty kickstand to a missing d-pad and inadequate joysticks. Maybe Nintendo wanted people to hack together fixes? Or not?

Fighting cancer with PLA

TechCrunch brought us the story of candy-colored tumors, set in silicone, that are helping doctors practice tricky laparoscopic liver cancer surgeries before operating on real patients. Never before has practicing dangerous life-saving surgeries been so… cute.

Drive it off the print bed

OK, we’re not exactly there yet, but according to Forbes, the largest car manufacturers — including the literal inventor of the assembly line — are starting to incorporate 3D printing into production processes in a typically large-scale way. It might be a while before 3D printing moves beyond the prototyping stage for most cars, but super-high-end rides will likely see more and more 3D-printing-enabled customization. In the meantime, I’ll stick with custom 3D printed cars I can actually afford:

A whole stable of sweet (N scale) 3D printed rides… courtesy RAILNSCALE

RC Customization Series: The Story so Far

Two months ago, inspired by our amazing — and growing! — RC car community, I set out on a journey into the world of RC cars. Colleague Tijs Lochbaum and I took a Tamiya Hornet completely apart and gave it a whole new look. We’ll be ready for the big reveal soon, but in the meantime, we’re taking a look back to see how far we’ve come.

We started with a dream of taking a classic Tamiya Hornet and making it our own. During this whole process, Tijs Lochbaum, who is a well-known European RC drifting expert, was our guide. As it turns out, I had a lot to learn about how to make a custom RC Car. I always thought you could only buy a complete car in a toy store, so a whole new world opened up for me. For one thing, I never thought so much manual polishing was involved to make the parts look good. I could go on all day about what I didn’t know — but instead, let’s take a look at what we’ve done so far:

Lap 1 – Upgrading The Tamiya Hornet


In the 1st Lap of the RC Customization Series, we explain our plan and what we need to create a custom RC car classic, the Tamiya Hornet.

Lap 2 – RC Engineering


The 2nd Lap features an interview with designer Alberto Massarotto from AMPro Engineering. Alberto takes us through his design process to guarantee his parts fit on original RC car body and chassis.

Lap 3 – Finalizing the Parts


On Lap 3, we look at post-production methods. Polishing, dyeing, sanding and preparing for spray-painting — we covered it all.

We’ve come a long way already, and we just have a few finishing touches to add. In the meantime, here’s a teaser shot of our completed Tamiya Hornet:

Stay tuned for the full reveal!

Brand Spotlight: ALEPHba Jewelry

Structured, minimal, and personalized are just a few words that describe ALEPHba jewelry. ALEPHba was created by an architect and a scientist who both needed to find a perfect present for a mutual friend. The initial ring transformed into an entire collection and with that, the team grew twofold. ALEPHAba now includes Morteza, Kylee, Tommaso, and Efthymia. We were lucky to get a chance to speak with Morteza and the team this week about their experience opening ALEPHba and where they see the brand heading.

The ALEPHba team includes Morteza, Kylee, Tommaso, and Efthymia. How did you all come together to create ALEPHba?

I think it started about a year ago when Efthymia and I wanted to get a gift for a common friend and I remember I just had heard of Shapeways at the time and I really wanted to try it out. I work as an architectural designer in New York and because of that I’m fairly familiar with 3D printing and 3D software in general. So we quickly modeled what we could now call ALEPHba’s first prototype ring, and that was about it. It was only after that first prototype was very well-received in the design community that we thought of making ALEPHba jewelry a thing.

Render of the collection by ALEPHba

I was very lucky to have such talented friends like Kylee and Tomasso who offered their help to make ALEPHba become a reality. Both of them bring a lot of new ideas to the table and helping us grow as a brand. It’s a new experience for all of us, and what’s important is that each of us learns something new along the way.

M prototype in strong & flexible

Your ring designs are elegantly minimal and personalized. Where did the inspiration for the core design come from?

What really inspired us in the first place was the alphabet itself, the fact that so many words with so much meaning come from putting a limited number of letters in a specific order.

We wanted to make a collection that is not just about the jewelry piece itself, but rather about the person who’s wearing it. We designed each letter of the alphabet elegantly to both stand on its own as a unique piece and complement others when paired in endless combinations.

Our work is an expression of alphabet in a three dimensional form, similar to the art of calligraphy that is the expression of alphabet in two dimensions.

 Your shop is beautiful, complete with custom renders and photos. What is your process for creating these designs and the overall brand? Does each member focus on a different feature?

One of the main goals we had launching the new collection of ALEPHba jewelry and the new website was to focus on building a brand identity, and all of us contributed to envisioning what that is. Beautiful renderings and accurate photos are an essential part of this effort. Another option we wanted to make sure we give our customers was sizing.

We knew the combination of different sizes and different letters of alphabet would be plenty. So we took advantage of parametric design tools to expedite production of different options and sizes.

The sizing chart you have created is not only beautiful but functional. Could you tell us a bit why you found a need to create it?

ALEPHba size guide

Our size guide is part of a bigger effort we made in making the online shopping experience for jewelry a bit easier.

We knew that the fit is extremely important for a person buying a ring or bracelet, but unfortunately there’s a gap between the customer and the physical product in online shopping experience. We wanted to help bridge that gap with our size guide.

Business cards double as ring sizers

We designed it to be beautiful and serve a purpose. It is made in the form of a bracelet so it can be worn like one. On the surface, there are ten circular holes, each representing a ring size. You can find your ring size by trying each of the holes around your finger until one fits perfectly. That would be your ring size.

