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HelpTutorialsHow to Create 3D Printed Earrings

How I Made: Custom Bat Wing Earrings

Written by Megan Sawyer

This tutorial is part of the "How I Made" series, written by designers in the Shapeways community to share their unique perspectives, design processes, tips, tricks, and tools.

I'm a Carnegie Mellon graduate who works as an artist at a software company. I enjoy learning new crafty things, and wanted to get into 3D printing for a long time—in college it was so fun working with metal and clay and paint and stuff, but I've since switched over to doing digital stuff almost exclusively. It's pretty awesome that now I can make fun art things that don't wind up ruining every piece of clothing I own.

I love bats, and thought bat wings would be such a cute and spooky alternative to the normal angel wing designs for earrings. But, I was disappointed by the selection of spooky earrings for people with stretched/gauged ears!

So, I decided to make my very own custom earrings and signed up for this Intro to 3D Printing Skillshare class taught by Lauren Slowik, Shapeways Designer Evangelist.

The thing that kept me away from 3D printing for so long is that it's extremely intimidating. It's actually not nearly as bad as I thought. I ran into a lot of stumbling blocks, and made some missteps, but even with that, there was nothing I couldn't get past without a little help from fellow Skillshare users, or the ever helpful internet!

Oh man, it was the best when I received my earrings! It was stupidly exciting to get the little box with the stamp on it that said it was made ‘IN THE FUTURE'.

I'm happy to share how I created my 3D printed custom bat earrings, starting with a hand-sketch and including missteps and all. I was super excited about this—I'd wanted to get into 3D printing, but didn't really know how to start. So far this is fun and really approachable! Hope you enjoy and happy printing. : )

Step 1: Sketch
First, I created a sketch. It didn't have to be exact as I knew I'd be cleaning it up in Photoshop.

I imported a photo of the sketch into Photoshop to clean up the lines and shape. (The Skillshare class teaches you how to do this.):

I had a friend who owns Adobe Illustrator save the file into the needed format (.SVG) to import into 3D design software.

Step 2: Import to Tinkercad

Then I started on the 3D part! I imported the design into Tinkercad to see how it'd look in 3D:

Step 3: Round the edges in 3D Studio Max

I wasn't really digging the hard edges so I tried to get crazy with it. To round the edges, I first exported it from Tinkercad as an OBJ. Then I brought it into 3D Studio Max, and applied a MeshSmooth modifier to the object. Here it is in 3DS Max:

Then I brought it back into Tinkercad so I could get the measurements to the exact specifications that I wanted:

I was a little unsure of how this would work out. Worst case scenario, I figured I'd print it as is, and sand the final object. :D

Step 4: Prepare model for 3D printing

So I went to upload to Shapeways, and after reading through this tutorial on things to keep in mind when designing for 3D printing (which led me deeper into the fascinating world of non-manifold tinkering), I realized I should double check this thing to make sure it's all error-free.

Fortunately, a Google search showed me a fantastic way to check my object for 3D printability with 3D Studio Max:

  • In 3D Studio Max, create a clean scene and import your OBJ from Tinkercad. Do what you'd like (in my case used a MeshSmooth modifier and cleaned stuff up through booleans).
  • After that, use the dropdown modifier "STL Check" on your object. Check everything, set your Mat-ID to 1, and pick select edges, and then check off "Check." You should see a number computing next to your mouse for a brief second, and then in the status below, it will show your errors. (I had 507 errors. Whoops.)

    If that happens to you, you'll immediately realize the importance of saving iterations of files. I opened my file from before I'd added the MeshSmooth modifier and did an STL Check on that model, and got three errors, which I fixed. Then I applied my MeshSmooth modifier, and—voila, no errors! It still looked a little wonky, but I hoped that wouldn't translate in the printing...wasn't sure, since the scale of my object was so small.
  • So now, uploaded to Shapeways. I exported my model from Max using Export -> .STL File. (The option isn't available if you do Export Selected).

Fixed object:

Step 5: Start from scratch ; D

I learned that Shapeways hates pointed edges, heh. So I rounded off my corners slightly more! But I realized MeshSmooth modifier in Max just plain won't work for getting a clean, smooth object, which was critical for my earrings.

So, I decided to go completely off into left field with this project, and model my earrings in 3DS Max entirely. I created a cylinder and slowly bent the cylinder to match the shape of my batwing object. I based it off my hand-sketch as a template, and the experience from Step 4 did save time. Nonetheless, 8 million hours later, I wound up with this:

Obviously, most people can skip this step, but if you really want a nice smooth rounded shape, I would highly recommend learning Blender, or playing around with a 30-day trial of Max. :D

Step 6: Upload and place order on Shapeways

After modeling, I did the STL check again (no errors, whoo!) in Max, then exported the scene as an STL file, which I then uploaded to Shapeways. Shockingly, I had no thin edge warnings! So, in the scariest move yet, I threw money at them and ordered one.

Ten minutes later, I decided I should probably double check the dimensions of my object in Tinkercad, and oh boy! It was 1mm larger than it should've been! Oof. So on the off chance that you need to cancel an order with Shapeways, I can tell you it's quite easy and painless while still in the processing phase! Hooray, learning!

So, I imported my STL file into Tinkercad, resized it, and exported it. I noticed that Tinkercad is wayyyy better at showing rough edges than Max so I went back and adjusted a few things until I was happy with it.

Step 7: Adjust, upload & order again!

Take two—uploaded it, no errors, threw some money at them and...hooray! I ordered it in hot pink strong and flexible plastic. If anyone's curious as to my shape and specificity with sizing and smoothness, it's because I made 8G earrings for stretched ears.

Step 8: Received my custom 3D printed earrings!

The finished product:


YAY! It was a little bigger than I'd expected, but no less fabulous! Now to see what else I can get myself into! :D

Did you enjoy learning about how Megan created her earrings? Let us know what else you'd like to see and learn from your fellow community members or inspire others with your own "How I Made" tutorial by reaching out at!

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