Category Archives: Materials

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


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

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

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

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

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

Materials Required:

  • Pick Tool Set

  • Small Brush

  • Metal Pot & Water

  • Nylon or Synthetic Fabric Dye

  • Drying Rack & Paper Towels


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

picks xsf

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


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



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


1. Create Dye Mixture

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

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

2. Dye Products

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

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

3. Air Dry

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

Dyed Strong & Flexible pieces

Dyed Strong & Flexible pieces

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

Now, Make It Faster

Great news! Thanks to the ongoing hard work of our production teams, we’re announcing updates that will make 3D printing more accessible — by delivering your prints faster. We’ve significantly reduced print production times for a dozen Shapeways materials. From the time you order to the time we ship, our turnaround times for the materials below are now shorter than ever:

sw-faster-blog (1)

These updates are part of our continuing commitment to reducing lead times. How do we do it? We innovate in manufacturing, processing, and shipping. Whether it’s by testing new materials and processes (shaving seven days off high definition acrylate), investing in updated machinery (halving lead times for two materials), or improving manufacturing efficiency (getting cast metals to you faster), we’re always working to enhance production quality and speed.

Now is the perfect time to get started on that project you’ve been dreaming of. Whatever you’re making, print it today in one of our faster-than-ever materials.

We’re always working hard to improve your Shapeways experience. Make sure to let us know in the comments what you’d like to see in 2017.

The Beauty of 3D Printed Bronze


Bronze is a material with a history so robust, its discovery literally launched its own 1500-year era that revolutionized making for humankind. While its popularity in modern day may never reach the same acclaim of 3000 BC, we’ve identified some reasons why this material may be perfect for your next project.

1. It stands out. Bronze — a mix of copper, tin and other metal alloys — sports a unique reddish hue that sets it apart from the standard gold and silver jewelry products that are so common in todays market. In fact, the flaming tinge of bronze makes it a perfect complimentary item to rose gold pieces.

2. It’s versatile. Bronze may traditionally be known for its malleability of shape, but we know that this fiery metal can adapt to conditions even more critical: opposing style preferences. Available in two different finishes, polished bronze pieces glows with luxury, while unpolished bronze sports a primitive complexion that’s perfect for all things rustic.


3. It’s affordable. Long prized for its preciousness, detail and shine, it may come as a surprise that this material ties in first place for affordability among our selection of 3D printed precious metals.

4. It’s now available in interlocking metals. Last month, we launched our selection of interlocking precious metals in our marketplace. While silver and brass were first to try, we knew our portfolio wouldn’t be complete without our Bronze.


Have you made something in Bronze recently? Head over to our new jewelry forums and tell us what you love about it!

Link Up with Interlocking Metals

Posted by in Materials

Our newest finish, bronze!

We’re always looking to push the limits of what’s possible and today, we’re proud to announce the launch of interlocking metals in three materials; brass, silver and by popular request, bronze.

Over the past year we have been experimenting with interlocking metals, slowly rolling it out to more and more members of the community. During that time, we truly pushed the limits of what is possible, and the members of our pilot program gave us valuable feedback allowing us to optimize this process and make it available for everyone.

Interlocking precious metals is a particularly wonderful material as it allows designers to produce parts that are already linked together in the printing process. If you’re a designer who orders multiple parts and links them together at home, interlocking metals is a perfect solution to cut down on your post production time, and sell items directly from your Shapeways shop.

We spoke to some of the designers in our pilot and found out why they love this material:

“To me, to design jewelry specific for 3d printing is to design a piece that could not be made any other way. What I love about interlocking metals, is that it encompasses this idea perfectly. Clients look at my interlocked pieces with wonderment and curiosity, searching for the point at which the metal was cut and re-soldered together. When it clicks and they begin to comprehend how the jewelry was designed and created, is the best moment. They get it and they immediately love the piece even more.” — Lana Lepper, of LanaBetty

If you’re interested in the details on interlocking precious metals, you can learn tips and tricks of the trade here, and join the conversation on the forums.

Introducing our Newest Material: PLA – Our Maker’s material of choice for testing their product ideas!

Say hello to our newest 3D printed material family, PLA.


PLA, or Polylactic Acid is a common bioplastic and one of the most popular materials designers use to prototype in FDM printers. PLA is environmentally friendly, inexpensive and best of all fast, taking 2 days to ship in the USA. For those looking for a quick turnaround time so they can iterate their designs, PLA is a great way to go. PLA comes in the following colors:  Black, Orange (we were born in the Netherlands you know), White and Grey.

