Things That Frustrate Me About Shapeways

Discussion in 'Technologies and Hardware' started by UncleGuy, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. UncleGuy
    UncleGuy New Member
    I love 3D Printing - but I'm just getting started in my research. When I found Shapeways, I was really excited. But my shopping experiences -- as few as they are -- have been completely frustrating.

    Maybe someone can shed light on these comments. I hope they don't come across as harsh because I really do want to understand. I hope to try learning how to design in 3D, as well -- primarily because of the inspiration derived here. For what it's worth, I'll be 60 years old soon, but I'm not a doddering old fool. Just inexperienced. Although I've worked in the graphics design field for nearly 40 years.

    1) For a website that so heavily promotes the purchasing ability offered here -- and my research reveals you have one of the best websites for this -- why would you allow designs to be displayed which are offered for purchase which can then NOT be printed?

    2) I read the FAQ which stipulates you only truly test the printability of items as they are selected for purchase -- but after my items were rejected you continue to list them as selectable for purchase. I would think you would then eliminate that specific material option, at the least, or would remove the offered item altogether so it doesn't waste everybody's time. Or, at the very least, notify the designer that their item has now been tagged as "Not Printable".

    3) In my first experience, I ordered the Yin and Yang Koi set twice in one week. ingle-part.html?li=productBox-search
    I made a mistake in selecting the individual pieces vs. the Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 that comprise the Set. That's not Shapeways fault. The Black Koi was rejected twice -- both the stand-alone individual piece, and the Part 1 selection. There is no other option offered in Black -- so the Set concept becomes moot, null and void. Apparently, Part 2 (the White Koi) was acceptable, as was Part 3 (the Stand). Surely, I cannot be the first person who attempted to order such a great design.

    I did contact the artist last night to tell him of this problem. There has been no response, yet -- and that's no biggie. But I then had to hurry to cancel the other two components because the set concept is destroyed if one piece cannot be printed.

    4) I may be in the minority voice on this idea -- but shouldn't the designer be required to purchase at least one print of their own design before posting it for sale? Or maybe a Testing Fee should be assessed when they decide to offer it for sale so that Shapeways can, indeed, test it and grant Approval before bystanders like myself -- who are willing to support this industry by actually making purchases -- start playing a guessing game over whether or not any of the listed materials can be printed?

    5) Finally, not wishing to be redundant, I strongly disagree with the concept of allowing a 3D Rendering to be used which does not actually show the quality of the printed object. I know I won't win this point because it's how "everything" is promoted -- from hamburgers to collectibles to online games. The end products rarely look as good as the Artist Rendering. But it took a while for me to understand that what I see at Shapeways is NOT what I might get.

    I'm reminded of that old Saturday Night Live skit where the man goes into the cheese shop, but no matter what cheese he asks for --
    "Sorry! That's not available!"
    "But you have it listed right there! I see it in your case!"
    "No. Not available!!"
  2. stonysmith
    stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
    Let me preface all of the remarks below with one thing.. I know for a fact that one of Shapeways goals is to reduce the number of rejections.

    There are a couple of things at work here. First, Shapeways themselves doesn't test-print every model that as it is placed for sale. They do have some software that makes an attempt during upload to check the validity, but it's not in their business model to pre-print items (before someone is willing to purchase them). So, somebody must make that first purchase.
    Second, there are some models that worked "okay" once, but just aren't reproducable - such as an item that keeps breaking and the production team can only get one out of four to print correctly. It was worth it for them to print ONE, but they won't work repeatedly. If I order a test print, I'm not currently told by the production staff whether it is possible to print 1000 of them.
    Third, there are designers that don't have the funds to test every model. I myself have produced several models that "should" print fine, but it was something custom for a specific request, and my arrangement with the purchaser is that THEY pay for the test prints, not me.

    Interesting... this used to happen, and if it's not happening now, it may return as Shapeways refocuses the process

    I'm with you on this. I would like to see a few less "renders" out there, but I have a problem here. It's a fact of life that StonyCan'tPaint, and 90% of my models are in FUD, which is crazy hard to photograph. People say they really like my designs, but I can't show "finished" work unless someone steps in and shares some photos with me.

    Compare these two examples: <-- yes, that's an ACTUAL model painted up.. I could NEVER achieve that level of detail! <-- again, an acutal model, but not painted.. as I said, FUD in it's raw state is VERY tough to photograph
  3. Roy_Stevens
    Roy_Stevens New Member
    Tough to photograph through the protective boxes, for sure. But FUD turns a nice opaque white once cleaned, and photographs extremely well against a darker background. This thread is quite similar to another one going on at the moment where us designers are complaining that Shapeways lets us print a copy for ourselves, but once we promote it and sell it, they tell our customers that the design can't be printed. So don't blame the designers every time for this one. Most of us do our best to produce the best model possible within the Shapeways design rules, but that can be a moving target. And we aren't told who the hapless customer was that now thinks that we haven't tested the design.
  4. UncleGuy
    UncleGuy New Member
    I'm not sure I'm blaming the Designers. I hope it didn't come across that way.

