Friday, 18 July 2014

3D printing

I promised to give you some information about the 3D models I had designed and printed through Shapeways,so here goes.

First off I have to tell you that I have no idea how to design the files needed to print out a 3D model but I do know there is a ton of software available to help you do it. I wanted a toolbox and some stacking storage boxes for the shed, both of which would have been a pain to make by hand. I find objects that are machine finished/injection molded or vacuum formed are pretty hard to replicate in miniature. So I did a bit of research, found a design team that had a good reputation and pinged them an email. Mieszko and Jeffrey are the very clever guys I hired. The first step is finding the full-scale object you want to copy. I was asked to take measurements of the two items, with pictures, that they could work from. The cost to have the two files designed and delivered to my email within four days was £250 GBP. Now this might sound like a lot of money. It is a lot of money but there are a few things to consider. Once made, the files belong to me. That means I can print as many as I want, sell them on, whatever I choose. Secondly, there is always a decent size price tag to any 'one-off' item. Bespoke miniatures always cost more and rightly so. I think the bulk of the cost came from how complicated the toolbox was - a removable tray, two opening compartments, a working handle, a working hinge. You get the picture, complicated = cost.





After the four days I received a STL and OBJ file which can be uploaded to any 3D printing company. I chose Shapeways just because I had heard of them. Once the actual volume of material is calculated, you get a list of print prices for the different materials available. The materials vary from strong, flexible plastic all the way up to platinum =0D. One thing I didn't realise, I ordered the toolbox in strong and flexible black plastic. What you get is actually strong and flexible white plastic, painted black. It costs extra for a coloured version so if you want to save a few pennies, order the plain and paint it yourself with acrylic. The other thing to mention is that there is a grainy feel to the printed item. It's like it's been sandblasted. No problem for rough and tumble toolboxes but I think you may be disappointed if you're printing something that you want to be ultra smooth.


It took about ten days to reach Blighty...Shapeways in the Netherlands supply Europe and the Shapeways USA supply the rest of the world. I'm really pleased how they turned out and I would recommend Shapeways to anyone.

I wanted to make my files available for anyone to use, rather than force someone else to go to the expense of designing them for their own project. We're all about sharing the miniature love on here =0). The lovely Marion R has kindly agreed to host the files in her shop. If you want to buy them, all you pay for is the printing...there is no mark up for profit, no recuperation of the design costs. If you're not interested in toolboxes or stacking boxes, still take a look at Marion's gorgeous designs. I'm always thrilled to see new miniatures and even more excited to see how technology is stretching the boundaries of what we can make.

Before I go, I'd like to point you in the direction of a new blog. The museum of working miniatures is a unique collection of fully-working miniature objects curated by a lovely fella with a passion for miniatures. It's pretty new but it's growing daily. I'm already in love with  the prize-o-matic machine and mouse trap game. I WANT THEM =0P

Have a lovely weekend

Pepper =0)

26 comments:

  1. Wow that is so generous of you! I'm thinking about building a full size workshop and you've got me thinking I could build it in miniature first, hmmm. I'd love the tool box in it...

    If you added just a little bit to either item, I'm sure it would sell just as well and you would be making a bit towards the next item. I think the hardest part is having the vision of what items are suitable and do-able and of course the time it all takes. Love the chairs as well, am wondering about the grainy texture though. Could you sand it?

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    1. Hi there, I think MiniDork gives a better account of the finish in her comment below than I could. You can sand it but I have to say the chairs have a very good finish. I have the wishbone chairs and the texture isn't at all bad. No more pronounced than the slight grain you get in wood =0)

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  2. Oh wow thats so cool! I had seen your post about it, had yet to get a comment on it. Running behind here :D You don't need to justify the cost, I actually think its not that bad, considering all of the factors! :D Really good of you to make it available to people too, though I wonder why you don't sell them yourself. I suppose one day we will be able to just print out an entire room :D I'm sure there is a way of solving the grainy feel, I bet there is someone working on that right now.

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    1. You know I just couldn't be chewed with another shop or getting a load printed and then listing them on Etsy. I thought it would be better sitting with someone who had a good understanding of the process in case anyone had any questions.
      Ooo, could you imagine printing out instant rooms. Hmm, I fancy Gothic today - print - tada! =0D

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  3. Thanks for sharing the process. I have purchased some chairs from her and I think I'll be getting myself a tool box now, too!

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    1. Thanks M4M. The chairs are really cool aren't they? =0)

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  4. Thank you so much for generously sharing these files with us! I enjoyed reading about the process and now I can't wait to get my own toolbox and stacking bins. :D

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    1. It's my pleasure =0) I didn't want to say anything before I'd asked Marion for help. So happy you can get your own mini tool set up now =0)

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  5. Thanks for the information and the links. Surely it's very interesting to see new technologies applied to miniatures!!

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    1. Don't you just love technology? I adore traditional miniature making methods but I am also very excited about what's around the corner. Technology can only help to make make miniatures more accessible and affordable for everyone =0)

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  6. You are simply fabulous my dear. So very kind of you to offer the designs you paid for at cost to everyone else. You're like a dollhouse angel investor! :D

    Strong & Flexible Plastic material is a nylon plastic with a really grainy feel that's almost like sand paper. For most products I recommend getting the "Polished" Strong & Flexible Plastic option from Shapeways that is the same nylon material tossed in a polisher that comes out with a smoother matte finish. I think this would work for your stacking boxes, but your toolbox pieces are so small I'm not sure they could fish them out of the polisher. Shapeways does not offer polished black because the color wears off and it's not a true black after being polished (turns spotty grey). The other colors they offer retain their color just fine after being polished. If you want black, I recommend buying the polished purple (so it has a dark base) and then paint it black yourself, although you may have to sand down the connecting pieces so they still fit together and move.