One of our favorite Shapeways shop owners, Susan Taing of Bhold has been using PLA printed from Ultimaker machines for years. Susan utilizes the speed of these machines to rapid prototype her designs and gather feedback on how she can make changes and improvements.

Check out some of the early prototypes that lead to her beautiful products available here.


Given that you’ve used PLA to iterate your designs for Bhold for years, can you share a little about your iterative process?

Sure, Bhold‘s iterative design process is a combination of rapid prototyping with physical beta testing that ensures the most thoughtful design. Products go through anywhere between 35 to sometimes over 100 versions before they are deemed ready for release. Each product is inspired by and solves a problem in our everyday life.

 material-hub-pla (1)

Our aim is to keep the end consumer in mind throughout the entire design process and design for maximum functionality and also the best aesthetics. The formalization of this process is our tester program Bhold Labs, the first program of its kind in both rigor and scale.

Why is it important to iterate your designs?

The reason behind the speed in prototyping is to maximize the number of exploratory concepts we can test, and with the broad base of feedback through Bhold Labs testers, we can get the most usability data with the least amount of bias. It’s a very data-driven way to design, but it’s the way I’ve found that works best to maximize impact by designing the best product for a given problem. If you’re going to invest your time and energy into such a highly engaged project as creating a product, why not do it the best way possible?

promo-pla (1)

What makes FDM machines with PLA such a useful material for you iterate?

PLA is a super easy material to work with. It has a lower melting point than almost anything else you can 3D print with, so it saves both energy and time. It’s also completely non-toxic because it’s made from corn starch, which I love because I’m handling and working closely with it every day of a design cycle.

Much of your experience will have to do with the machines you use of course, which is why going through Shapeways for your PLA prints can save you the time and energy of managing and fixing machines. 

What did you learn from each iteration?

Sometimes my assumptions are wrong, and the only way to know is to find out through testing. My favorite “learnings” are those that are pretty much accidental and completely spontaneous and unexpected. For example, to create a sturdier stand, we lifted up the outer rim of the prototypes for the Bheard Sound Pod acoustic speaker, but this actually had the extra benefit of improving sound quality. To me it’s addictive to design because you don’t stop learning in the process. Glad that you guys are launching PLA to enable more designers to experience this as well!


Want more details…here is how it is made and an interview with our product manager sharing why we love PLA here at Shapeways.

PLA 3D prints come from machines in a process called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). The machine extrudes hot filament onto a bed, building up the form layer by layer. Because of the way the material is extruded, overhanging features may need to be supported by additional support structures. These types of printers are common from schools and makerlabs to design companies and we’re excited to be providing access to this process now to everyone.


And once you have finished testing your idea in PLA, you can print it in one of 56 other materials here at Shapeways for a finished, professional look to truly show off your amazing idea!

shapeways materials

Have questions?  Ideas?   Please share them with us in the comments below. You can also follow Susan’s Shapeways shop here.

Children Pushing The Limits of 3D Printed Porcelain: The 10 Winners of the Chil-Dish Project

Design the perfect dish for your favorite dish. That was the challenge posed by Kristos Mavrostomos and Anna van der Leij of the Chil-Dish project to children visiting Helsinki Design Week in Finland last September. (You may remember us writing about it here.)


As you can imagine, children loved this and by the end of the week there were over 300 drawings to choose from! Anna and Kristos had no easy task picking the ten winners as the ideas were all fun and imaginative but the winning designs not only needed to be creative, they had to translate into a 3D model that was suitable for us to print for them in porcelain.


We can’t share the magic of our printing in porcelain as it’s still a secret, but we can share the winning designs—complete with the child’s favorite dish. Because, after all, that was the challenge and what’s a porcelain dish without food?

That’s where Restaurant OLO comes in. Located in Helsinki, they received 26th place in the White Guide (the Nordic equivalent of the Michelin Guide) last year, making them the best restaurant in Finland for 2015. So good food was guaranteed!

The chefs from Restaurant OLO took the Chil-Dish winners to different shops and markets to buy the ingredients for their dish and helped them prepare it.  As you can see from the photos and video, this was a one-of-a-kind experience that took children through the process of bringing their ideas to life.


Our 3D Printed Porcelain is food safe, so this was an amazing opportunity to blend creativity, children and high quality food! Again a big shout out to Kristos Mavrostomos and Anna van der Leij for starting this project, and to all the chefs from Restaurant OLO for working together with these amazing children! Looking forward to the next edition.