    But let's look at the issue from a Buyers perspective. The FAQ says Shapeways doesn't test any design until someone offers to buy it. I do that. Twice on the same design -- because of a mistake I made.

    Both times, the one fish gets rejected.

    My first question is "Why is it still being offered the second time?" Since I offered to play along and they rejected it, one would assume there would be a notification it's not available due to some problem. Nope. Let's keep accepting purchases -- and then issuing "store credits".

    Next, I'm told I need to "reach out to the Designer" to see if he can correct the problem. That places the burden of completing the purchase AND getting their problems solved on me -- the Buyer. The shmuck that liked it enough to cough up the money.

    I've worked as a Purchaser in the sign industry for the past 16 years, and was a graphic designer before then. I've dealt with hundreds, if not thousands, of Vendors. I've never once had a Reseller tell me that I need to go find the guy who designed what I agreed to buy to get their problems corrected because their only job is to collect the money.

    I keep threatening to write a book on how American businesses lose business. This could fill an entire chapter.

    I know this is a new industry. But the concept of Best Business Practices hasn't changed a lot.

    I do appreciate you taking the time to respond.
  5. AmLachDesigns
    AmLachDesigns Well-Known Member
    It certainly did not read that way to me: I thought you made your case well that you thought the 'system' was at fault.

    I agree with this point: why, once a design has been attempted to print and adjudged to have failed, is it not withdrawn from sale with all the associated notifications to the designer? This is only logical and correct.

    Of course this would then tie in with all the other threads about WHY designs are printing once or twice and then being rejected, or why they are failing in the first instance, but the principal is sound, if it fails to print do not offer it for sale. Perhaps it would give a focus to these production issues if everyone knew that a failure to print means a 'Not Currently Printable' flag in the shop.

    This is an unresolved part of the Shapeways set up, and I know different people have different views on this. The question is, when a model is sold to someone who is not the designer who is that purchaser buying the item from? It seems to me that the purchaser is buying the item from Shapeways (who deal with every part of the fulfilment of the order) and paying a license fee (the mark-up) to the designer. Others have expressed on the contrary that they, the designer, are selling to the client and that SW are just a conduit.

    Unless the model has been commissioned by the purchaser or there has been some side communication between them and the designer (pm or email etc) this request to contact the designer seems to be a step designed to alienate (prospective) customers. SW is providing the shop, printing the product, shipping it and collecting payment: once a problem occurs the answer should be 'we're really sorry, let us take care of it'. And then behind the scenes SW should contact the designer etc. SW is good with Customer Service for designers - they need to think more about Customer Service to customers..

    Someone on another thread said that SW was too focused on 'Makers' and this seems correct to me. For creating models it all works pretty well and I'm thrilled to have SW available to me. BUT the shops and search I feel should move towards being more customer-centric, catering to someone who while browsing the web falls upon the SW site and sees something they like and want to buy. They may not have heard of 3d printing. Maybe they have and they don't care, they just want to buy something. What experience do they have when they come to the site? When they buy something (or try to buy something)? When they try to find other things?

    A trivial example is silver objects. I think the silver process is fantastic, the results are great and the price is very competitive with shop-bought items, especially considering that SW models are not mass-produced. The products produced should stack up against anything produced anywhere else very favourably. However, if as a casual customer I have the choice of buying jewellery (spending potentially several hundred dollars or euros) for someone from a shop where I will get a gift box, a chain or earring hooks if appropriate and some kind of indication of the silver nature of the product (hallmark, .925, certificate etc) or a similar product without all of the extras in an (admittedly stylish!) black cardboard tube, which is the better buying experience?

    Shapeways is incredible and I am a huge fan, but I think they need to consider their processes and procedures more carefully and also address the question of how they wish to position themselves vis-a-vis the designers and the customers. And decide who their customers are.

  6. Roy_Stevens
    Roy_Stevens New Member
    I agree with the assessment that Shapeways doesn't seem to be able to figure out who its customers are. For instance, I received an email today touting their new API for creating 3D items. I'm not certain why we need a half-baked API while Google and Autodesk give away great software. Sure, it's a great thought to bring 3D printing to the masses, but lets not put the cart before the horse.
  7. AmLachDesigns
    AmLachDesigns Well-Known Member
    I have no experience of the API - a bit advanced for me - but I have no reason to believe it is half-baked.

    Re the Google and Autodesk, surely you are not comparing like with like: they are 3d design packages and Shapeways provides a 3d printing service. It is great to bring 3d printing to the masses': I don't really understand your point here.

  8. stonysmith
    stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
    @AmLachDesigns is correct.. the Shapeways API is not for designing new models, but rather for automating the process of getting new models into your shop, and providing a method for external websites to add items directly to the Shapeways cart. Google and Autodesk APIs could not help you with either of those tasks.

    Plus, just because one team is spending time on the API, that doesn't mean that another team is not working hard on reducing rejections. They're not related tasks.
  9. Roy_Stevens
    Roy_Stevens New Member
    My point is that there are obvious and long-standing deficiencies in the way Shapeways is handling the designer/customer interaction, yet it seems, at least from this side of the fence, like the resources are allocated elsewhere.
  10. UncleGuy
    UncleGuy New Member
    Okay. Thanks for all the great input from everyone. At least this forum garners participation!

