Shapeways 3D Printing – Transform Your Ideas into Reality

Have you ever had a brilliant design idea that you wished you could bring into the real world? It’s one thing to have a great idea, it’s quite another to turn that idea into reality.

Shapeways does just that – takes your idea and transforms it into an object that you can hold in your hands. Shapeways is a 3D printing company where everyday people can turn their ideas into 3D objects. You can design jewelry, art, phone cases, board games, coffee mugs, or almost anything else you want, then print them into physical objects. You can also sell your creations and purchase other people’s creations on Shapeways.

3D printing is growing in popularity and I recently spoke with Savannah Peterson, Marketing Manager – Digital Engagement at Shapeways, about how 3D printing works. “3D printing is the process of taking a digital file and converting it into a physical object,” she explained. “It’s really a magical experience. When you create a product it’s kind of like creating a baby. There’s an idea, an incubation period, and then you have a moment when you see it for the first time. Feeling is believing.”

Here’s a video showing how Shapeways is redesigning design:

You can design objects for your own personal use or to give as gifts. Anything you can create at Shapeways you can sell at Shapeways. The site is not only a place to create, it’s also a market where you can buy and sell objects printed by Shapeways.

“We’re trying to be the hub for all things 3D.” You don’t have to sell your Shapeways printed objects at their site, you can keep them for yourself or sell them on your own. But Shapeways can provide an instant marketplace if you want to offer your creations for sale.

If you like what you see on Shapeways but want an object customized or made out of a different material, Shapeways can help make that happen. Shapeways works with the customer and the designer to personalize the products so they can be unique. Often customers request that jewelry be customized with a slightly different design or printed out of a different material. Each designer has the discretion to make changes, but according to Peterson, most requests are accommodated. “Our community is very collaborative and cooperative across the board.”

How to Use 3D Printing

To create an object using Shapeways 3D printing, visit the website and upload your design. You can request an estimate of how much it will cost to have the object printed in different materials.

Shapeways reviews the design to make sure it’s able to be printed in 3D and suggests the materials you can use. Shapeways offers over 30 different materials, but not all materials work well with each design. The materials range from gold, sterling silver and stainless steel to sandstone, nylon and plastic.

That’s right, you can literally turn your ideas into gold.

Shapeways tries to make the design and upload process easy for everyone to use. “Any 3D file will work at Shapeways,” said Peterson. “There are a variety of different apps and programs people can use to create their own 3D files.” The Shapeways website has a list of supported applications as well as tutorials to get you started. Shapeways has an app that can take a .jpeg photo file and turn it into a 3D ring made of the material you choose. Peterson also gave the example of a 12-year-old who designed and printed an iPhone case for himself using Shapeways.

You can even design objects with moving parts. Peterson gave the example of a retro iPhone case with a rotary dial made of one piece and actually spins, designed by Joaquin Baldwin.

3D Fashion

Imagine having your clothes custom-made to fit you using 3D printing. “I think one of the most interesting uses of 3D printing for the future is in fashion. The ability to customize a garment in a way that goes far beyond any customization or personalization that we’ve had before is impressive. You don’t have to buy clothes in small, medium or large, you can get a dress that fits you perfectly.” said Peterson.

One amazing example of Shapeways’ 3D printing is a dress that was designed by Michael Schmidt with architect Francis Bitonti for Dita von Teese. The dress was printed by Shapeways in nylon and embedded with over 13,000 Swarovski crystals.

Here’s a video illustrating the process of creating and printing the dress:

Examples of 3D Creations

Shapeways put me in touch with two designers who have been selling their creations using Shapeways. Both were pleased with how Shapeways lets them turn their creations into reality and into a business.

Joaquin Baldwin

The first designer, Joaquin Baldwin, is an animation artist at Disney and a writer, producer and director of independent films. He started using Shapeways when fans of his film Sebastian’s Voodoo wanted action figures of the characters in the film. To keep his fans happy, he looked into creating and selling the figures through Shapeways.

Baldwin’s work in animation gave him experience with 3D software. “I work in animation and I know a lot of people as their creating their films want to be able to hold that figure that they’ve been creating on the computer for so long. It’s fascinating to have that in your hands,” said Baldwin.

The Sebastian’s Voodoo characters were the only items he sold in his Shapeways shop until he expanded to design and create other items. Baldwin channeled his passion for math and designed Mobius strips, including a Super Mario one, a bacon one and a Mobius strip made out of other Mobius strips.

Baldwin’s Shapeways shop also includes jewelry, a coffee mug and origami figures. He relies on inspiration for his designs. “Everything I design has something of myself in it. I can’t think about it commercially, ‘What would people buy next?’ but rather, ‘What would I like to have next?’ I design something I’d like to have or something I feel passionate about. If it sells that’s great, if it doesn’t I’ll be happy with the model I created.”