Introducing Our Newest Material: Black High Definition Acrylate

Posted by in Materials

We just updated the Design Guidelines for B-HDA, to learn more click here.


Say hello to Black High Definition Acrylate, our newest material launching today! It’s a high detail material similar to Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD), but smoother and more durable.


Who is it for?

While anyone can use Black High Definition Acrylate [ak-ruh-leyt, -lit], it is perfect for those designing miniatures because it provides very high detail in even the smallest designs and the smooth surface takes to paint very well. A few examples:

  • Model trains
  • Miniature furniture
  • Figurines

Black High Definition Acrylate is also really great for phone cases and jewelry prototyping because of its beautiful finish.


What is it?

Black High Definition Acrylate is a UV sensitive acrylic polymer similar to Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD), but with slightly different material properties and printing processes. Unlike FUD, which is printed using a Multijet Modeling process, this new material is printed using Direct Light Projection (DLP) which provides excellent resolution and accuracy. It also provides a smoother finish which lends itself really well to painting. This material is more durable and flexible due to a combination of its strength and elongation properties, and is perfect for designers who want a more customizable material for miniatures and other high detail products.

How is it made?

Printed using DLP technology, the process uses visible spectrum light to cure the liquid resin one layer at a time.  A resin bath sits above a high resolution projector which projects cross-sectional images of your model. The resin cures with exposure to visible light, curing an entire layer with a single pass. Since the entire layer is cured at once, build speed is generally faster than other technologies such as laser sintering or stereolithography which trace the slice of your model while sintering or curing at precise locations. After printing, models are removed from the build platform and are post-cured by a UV light.

Check out the video below to hear Blair, our Materials Project Manager, talk about this exciting new material:

For more information on how this material is made, be sure to check out this week’s Shapeways Live segment and ask any questions you may have in our forum!

Black High Definition Acrylate is being released first to the Shapeways maker community to test out the material and provide feedback. Once we’ve optimized the process, we’ll release the material to the entire community for printing.

What are you most excited to make in Black High Definition Acrylate?

Introducing Coated Full Color Sandstone: Your 3D selfie has never looked better!

Posted by in Materials


One of the most amazing aspects of 3D scanning is the ability to digitize a form, space, shape or even human. With Shapeways you’re able to transform those scans and memories into tangible objects you can hold in your hand, and today we’re introducing a new material perfect for all your 3D scans: Coated Full Color Sandstone.

Coated Full Color Sandstone adds a glossy finish to your full color designs to give a more premium and finished look. The coating is sprayed on, providing an even and consistent surface finish. It adds some water resistance and durability to all your Full Color Sandstone products, and is especially great for 3D scans.  While some makers have been playing and experimenting with the material for months, it’s now officially available in our marketplace for anyone to get their own gorgeous glossy 3D selfie.

As 3D scanning becomes more popular and accessible, people are realizing how much fun it can be to create miniature versions of themselves, friends and family to collect. Just like photos, they are a great way to preserve memories, and the finish of Coated Full Color Sandstone ensures they will look great on display. The colors are more vibrant and the final look is a little more finished and professional.


Last year we announced multiple locations in New York and in the Netherlands where anyone can get scanned and receive their very own 3D selfie. It just takes a minute or so of standing still while you’re being scanned, and then you’ll be able to have your very own selfie to hold in your hand. If you are a maker and looking to add 3D scanning to your repertoire, check out how to get started scanning.

Want to try it out on yourself? If you’re in the New York area head over to Pixel Academy to get yourself and your family scanned. If you’re in the Netherlands, check out the list of scanning locations to find the place nearest you!

Check out this demonstration of Coated Full Color Sandstone, featuring Dan and Stan!

When you get your next 3D printed selfie, don’t forget to share it with us!  Post on your favorite social media channel and tag @shapeways so we can share you with the world!

Strong, Yet Light: Introducing Aluminum

Posted by in Materials

When you think about Aluminum, what comes to mind? Huge sheets that are turned into car and machine parts? Or maybe you think of everyday household items like Aluminum foil or soda cans. Whatever you think of, you probably never thought you could turn it into an amazing product yourself.

Until now, that is.

Today we welcome Aluminum to our materials portfolio – it’s the perfect material for tools, drone parts and gadgets and is incredibly unique in the way it is made and how it can be used.