    The final irony was that I asked for a full refund instead of Store Credit.
    This gives me time to re-evaluate whether I want to buy from Shapeways any longer.
    Still no response from the Designer who was contacted to try and resolve the printing problem -- I wonder, now, if I would even be notified.

    Then I receive my notice that my refund was finalized through Paypal.
    And they hit me with a $4 fee!

    You gotta love it!

    Add THAT to my List of Frustrations.

    How about this...
    Why doesn't Shapeways WAIT until they've tested the design before taking my payment?
    It would be easy enough to state: "Once the design passes testing for printability, your payment will be assessed and your order will be processed."

    It eliminates all the fuss.
    Such a concept!!
  11. UncleGuy
    UncleGuy New Member
    I had another Frustration pop in my head today.

    Why doesn't Shapeways have a counter for each design that indicates how many times it was successfully printed?

    0 means "You're the Guinea Pig!!" :eek:
    10 means "It's probably safe to order." :confused
    45 means "It's definitely safe to order." :p
    1,278 means "It's not only safe to order -- but it's really popular!" :eek:
    12,769 means "Why are you taking so long to make a decision?!" :rolleyes:
    562,372 means "Yes. It's yet another iPhone skin!!!" :D
  12. Roy_Stevens
    Roy_Stevens New Member
    Your 'times ordered' is a good idea, but flawed. I had one design ordered over 120 times, and then Shapeways rejected it, and wouldn't print it again until I changed it. But at least because it had been popular I was able to get someone to tell me what they wanted from me to prevent future rejections.
  13. UncleGuy
    UncleGuy New Member
    Uh, I didn't say "times ordered".
    I think I said "successfully printed".

    I don't care how popular it is, or how many stars it gets, or how many "likes" it gets.
    I care about whether it can be successfully printed.
    Without being the Guinea Pig every time.
  14. Roy_Stevens
    Roy_Stevens New Member
    By ordered I meant, ordered, printed, and shipped. Sorry for the confusion.
  15. stonysmith
    stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
    Well.. to be complete.. they need to also include the number of times they ATTEMPTED to print it and it failed because it's a marginal model. (and yes, I'm speaking of my OWN creations)
  16. dgr2
    dgr2 New Member
    I have a question that isn't quite related but is somehow. And the problem frustrates me.

    How do you delete previous versions of the model files you have uploaded that didn't work and clutter up the file history? When you know the file that was uploaded was wrong, and you changed it pretty soon after, and the item was never for sale and was never downloaded (because you looked at the generated image and knew staight away that it was cr*p), why can't we have the option to delete it? I don't want version V74, I want the ones that are relevant.

    If there is any information on this, just point me to it.

  17. 7777773
    7777773 New Member
    I'm not seeing the delete button any more - maybe it was mistakenly removed? It most recently was on the models list as a highlight icon over the picture, but that isn't showing up for me.

    ***EDIT*** Nevermind, it's right there. Click the X on your model's picture when you're looking at the My Models page.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2013
  18. dgr2
    dgr2 New Member
    No, you missunderstood. I don't want to delete the model, I want to delete the history of useless model uploads from the list of previous attempts to get it right. Yes, I know deleting the model and then re creating it new would do that, but some of the upload history is relevant, and I would lose that too. I want to pick and choose which previous upload file references to delete.

    Fussy, aren't I?
  19. Brack
    Brack New Member
    As a designer, I have had models successfully print over 20 times, then suddenly shapewyas tells a customer they are unprintable, with no flexibility on that. There recently seems to have been some unannounced changes in the rules for what shapeways will accept in FUD - My models are well within the nuanced design rules, indeed I have one new model which has copied and pasted detail parts from another model which is currently in production with no issues, but shapeways reject the new file again and again. It seems they're trying to get out of offering anything slightly detailed, but haven't told the designers of these unnanounced rule changes. Currently I'm looking around for other 3D printers, which is a shame, as all I want is the service and level of detail that I got from shapeways last year.

    The shop model and ability to market to customers and receive a royalty payment is the best aspect of shapeways, but if the customer service to designers and customers is poor, and the level of detail offered is reducing year on year then Shapeways will lose the loyal customer base they have. Such a shame, as the business model of offerign shops is streets ahead of many of the competitors.
  20. Dragoman
    Dragoman New Member
    I have had the same problem with thin FUD pieces.

    Items designed according to the design tips on the materials page get rejected. In discussion with the service team they have agreed that, indeed, the model was following the rules. Checking with the producer, they got the answer that the thin pieces were too likely to break in cleaning or shipping.

    I asked whether they would revise the design tips so as not to mislead designers, but they wouldn't make any promises about that :(

    For the moment, we should follow the design specifications at the top of the page, but not the detailed tips.

    Though this still leaves some questions. "Walls" can be thinner than "Wires". But when is a small item with an oblong cross-section a wall and when is it a wire?