Our collection currently only includes rings, but we are already working on bracelets and other items. The size guide can also help finding your bracelet size. Just wear the piece around your wrist as you would with any cuff bracelets. If it’s a good fit, then your bracelet size is Medium. If you find it very loose around your wrist, you’re probably a Small. But if the fit is too tight, you should probably go with the Large.

Shapeways’ inexpensive option for plastic prints and quick turnaround was a key factor for us deciding to make something like this. We’re hoping the turnaround time is even shorter in the future.

Looking forward, where is ALEPHba headed?

We’re very excited to launch our new website that’s integrated with Shapeways and see what the reaction is from the community.

3D printing has a lot of potential in jewelry design, and we’re happy to be part of this movement. We are already working on adding new products to our collection and have a lot of cool ideas that our fans should expect to hear about on our Instagram and Twitter.

We would really love to get more engaged with our customers and hear what they think and how we can improve our products.

We are working on setting up a small pop-up store in Brooklyn with samples of our products to engage with more people and give them a chance to see and try the products for themselves.

If you would like to learn more about ALEPHba or pick up your very own ring, check out their Shapeways shopInstagram, or website.

Tutorial Tuesday 6: Making Your Designs Customizable with CustomMaker

0-coverimage-custom_jewelry

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

Getting Started with CustomMaker

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

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

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

2-screenshot_custommaker

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

CustomMaker Resources

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

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

Customizable Products on Shapeways

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

4-tile

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

Tutorial Tuesday 5: Quick Fixes With MeshLab

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

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

Reducing Triangle Count

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

meshlab-QECD

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

Orienting Normals

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

meshlab-normals

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

Removing Non-Manifold Edges

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

meshlab-non_manifold

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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13 House by Sylvain Georget

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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!

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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.

The Week in 3D Printing

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s appropriate that hearts are being 3D printed around the globe. Hands are also being printed, and bridges, and fish-grabbers… honestly, it’s been a pretty exciting week in the world of what’s being digitally manufactured. We feel a little bad for the fish, though.

Bridging the gap

The Daily Dot’s John-Michael Bond wrote about the unveiling of the world’s first 3D printed bridge which has been built in Castilla-La Mancha park in Alcobendas, Spain. The structure, designed by the The Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), was specifically inspired by complex forms found in nature, which helped to optimize the bridge’s strength in proportion to the material used (micro-reinforced concrete). The final result was a 40-foot-long footbridge constructed from eight separate 3D printed parts. Appropriately, it’s pretty odd-looking as bridges go, but it’s an incredibly cool application of 3D printing in the field of civil engineering.


Video courtesy The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia’s YouTube page

A story with a whole lot of heart

CTV News covered the story of a group of doctors at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children using a 3D printed replica of a six-month-old’s heart to practice before a complicated heart surgery. The model was created using scans of the patient’s heart and allowed for a successful surgery– making it a perfect example of the ways in which 3D printing is literally saving lives. This practice is becoming more common around the world:  Thompson Reuters Zawya also recently covered the way in which doctors in India are using 3D printed replicas of hearts.

Let’s give these kids a hand

Jesse Leavenworth at the Hartford Courant wrote about a group of twenty middle school students in Connecticut volunteering to assemble “raptor hand” prosthetics as part of The Hand Challenge, a branch of the e-NABLE Community, a global network that leverages volunteers to create prosthetic hands using their 3D printers.

Go Fish

Nathaniel Scharping at Discover Magazine describes how researchers at MIT have 3D printed some squishy robots which are not only mostly composed of water (and polymers), but are also powered by pumped water. The resulting robots are strong, flexible, and fast, allowing them to grab a (very confused looking) goldfish. These machines are going to be key for medical applications in the future, so it’s a development to keep an eye on.

This Galentine’s Day, Treat Yo Self

A Shapeways 3D printing engineer by day and a jewelry designer by night, @Yung_Crowley recently launched the winter collection of STONEDALONE on Shapeways. The collection is an assortment of digital talismans created to help conquer your digital universe… with some trinkets specifically geared towards the single ladies. The line was created to boost the wearer’s confidence and empower them to attract more positive vibes online (and off). Obviously, better juju for 2017 can’t hurt. Because this collection screams “Treat yo self”, I’ve decided to gift myself some of these pieces for Galentine’s Day:

ANDROMEDA ARM CUFF

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This is the physical manifestation of the “spell for enchanting every person you message to make ghosting impossible.” Hello, I’ll take whatever precautions I can to avoid ghosting. Apparently there’s also a new trend called “breadcrumbing,” which is like ghosting, but with occasional texts after disappearance. Cosmo pegs it as “savage AF.” I’m just going to go ahead and assume this cuff will protect me from that too.

CASSIOPEIA RING

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Described as “magnetizing your DMs to attract prospective suitors and opportunities,” I figure this ring will inspire more witty, endearing messages on any dating apps you’re on. I bet it also makes sure the messages are authored by people that are exceptionally good at the distinction between “you’re” and “your”.

AUGOEIDES RING

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This ring “makes you immune to negative haters and trolls.” Assuming the designer means those of the online variety, not bridge ones, that’s pretty helpful in today’s world of social media.

You can check out the whole collection at STONEDALONE for the perfect bling to fit your life goals. There’s even a set of earrings that help you network online, make bank, and prosper. How can you say no to that?