(Klein Bottle Opener by Bathsheba)

Aluminum was introduced as a pilot material last year, and since then we’ve been busy working with community members to perfect this amazing material. While all new materials are exciting to introduce, we’re so glad to start 2016 off with Aluminum because it really showcases how far the 3D printing industry has come and where it’s headed in the future.

Whether you’re a Shapeways pro and have been designing with us for years, or you’re thinking about trying 3D printing for the first time, Aluminum might just be the perfect material for you!

Why is it so cool?

First, a few facts to get you familiar with this new material. Our 3D printed Aluminum has:

  • The highest strength to weight ratio of all our materials
  • High corrosion resistance
  • High thermal conductivity
  • The ability to support interlocking parts

As many of you already know, we have offered various metals for years. However, Aluminum is unique because of the way we are able to print it. Using a process called selective laser melting (SLM), the material is directly melted and fused from a bed of metallic powder that results in a solid alloy. It is similar to the selective laser sintering (SLS) process we use to manufacture Strong and Flexible Plastic. However, in SLM the high power laser provides enough energy to fully melt the metallic powder, which is then quickly cooled to solidify the metal. The outcome is a strong, homogenous and high tolerance metal part that can result in shapes and designs that are impossible to create through traditional manufacturing methods.


(Horse Shoe and Ring Puzzle by stop4stuff)

What can I make?

One of the biggest advantages of Aluminum is its high strength and low weight, making it ideal for products that need to stay light but be able to handle a high load – the exact reason it is used for flight and automotive applications.  However, if you’re not planning on building a plane anytime soon, our Aluminum is perfect for:

  • Gadgets ( robotics, gears, desk toys, etc.)
  • Drone parts (arm extensions, camera mounts, landing gears, etc.)
  • Tools (bottle openers, multi-tools, custom jigs, etc.)

Those familiar with building robotics know that weight and weight distribution is extremely important, and Aluminum is a popular metal used to minimize the weight of a frame and platform for various designs. Similarly, those designing drone accessories want a material that can withstand a rocky landing, or even an unfortunate crash. Aluminum can help to absorb that impact and protect your drone and camera. Its strength lends itself to being protective and is frequently used for casings for laptops, phones, sports equipment and more. And of course, it’s strong enough to open any bottle you might need!


(Shark Bottle Opener by AndyZoer)

How do I get started?

Check out the Aluminum material page to hear our Materials Product Manager, Blair, tell you more about Aluminum and how it can work for you. You will also find everything you need to know about design guidelines so you can make sure your product will successfully print in Aluminum.

If you already have a drone part, bottle opener, etc. that you’ve printed with us before, give it a try in this new material and see how it works. Have a new design you want to test out? Upload it, make an order and within a couple of weeks you’ll have your very own 3D printed Aluminum design! For those of you new to 3D modeling, be sure to check out this page to be connected with a designer who can help bring your idea to life. If you have any questions along the way, reach out to our Community Manager, Andrew, at or on the forums and he’ll guide you along.

Aluminum is the 54th material we’ve introduced to our portfolio, and it certainly isn’t our last. Keep a lookout for new materials throughout the year and in the meantime, let us know below what materials you want to see next!

What’s in a name: Porcelain

If you’ve invented a new material, what do you call it? Do you make up a new name or call it something you’re already familiar with?

Carnivorous Coffee cup by DanielLiljar

Carnivorous Coffee cup
by DanielLiljar

The Shapeways 3D printed Porcelain body is chemically unique, we invented it and nothing the same has ever existed. We choose to call it Porcelain for a few reasons.

  •  its different from the ceramics we offered before. This is important because we had to set new expectations with designers on how to design for it.
  • This new material is harder and more durable, much like other stoneware ceramics (porcelain included)
  • To manufacture the products we cast into a 3D printed mold. Casting has a strong tradition with Porcelain as well. 

Since its manufactured in a similar way and is chemically similar, calling it Porcelain was the best option when we have to communicate the new material by a name. Those who are familiar with other Porcelain products will expect the material to be hard, and are used to the idea that it can be created through casting. Even then, our material is entirely unique from different from such classic Porcelain traditions such as delftware.

Trefoil Mug by isohedral

Trefoil Mug
by isohedral

Now, if you want to hold this new unique material you don’t have to be a 3D designer. Porcelain is available to buy in our marketplace in a variety of colors.

Introducing Porcelain to our marketplace

The cow, coffee cup

Late last year we launched a new pilot program and introduced our first ever material fully developed in-house, Porcelain. Since then we’ve been working closely with our community to perfect this new material, and today we’re excited to announce Porcelain is available to shoppers everywhere. From beautiful espresso cups to unique vases, anyone can now make and buy this incredible material.