    If you go to this page on Shapeways, (the third picture of the white dice looking things) you can see the differences between polished and not polished strong & flexible plastic: https://www.shapeways.com/materials/strong-and-flexible-plastic
    (it also has many great design rules for anyone looking to design their own)

    I've been working with Shapeways for almost 2 years now. The benefit of the non-polished items is you can do more details that can break in the polisher. I think the gritty texture works for outdoor planters to simulate a cement look, but most of my designs I create to withstand the polisher so they have the nicer smooth finish.

    I can see someone just starting out thinking that £250 GBP is a lot of money, but for your designers to turn out these intricate designs with moving parts in 4 days, wow that's impressive. I'm teaching myself 3D modeling and all of my models haven take MUCH longer than that to design and perfect. ;)
    It is definitely a learning process.

    Since Shapeways charges per cubic inch of material used, I try to make my designs use the least amount of material so they can be as affordable as possible while retaining the highest quality and keeping true to scale. I recently learned how to combine items to bring the costs down so I can offer a collection of items at a lower price. I'm currently working on bundling more of my items to make them more affordable. You can see my work here:
    http://www.shapeways.com/shops/ModernMiniHouses

    The only downside with Shapeways is the time. They say it takes 10-14 business days to custom print your order and then add on shipping time. But I have had several orders that have taken over a month to receive. Sometimes they have a problem with the printing or a piece breaks in the polisher, or an item doesn't meet quality control and they have to re-print it, and sometimes an item can't be polished and they give you a refund. Shapeways is working on reducing the delays, but like any new industry they are not perfect yet. I'm hoping they iron out the details in their new facilities as the finished products truly are amazing.

    Also, one of the things that's great about Shapeways is the community of designers. When I first started, I found Dotsan and loved his Stag Head, I contacted him to see if he could resize it for 1:12 scale and sure enough he did: http://shpws.me/oufb.
    I've found a lot of really friendly and helpful designers that have given me feedback and suggestions on my designs. I just love 3D printing and am trying to see how far I can take. To the moon Alice!

    Thanks for sharing your process and spoils with us! :D

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    1. Hey sweets, I'm so glad you've given your input. I feel like I'm a fish out of water with 3D printing so it's great to hear all of the relevant info from someone who knows. Thank you =0)

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    2. Oh forgot to say, the Shapeways in the Netherlands got them to me pretty fast. I guess the US Shapeways have a lot more orders to deal with

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  7. Hi Pepper! Thanks for the information and these links :D! I did a quick reading of the above comment, it is all together very interesting.... I have to re read this blog post because there is lots of information in it, so I will be back when I have more time to read it all.
    Thank you for sharing the vision.....very kind and so generous of you :).
    Have a nice weekend! Ilona

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    1. I just read your last comment, Pepper, is the Shapeways Dutch?? I didn't know this, so thanks again ;o!
      Hug, Ilona

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    2. Shapeways started in the US but they have one in Eindhoven. Very clever those lovely Dutch people =0)

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  8. Hi Pepper! That was very interesting. What I know about 3D printing you could put on a postage stamp and still have room for the picture! Thanks for the links, I'll check them out, even if it's only to educate myself a bit more about the technology. The end result is you have ended up with accurate and usable miniatures of something that would be a real headache to do yourself, no matter how skilled you are!
    Kind regards, Brian.

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  9. Hi! I really enjoyed this post, I'm incredibly fortunate to have access to a 3D printer at my library but I've been terribly lost in the first designing stage. (same goes for the wood laser cutter, did you ever find any good tutorials to help you get started?) It's great learning about how you went through the process of hiring someone and getting it made. I think the idea of hiring someone to design any file seemed too far out of reach for me, but after this I'm thinking that it could be reasonable depending on the piece. Selling the file as you are is crazy generous! I love Marion's shop, it's super inspiring and I look forward to seeing yours there too :)
    Enjoy your weekend!

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  10. Esta entrada es muy interesante. Me encanta el resultado. Gracias por los enlaces

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  11. You're always doing state-of-the-art stuff over here, Pepper! You blow me away with your generosity too! It's all so futuristic, isn't it? And yet, here we are. I'm interested in seeing more from you. It's always a good read. Thanks for everything. xo Jennifer

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  12. Hello Pepper,
    It is wonderful to see how the product goes from an idea to the finished product.
    Big hug,
    Giac

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  13. Hi Pepper! I am so glad that technology is being utilized more and more in our hobby of choice. All of this reminds me so much of "Beam me up Scotie" from the Star trek t.v. series. What will they think of next?
    Your detailed work always Amazes me, thanks a bunch for this information!

    elizabeth

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  14. I still can't quite get my head around 3D printing, but it does look amazing, who knows what could be made in the future, you could create an entire dolls house from it, even a real one if the machine was big enough!! ;)

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  15. Thanks for your generous gesture Pepper. I am sure you will be making many miniaturists very happy. I think your hiring a designer was well worth the result. The tool box is fabulous. Thank you also for the link to the Museum. What wonderful miniatures. I think I will have to link back and watch a few more of the You Tube videos.

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  16. The tool box is fabulous. Thank you for the link to the Museum..The miniatures are wonderful! Hugs

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  17. Hi Pepper! how fun to read your blog, I love the toolbox, reminds me a bit of japanese "re ment", I was very into it during a period! I love to do some modern miniature enviroments too in the future!
    Thanks for sharing : )
    Hugs, Melissa

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