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The Critters arrived! The Critters arrived! Within a week of uploading my model I got a happy little box delivered from Shapeways. They came out great! I wasn’t sure if they would be able to stand properly, but they can just fine. Here’s the gratuitous unboxing:

shapewaysCritter_box_600.jpg

This is the model I had built in Maya, based on Mark Frauenfelder’s character design:

Here are a couple of closeups, with some Lego bricks for reference:

shapewaysCritter_0010_600.jpg

shapewaysCritter_0011_600.jpg

You’ll notice an odd topographical map-like texture on the second Critter. Not sure why he looks that way, maybe he’s a cartographer. I’m going to finish him with some sandpaper and then paint him.

The material is lightweight, but doesn’t feel overly delicate. It’s even possible print functional mechanical parts with this system, which I’ll cover in a later post.

My experience with Shapeways was excellent. I think we’re at a turning point for accessible, affordable 3D printing and rapid prototyping. With services like this one, and Thingverse, as well as the RepRap project we have very little excuse for not realizing our virtual objects in the physical world.

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He works at Disney Research and writes for Make and Boing Boing. He is training for American Ninja Warrior. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter @johnedgarpark — if you like that sort of thing.


  • noah anderson

    Can you give us at least an approximate cost of this 3D printing?
    (thank you)

  • Garrett

    Nice results! All right…next we need to get the process working with free tools like Blender. Also, Techshop in Menlo Park has a Dimension BST 3D printer, the rates for members are even cheaper than Shapeways. If we can get Techshops in more locations, it should make rapid prototyping even more accessible.

  • John Park

    Noah, he cost about $30 (cost can vary based on which material you print with, some are better at fine detail and cost more).

    Garrett, you can definitely use Blender for this, I used Maya because that’s what I know best. Any app that can output STL or COLLADA will work, here’s a link with more info: http://www.shapeways.com/tutorials/supported-applications

    I agree, it would be fantastic to get Techshops and other well equipped hacker spaces everywhere!

  • Tim

    The stepped suface finish is due to the way they are printed. Each step is one layer of ‘ink’.

  • John Park

    That makes sense, Tim, yet the other one came out smooth…

  • Doc Zito

    The little topographical lines are from spacial aliasing. I believe this one is called a Moiré pattern.

  • phil

    The different rapid prototyping technologies they use there differ in some more subtle ways than they describe. I work with an Objet machine, and due to there particularly fine resolution, they achieve a very smooth surface finish. It is difficult to get the same smooth finish with an SLA or SLS machine, but parts made by those techniques tend to be more robust.

    So if you are going for a fine surface finish without having to sand it or anything yourself, and you don’t need the part to withstand any particular stresses, I would recommend the Objet materials.

  • screaminscott

    I wonder if the texture difference is because they objects were oriented differently when they were printed. Perhaps one was printed standing up while the other was printed laying down (

    Not sure why this would be the case though. Maybe they made the one with the ‘moire’ pattern first, saw how it turned out, and decided to orient the computer model to print it in another orientation.

  • bekathwia

    You can use that grey wet-dry sandpaper on these (wet) if it’s the same stuff I’ve encountered before, ABS plastic. Works great to get it nice and smooth!

  • Jenny

    Its a cute little 3D character you made. I think I like this service.

    My biggest number one concern is for the environment here. This is more plastic going into the waste stream. Why not try modelling in wood, or formed paper, or metal? These plastic objects aren’t made for recycling and will eventually end up in the landfill, where they’ll be alive long after the human race has imploded.

    My advice: sure, use this service, but know whats going to happen to the objects you make. Be moderate in your use of it and only make the models you need. :/

    Thanks!

  • John Park

    Thanks Becky, it’s not ABS, but I’ll give that a try.

    Here’s the materials link:
    http://www.shapeways.com/about/material-options

    Jenny, that’s a great point. We should practice moderation in everything.

    For what it’s worth, this is straight from the material safety sheet:
    “The product is a water-insoluble, solid polymer which, under environmental conditions, is not expected to have a detrimental effect on plants, animals or microorganisms.”

    That’s either a) reassuring, or b) got the ring of famous last words :)

  • Pelrun

    Shapeways almost certainly builds multiple parts at once in each run of their machine. Each piece would be therefore re-oriented in order to cram as many parts as possible into the available volume.

  • joris

    I’m glad that you enjoyed your models so far!

    Just in case you missed it we have a little basic painting tutorial for the White, Strong & Flexible material on Shapeways:
    http://www.shapeways.com/tutorials/painting3dprintedsls

  • Jay

    Are you going to paint them red as in the Maya file?

    Jason