When the pilot program was first introduced last year we kept it small to help us control the different orders, and slowly introduced it to more designers as time went on. This allowed us to communicate with all of the designers and spend more 1-1 time with them. The information and intel we got from this community was invaluable as we worked to improve upon the process and the quality of the material.

Shapeways’ Porcelain is crafted using a totally unique process we’ve been developing for over a year. First, we print a mold using our industrial SLS printers. Then, we cast porcelain into the mold, remove the mold, and glaze the piece by hand. This process combines the high quality of handmade porcelain with the flexibility of 3D printing. The end result is a durable, functional, high detail product with a beautiful finish only possible with real Porcelain. Porcelain is food, dishwasher, and oven safe.

We’re so excited to see more and more Porcelain pieces show up in our marketplace. So many amazing designs have been printed in the past year and we know this is just the beginning. Be sure to share your favorite Porcelain pieces with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Check out some amazing examples below!

Questions about Porcelain? Leave them below or check out the forum!

Shop Owners get ready to sell Porcelain

Its been almost a year since we introduced our new Porcelain material. In that time we’ve learned an incredible amount about its unique manufacturing process and what we need to communicate to designers. By slowly expanding the number of makers and designers in our pilot we were able to ramp up our production and gain confidence that this material is now ready for a larger audience.

Ceramic Mouth Cup and little mouth cup by diegrich

Ceramic Mouth Cup and little mouth cup by diegrich

As we prepare to make this a full-fledged, shopper ready material,  Porcelain is now available to all makers to order and everyone should find it as an option in their edit model settings.

In order for a model to be available for shoppers, it needs to have been printed before. No first to try model will be available in Porcelain. This is because the guidelines for porcelain are more specific to geometry and need to be checked and tested (printed) before we can be confident that it could be sold to a shopper.

We are aware that this is a different process than any other material and will necessitate more planning and prototyping on the part of shopowners, and makes launching a new product come at a greater investment. Hopefully, this will allow us to create more high quality products in Porcelain and really show off what this new material is capable of.

FUNKIS house candle light holder by Inspired_By_Architecture

FUNKIS house candle light holder by Inspired_By_Architecture

Some tips:

  • When prototyping, make sure you order from the same account you have your shop in so that the success rate is there when you’re ready to make it public.
  • Each glaze reacts differently to details and surface– it may be best to test in multiple glazes to see what looks best for the product.

If you have further questions let us know.  You can use these next few months to get your products tested and with positive success rates so once Porcelain is shopper ready, your products can be the first available.

The products we have already seen are AMAZING, keep prototyping and share what you’ve made in our Porcelain Pilot subforum.


Introducing Coated Full Color Sandstone

Posted by in Materials, Pilots

For years Full Color Sandstone has been the only full color 3D printed material offered and our community has created countless amazing products that have been top marketplace sellers. However, the material isn’t perfect – there is always a need for more strength, move vivid colors, and in some cases, a smoother surface finish.


Meet Coated Full Color Sandstone. By hand brushing Full Color Sandstone pieces with a two-part epoxy resin, we are able to increase the strength and color of sandstone products, and give them a smooth, glossy sheen. We’re very excited about this new process, and believe it has huge potential for the Shapeways marketplace. As with most new materials, we’re starting out with a maker pilot to give you a chance to provide feedback and make sure it’s as great as we think before launching to everyone.

The design guidelines are exactly the same, so anything you’ve designed for regular Full Color Sandstone will work with our new process. At $5.00 startup and $.85 per cc, Coated Full Color Sandstone is only slightly more expensive than regular sandstone.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 10.43.06 AM

To get started, simply visit the Pilot Page and click the join button. You can start ordering your full color models instantly.

Please share your photographs in our forums so we can gather feedback. We can’t wait to see what you make?

Opening our Porcelain Material Pilot to All

Ever since we introduced our new Porcelain material, we’ve been amazed at the creations our community has made with it. From vases to coffee cups to figurines, we’ve seen some amazing products come to life. Today, we’re excited to let you know any designer will be able to experiment with this beautiful material as we open up the Porcelain pilot program.



When Porcelain was first introduced, we kept the pilot closed so that we could work very closely with the designers in the program. Closed pilots (where we let designers in one at a time) allow us to control the maximum capacity so that we can focus on innovating, experimenting and specifying design guidelines. Because we allow designers to virtually make anything they want, we need to limit the capacity so that we can focus on learning before scaling our operation.


