3D printing your Blender model with Shapeways

I was checking the news on Blendernation a couple of weeks ago and I found a little blurb on getting your models “3D Printed” at a site called Shapeways. They are a company based in the Netherlands that can create your model in many different materials, some even with color.

From the site: “We want to be a fun, inspiring place where you make your own 3D designs come to life using 3D printing.”

Well, a little time passed, but then I got around to uploading my model to have it created. I decided to use the Sword Model I had just created. I felt quite a thrill at getting my Blender model turned into a physical product I could hold in my hand.

So on with the show. You need to export your model from Blender as an STL file. I did this by choosing File>Export, and then choosing STL from the top of the list that appears. I made sure to have my model selected when I did this.

After this, I registered on the Shapeways site and uploaded my model. Their software then checks over the model to make sure that it is manifold (solid without open edges) and checks over other criteria.

Within 5 minutes, I received an email that said my model could not be printed. They explained that it was too small and there was a minimum size requirement.

Anyone who uses Blender knows that it doesn’t use normal measurement units. It uses Blender Units. Which are a bit useless in a situation like this. So to combat this, I simply enlarged the model all the way up to gigantic size, re-exported and re-uploaded.

Now I got the go-ahead, except there was only one printer that could make my object -the stainless steel printer. This seems pretty cool, but at the size I had uploaded (I think it came out to about 30 inches long), the sword would have cost me $1,200 U.S! Holy Hannah…

So, not prepared to spend that much, I went back to Blender and attempted to calculate a more reasonable size. I’m not very good with measurement conversions, but I managed to work out the sword so it came out to 12 inches long. At this size a stainless steel would cost me about $180 U.S. or so. Well, that’s not bad, but I still was not willing to spend that much.

Instead, I picked their “Black Detail” material, and with this option the price came out to about $48 U.S. Not bad. So I placed the order.

Unfortunately, I found out a few days later that my order was cancelled. Shapeways does state that even if their software determines that they can print your model, it still must come down to a physical check to see if it can be done. Apparently my model was too thin in places and needed to be fixed.

However, even if I were to fix it, it still could not be printed by Shapeways. The kind Customer Service Agent who emailed me explained that since my model was a weapon, a sword, it was not legal under Dutch law for them to replicate it. This was bad news for me, but the law is the law. Besides, I was really just curious and wanted to satisfy my ego to see one of my creations brought into the physical world. Oh well…

So I ended up deleting my models from my gallery (the Customer Service Agent explained that they could not even publicly show my sword on their site and that they would have to delete them anyway after a number of days). I’m still very curious about the workmanship and I still plan to use them eventually. I guess I have to make a less violent model first before I can get it 3D printed.

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One thought on “3D printing your Blender model with Shapeways

  1. Interesting story.

    I’m an avid blender user, and regularly work with 3D printers. Its odd that they wouldn’t have informed you sooner that a weapon couldn’t be printed…

    I work at Offload Studios, our focus on 3D printing is more high end fine art, but we like to communicate with our clients on a personal level. Direct conversation with the artist on limitations before hand is always something that I find helps when your working with large / complex files. Even with simple files like a sword can be consulted upon.

    There much more to the process of creating art than just hitting “Print” ;)

    Great article,

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