Baldwin appreciates how Shapeways lets him focus on the creative part of his business. “I’m not a business person. I don’t want to have a catalog of things or a warehouse full of stuff. It’s not my type of life.”

Bernat Cuni

Bernat Cuni is a professional designer who started with Shapeways about two years ago, opening a shop called Cunicode that sells coffee cups he designed. Recently he started a business on Shapeways called Crayon Creatures that turns children’s artwork into sculptures made of sandstone.

“I like to call it digital craftsmanship because it’s something I do with my hands through a laptop,” said Cuni. People can either scan the artwork into their computers and send him the file or take a photo with their cell phones and email the photo to him.

“I use 3D modeling software to translate this 2D image into a sculpture. It’s not an automated process. In some instances I have to go back to the customer and ask for an interpretation from the artist. All the colors are the same as the original drawing,” said Cuni.

After Cuni creates the 3D design of the child’s artwork, he sends it to Shapeways then they print the sculpture in sandstone and send it directly to the customer. He appreciates that Shapeways takes care of the billing, packing and shipping. “My expertise is in design, not in packing boxes,” Cuni explained.

He pointed out another benefit of using 3D printing was a shortened product development cycle. Without a need for tooling and creating molds, the cycle for development and production can be reduced from years to 24 hours, according to Cuni.

“Anyone in the world can have an idea in the morning, design it in the afternoon and in the evening have a commercially available product worldwide. I did this. It’s not only doable, it’s repeatable,” said Cuni.

The idea for Crayon Creatures came from his children. Cuni has a 3D printer at home, but his printer isn’t nearly as powerful as Shapeways’ printers. His kids saw him create objects with the printer and one day his daughter asked, “Hey, Papa, could you make this drawing in your machine?” They were able to print the drawing in one color which delighted his daughter but Cuni wasn’t satisfied with the result. “The attitude of the drawing was lost.”

He decided to try ordering a couple of pieces with Shapeways and was pleased with the sculptures. Within a few weeks he had a global business selling Crayon Creatures. He launched the business five minutes to midnight on New Years Eve 2012, satisfying his desire to start it before 2013. A few weeks later, Crayon Creatures appeared in Wired and The Guardian and on the BBC.

Cuni gave the example of a mother who gave her daughter a Crayon Creature as a gift for the daughter’s 25th wedding anniversary. The mother had kept her daughter’s artwork from when she was a child and surprised her daughter with a gift when she was an adult. “Crayon Creatures isn’t just for children,” said Cuni.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a way to turn your ideas into physical objects, or want to create sculptures from you children’s artwork, or are looking for interesting items with fascinating design, check out Shapeways. Whether you create or buy an object for yourself or start a business on Shapeways, you can make 3D printing work for you.

What would you create with Shapeways? A unique piece of jewelry? Clothes that fit you perfectly? Custom designed wedding rings? A beautiful sculpture? A smartphone case? Does the idea of selling your creations intrigue you? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below!

Subscribe to The Wonder of Tech for Free!


  1. Johan Bengtsson says

    3D printers are mentioned almost everywhere nowadays and they are starting to get quite affordable also. Very interested in getting one, but still too expensive for me…

  2. dare khuji says

    3D concept has gradually crept into our everyday lives, first starting in movies, animations and music; now we have it in an handy model.

    My fascinating aspect on this matter is the fact that I can make money with this concept, right from the corner of my room in far away Africa.

    Thanks for sharing this eye opening post.

    • says

      Hi Lori, So true, this is very cool tech! I was fascinated to learn about Shapeways and 3D printing and excited to share it with Wonder of Tech readers. Speaking with both Joaquin and Bernat was a pleasure, their creativity is certainly inspirational. I can see people designing clothing and jewelry for special occasions.

      Thanks for sharing your impressions with us, Lori!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Your 6 Best Weather Apps and Websites My Profile

  3. Pramod says

    Its not very easy to transform an paper image into real life object. Their artwork gallery looks awesome ..The job cost is not too high ..i.I’m sure there are many services like shapeways but the popularity they’ve gained in such little time is appreciable . I wish shapeways folks best of luck.


  4. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    This is interesting technology and I think it will develop in the future and become more useful. At the moment it’s useful for art and jewellery, shapes basically. It has more practical uses in building customised computers though.

    I have some interesting photos for you this week. I photographed the carnival. :)
    Mike Maynard recently published this awesome post..Photographing eventsMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Mike, You’re right, I think this is just the beginning for 3D printing. It’s amazing all that Shapeways can print at a relatively low cost. It’s exciting to see what the future may hold for Shapeways.

      I look forward to checking out your photos this week, as I do every week! :-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..What’s New At Audible!My Profile

  5. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    Wow…this is amazing! I have heard about 3D printing but here I can really understand it.
    Shapeways is an amazing company that can turn anything you want into 3D! This is great for all those artists out there and especially designers. Although I’m not one myself, I will pass this on.
    And… a great big thank you for this post!
    Donna Merrill recently published this awesome post..Marketing Lesson From Get ResponseMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Donna, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. You’re absolutely right, Shapeways is an amazing resource for anyone, but especially for artists and other creative types who want to focus on design rather than the business aspect of selling their creations.

      Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing this, Donna!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Power Search Web – A Potent Search AppMy Profile

  6. James says

    I think it is still too early to call this industry revolutionary.
    It seems to me that most it can do is print just a lot more of plastic junk ( as if we really need that).

    Once they start printing metal ( is it even possible) things will get really interesting.

    • says

      Hi James, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Shapeways can print in metal, including gold, silver and stainless steel. Shapeways prints in over 30 different materials. What you regard as junk, many others regard as treasures. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..What’s New At Audible!My Profile

  7. says

    Carolyn, I have to admit that I love the title of this article….’Transform Your Ideas into Reality’…..the fact its not a easy job to convert a paper art into hardcore reality, it seems like a fiction (which it’s actually not), but that I suppose is the beauty of it….I would design stylish locker if I had given a chance…..
    Aditya Dey recently published this awesome post..BlackBerry Q5 Price and Key Specifications in IndiaMy Profile

  8. Jennifer Echelle says

    That is so amazing I didn’t even know that existed yet. This 3D printer is so going to change everything ! I’m eagger to see all the options :)

  9. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    This is Alice in wonderland with Santa Claus together. What a post!

    “Anyone in the world can have an idea in the morning, design it in the afternoon and in the evening have a commercially available product worldwide.

    This is simply a revolution in technology, art, business and many other domains.
    You can make toys, clothes, pieces of furniture, shoes, jewelry, origami etc. The possibilities are endless.
    The most important part is the ability to personalize the product.
    For the first time in history you will finally get the clothes that fit you perfectly. No need to wander through supermarkets.

    Finally a chance to have what we really want and make our dreams really “3D”.

    Thanks for this wonderful article. I’ll share it everywhere I can.

    Have a nice day
    Silviu recently published this awesome post..Creative Bloggers Series: Tim BonnerMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Silviu, Yes, this really does seem like tech from the future, but it’s here today. I also like how this site is working not only to make dreams into reality but also as a marketplace to support creative people. On Friday a TV show reported how a duck was helped to walk again with a foot that was from a 3D printer.

      The possibilities for life changing creations are limitless with 3D printing. I wonder how long it will be before we start taking this amazing technology for granted?

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your thoughtful comment and for sharing this article with others, Silviu!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..MagLight Plus – Your Handiest App When You’re in the DarkMy Profile

  10. says

    I’ve seen these Carolyn and I knew that in time they would become less and less as expensive as they first were so I know that this can be a reality for anyone who loves to create. I find this just fascinating myself.

    Now to come up with an idea so I can actually see in created as something I can hold in my hand. I’ll definitely have to experience this some day.


    Adrienne recently published this awesome post..60 Tips Of Blogging AdviceMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Adrienne, Yes, one of the many great things about Shapeways is that you don’t need to buy the printer yourself. You can have them do the printing with their advanced 3D printers and you can then hold your creation and sell it to others through them.

      I hope you do come up with an idea for printing, Adrienne! :-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Your 6 Best Weather Apps and Websites My Profile

  11. Apoorv Agarwal says

    Nowadays we lack 3D printing artists, Its very difficult as it requires alot alot and alot of concentration to make a simple painting into a real life painting.

    • says

      Hi Apoorv, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! You may be surprised. With the amazing 3D software and apps that are available now, creating a 3D design isn’t as difficult as you might think. Your biggest challenge may be thinking of the design you want, not making it into a 3D design.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Samsung Galaxy S4 – A Smarter SmartphoneMy Profile

  12. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    What a fantastic service, I was pretty blown away by some of the designs I’ve seen and my imagination is running wild with ideas.

    Being a new grandfather I’m thinking about personalized money boxes and statues as shown in the video. I’ve even called the wife in to take a look, she thinks a money box head would be a bit much ha ha :)

    There were some really clever ideas demonstrated there Carolyn, brilliant.

    I bet people are using this the world over to start their own little business and good luck to them all. For me i think it’s for gifts and personal mementoes, but you never know.

    I’ll show it to my daughter tomorrow ;)

    Thanks Carolyn,
    Barry Wells recently published this awesome post..Share Juice Pro: Our Favourite Social Sharing PluginMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Barry, Exactly! That’s how I felt. When I first was contacted by Shapeways, I was so excited to bring this to Wonder of Tech readers. This is so inventive and supportive. I love both the designs and the potential of this tech.

      You’re right, the designs are amazing and it’s impressive how you can buy the designs of others or create them yourself. You can even sell your creations there, how cool is that?

      Thanks so much for checking this out and for sharing this article, Barry! :-bd
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Samsung Galaxy S4 – A Smarter SmartphoneMy Profile