Porcelain is our first in-house developed material so we want to make sure it is as good as it can be before opening up to a larger group. We knew there would be a lot of questions surrounding such a new material and working with a smaller group allowed us to personally connect with them to help guide the design and printing process.


Here’s a few things we’ve learned so far:


  • We’ve developed our mold generation software and what types of geometry it can accept

  • We’ve honed our glazes so each unique one looks as brilliant as possible

  • We’ve expanded our team and standardized processes to get ready to scale the operations.



Because our closed pilot program has been going well, and we’ve been receiving requests from designers dying to join, we’ve decided to open up the pilot to any designer interested in experimenting with this new material. Our goal for this phase of the pilot is to scale up operations and have it ready to offer to shoppers in time for the holidays.



To sign up for the pilot program, and check out guidelines on designing for Porcelain, check out the Porcelain Material Page. Join the conversation on our forum to find comments, questions and other great designs being made.


We can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Introducing new pilots: Aluminum, Interlocking Metal and Black Nylon

We’re always working on new innovations –everything from new materials and new website features, to 3D tools and partner programs. Today we are launching 3 new pilot materials available for testing: Interlocking Metal, Aluminum and Black Nylon 11.

Over the past year, we’ve introduced various pilot programs that have allowed our community to experiment with our newest materials, features and more before they are offered to the public. Today, you can learn more about these programs and sign up through our new Pilots hub, our new destination for 3D printing innovation and boundary-pushing design.

When you visit the new Pilots page, you will now see all the pilot programs available for designers to participate in. Some pilots are open and available for sign-up, while others have a waitlist based on manufacturing capacity. We currently offer Porcelain, Full Color Plastic and RUSH pilots. With the official introduction of Pilots, we are also opening up three brand new programs:


Interlocking Metal: We are experimenting with the process and ability to make new, unique and complex designs in our most popular cast metals; Silver and Brass. While you can currently design products with interlocking parts in our Strong & Flexible, this will be the first time you can create interlocking parts with some of our metals. (Product: Platonic Progression Earrings by HypatiaStudio)


Aluminum:  This new material is a lightweight, strong, high tolerance metal capable of interlocking parts. Being a part of this pilot provides access to expensive new technology at the lowest prices in the market. (Product: Invertible Cube by aryser)


Black Nylon 11: Different from our current Black Strong & Flexible, Black Nylon 11 is actually printed in a black powder. This material has slightly different properties than the former because it is a different type of Nylon (our White Strong & Flexible is a Nylon 12 and this one is Nylon 11). (Product: Mobius Nautilus by joabaldwin)

So why pilot programs? Pilots help us help you. At Shapeways, we are always working on new innovations – everything from new materials to partner programs. Pushing the limits of what’s possible with 3D printing helps us enable you to make anything you can imagine. You can test a new material, tool or service and provide us with your thoughts and feedback so that we can continue to improve the offering.

3D printing is a technology that will continue to evolve for a long time. As we learn more and update our services, we want to make sure that what we are offering is the best that Shapeways and the 3D printing community can find. In order to get to that place, we need to test, test and test some more. That’s where pilot programs come in – and why they are designed to be experimental. By inviting interested designers to partake, we are:

  1. Allowing excited and engaged community members not only a first look but a first try with our newest materials, services, etc. With our pilot programs, you can be one of the first to start designing in various new materials
  2. Getting a sense of what can and cannot be done when it comes to design guidelines. You are all constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be done, and we want to know from the beginning if a new material can support your creations
  3. Cutting down on rejections. You are helping us perfect the design guidelines for materials that could eventually be available to customers, potentially turning experimental materials into finished product materials

One of the most important aspects of pilot programs to remember is that not everything will become a public material or service. If the pilot does not seem to be working no matter how hard we try to improve it, we won’t make it public-facing. We never want to offer something that won’t work for our entire community (including shoppers); having these testing periods allows us to keep from doing so.

When a new pilot program begins you are either free to sign up or allowed to sign up for a waitlist. Designers on waitlists will be added according to manufacturing capacity. This will allow our community team to provide more personal and thorough support to those in the groups. All of our pilot programs are managed by Shapeways employees who are available for questions, concerns, etc. We also have forums dedicated to each program so you can chat with others about your designs.

We’re so excited to launch more pilots and see what amazing designs you come up with. We’ll get these rolling, but in the meantime, tell us what pilot you’d like to see next? What’s your dream material?