Shapeways Hacks - Tips And Tricks

Discussion in 'Other Interest Groups' started by MrNibbles, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. MrNibbles
    MrNibbles Well-Known Member

    I thought it might be useful to start an interest group that covers all sorts of things to make your life easier as a Shapeways shop owner or user. If you have a shop you've probably encountered some frustrating problems and thought up novel work arounds to solve them. These can run the gamut from setting up your shop, organizing your models and products, generating/modifying models using Shapeways supplied tools, markup rules, handling/prepping image uploads, interfacing with other selling platforms or your own web site, using csv files, and who knows what else. Maybe you've encountered a pitfall and wish you had done something different. The kind of stuff that might be useful to newbies and experienced users alike.

    I'm thinking that this thread would cover more quirky solutions to problems and bigger issues, once identified, can always be directed or linked out to more specific threads elsewhere in the appropriate forum sections. So if you have a real gem of a shortcut, tip, or trick to help the community, post it!
    MelissaBorrellDesign likes this.
  2. gmsandison
    gmsandison Member
    Loosely linking sets of parts - this is like using Shapeways' sintershell but can be used with coloured and polished plastics.

    When printing a set of parts which would usually be subject to a per-part fee, you can link them together with a small scaffold to avoid the fee as they can be handled as one part. Each of my parts had a hole through the middle which made this easy. It is tricky to make a strong enough scaffold to survive the post processing without using so much material that it negates the savings.

    I did however manage to print sets of 5 parts in coloured strong and flexible polished with a saving of nearly 20%. As there was plenty of clearance to allow them to move around during processing the parts were dyed and polished just fine.

    One of the scaffolds broke in a few places but shapeways collected up the pieces. Obviously this should be avoided as they then have to do extra work which should have been covered by the per-part fee.

    MelissaBorrellDesign likes this.
  3. Since you’re saying the exact way to make the scaffolds was tricky to figure out, can you provide a picture of your solution?
  4. draw
    draw Well-Known Member
    The technique might be similar to what I did with this model. Lacing together 10 units with blocks at the ends of the scaffold (or connector) can save a lot of money. The savings increase as the single $1.50 fee is divided by each added piece. However the savings depend on the geometries of the pieces. If they are crazy shapes that waste machine space between pieces costs can increase! My big trick was leaving room at one end of the scaffold so pieces can move around to let polishing media do their work. It's wise to upload different versions to see what reduces cost the most if you are trying to squeeze out every penny of savings. This model survived printing in polished white flexible which has more aggressive polishing. I think I used a 2mm diameter connecting line but I will need to check.

    gmsandison likes this.
  5. gmsandison
    gmsandison Member
    The type and dimensions of a scaffold will be specific to your application and I can't release the parts I was working on into the public domain however if you picture a ladder (the scaffold) with a small but wide go-kart tyre on each rung (the parts) that is fairly close to what I was doing. Follow the guidelines for the material you are using and keep in mind that the unsupported wires or struts will be under extra strain from the attached parts during post processing. Radius joins to reduce stress. Another way would be to use a structure that is joined to the parts and cut away later but this way I didn't want to have to do any extra finishing of the parts.

    Hope it's of some help!
  6. Thanks Gav and Draw!
  7. MrNibbles
    MrNibbles Well-Known Member
    Using Tinkercad and Shapeways wall thickener to generate models

    I see there was a blog post tutorial about Tinkercad. Tinkercad can do a lot of things but in order to get more organic rounded edges and smoother faces or curves it can take a lot of work and time. So I thought I'd show a method that uses the Shapeways wall thickener tool to get those results quicker and generate relatively uniform wall thicknesses in your model..

    I'm not aware of any free tools that do the same thing as the Shapeways wall thickening tool. If there is something out there please let me know! Shapeways will thicken walls to different thicknesses depending on which material is being fixed. Unfortunately that means the wall thickener isn't super flexible since you can't input an arbitrary number of thickness to generate. Buy using the correct material you can force one of several wall fixes. For practical purposes I'll be using sandstone with 2mm wall thickening as an example, but the same method can apply using other material wall thickness fixes.

    Here's the general process:

    1. Generate your structure in Tinkercad using very thin walls. (For this example I'm using 0.5 mm thick walls.) Intersect multiple thin geometric shapes to create seams or overlaps. You don't need to be super careful as long as the seams don't end up being too thick. The idea is that the wall thicknener tool will smother small irregularities. In this example I will be generating a small abstract art piece but the general approach can be used will sorts of things including containers, masks, bracelets, etc.

    2. Upload your design from Tinkercad to your Shapeways account. Here you can visualize your wall thicknesses and thicken walls. What comes out of the wall thickener tool can sometimes be great and sometimes a little lumpy-bumpy in places which can depend on the model geometry and thickness being generated. If this is a problem it can be dealt with later. Sometimes this result is good enough and you are done, although I like to post process the thickened model using other tools.

    3. If you want to continue, download the wall thickened model to your computer. It will now be in .x3d format so you will probably need to convert the file to .stl format for further processing. I use Netfabb Studio which was a free download years ago. I think this program is still available in some capacity today or some other program could be used. (Again if anyone has suggestions let us know!)

    4. As a final step I remeshed the thickened model and smoothed the surface. I used Meshmixer but many other programs could be used for this type of work. You can then load the final smoothed file back into your existing Shapeways model to print or sell.

    Here is the example model I generated in Tinkercad. It's not too fancy but it has some curves, an intersection, and a couple of seams being shared where the curly bits attach to the base. You can see some ridges and harsh edges and the thing would probably look better without them. All walls have a maximum thickness of 0.5 mm and the outside edges of the curly things taper down to zero thickness:

    thickness tester.jpg

    After thickening the thing to 2 mm it looks like this. The spirals have a bit of lumpiness along their edges and there is still a hint of ridginess in the spirals. But we now have relatively consistent wall thicknesses everywhere that can be easily smoothed using many CAD packages if desired.

    thickness tester 2mm walls.jpg

    I remeshed the entire model to a finer mesh using Meshmixer and then applied smoothing twice to get this result:

    thickness tester 2mm walls smoothed.jpg

    And it's complete! You can examine the 3D tools using this link:

    There are some games you can play with scaling before and/or after getting the final result to achieve wall thicknesses that are not available from the Shapeways tool. For example you could scale the above result by 0.8 to get 1.6 mm thick walls.

    And that's that.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017