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Non-Blender: 3D Printing in Steel, Silver, Ceramics and Rubber-like material


Yep. Shapeways can 3D print all that!

Before I continue, you should know that I work for Shapeways. It's an amazing group of people that offer an even more amazing service: 3D printing in awesome materials for the best price you'll find anywhere. Some of them used to work for Not a Number, Ton Roosendaal's company that worked on Blender for a few years. Interesting fact: all the 3D renders on the site are done with Blender. We're still a bunch of Blender nuts. So, now you know ;-)

I wanted to give a quick headsup here today because over the last year or so we have introduced some really nice high-end materials. If nothing else, it's nice to know that some designs manage to escape their computers and materialise in real life.

High-end Materials

You can get your own 3D printer for under $1500 these days, but Shapeways uses high-end industrial printers (some cost over $500,000). They print with remarkable precision in a variety of materials. For a full overview of all the materials, check out the materials page. There are some materials that I'd like to highlight though.

Stainless Steel

The real stuff. It's 3D printed metal powder that's fired and infused with bronze. Strong enough to use as a bike-mounted bottle opener, for example ;-) See details on steel here.

(Model: QR Steel Tag by Dimmulain)


92.5% pure silver. 3D printed in wax first, then cast and manually polished. We can print details as fine as 0.3mm, and prices are comparable to what you pay in a boutique. Only this time, it's your own design! See details on silver here.

(Model: Earth Tree Pendant by Peter Rinblad)


The first 'food-safe' material that Shapeways offers - just print your own coffee cup! It's 3D printed ceramics powder that gets fired and then glazed manually. Several colors of glazing are available: white, black, Eggshell Blue, Avocado Green, and Pastel Yellow. These are all high-gloss finished. In addition, we're offering Black Satin now. Full details here.

(Image: Octo Cup by cunicode)

Black Elasto Plastic

Need squishy? This experimental 3D printed polymer gets infused with squishy goo and turns into a flexible plastic. Elasto Plastic is a pilot material that will be available until June 20. Check out pricing and properties here.

(Image: Dino Hand by Bulu)

How does it work?

Shapeways is self-service. You create a design in Blender (making sure it's printable - it needs to made of real volumes, not just 'shells', and parts need to be thick enough to print). Next, you export to one of the supported file formats. STL is the most popular one, but Collada, OBJ, X3D and VRML2 are also supported (the last one supports texture maps for full-color printing). Upload the design and within a few minutes you'll be able to see the price in all of the available materials. Production and shipping takes between 2 and 3 weeks, depending on the material.

Make some money!

If you're in need of some cash you can also sell your designs on Shapeways. Just open a shop, set the markup price for an object and you're in business. If you do a good job on marketing your work, you can easily make a few hundred dollars a month, and Shapeways does all the hard work of production, shipping and customer support for you.

Do you want to know more?

If you have any questions about Shapeways, feel free to leave them in a comment below and I'll answer them.

About Author

Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender – I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-)


    • No, the flat handling fee for rubber is $3, the price per cubic centimeter is $2. So your first cm3 would be $5, the second $7 and so on. Compared to 'traditional' rubber that's expensive yet. If you consider the amount of work and equipment required to 3D print this material, it's quite good I believe!

    • alextelford on

       A good way to think about it is:
      you can buy a block of rubber and a knife, and carve it yourself for only a couple of dollars.
      Or you can pay for a professional job and get it 3D printed.
      It costs more yes, but is worth it if you want fantastic results without being a pro at rubber carvings.

      Similar to going to a dentist, sure you can pull your own tooth out, but paying a dentist will give a much nicer job.
      Weird example I know, but it's late. . . :)

  1. Shapeways is great, unfortunately the design rules are always a moving target, so previously printed models of mine no longer are printable. :'(

  2. It is very ugly to advertise like this.

    Not only it shows that Shapeways has pontial problems, but it is unethical to the readers of that "news" site! You could at least have it labeled more appropriate than as a "news"!

    • AquaticPenguin on

      Well I don't see a problem.  It's very relevant to Blender, and a lot of people don't know about 3d printing or how accessible and inexpensive it is.

      •  Really?

        On that same site, there WERE ALREADY articles about Shapeways!

        At least two of them!

        So you know, there is a search function on that site FOR A PURPOSE!

          • I have been looking into 3d printing for quite some time now.  I would never have though to find anything on the blendernation site. I am happy to see this infomercial. It would not have worried me to see those 2 lines of text there if I was not looking for it.

    • Hey 'guest', I've been totally upfront about my involvement with Shapeways and labeled the post as non-Blender. Nothing unethical about it. Whenever I mention Shapeways here (and during Blender meetups) people are always really positive and interested, so I don't see anything wrong with posting this.

      Sorry you feel it shouldn't be here, but don't worry - there'll be plenty of other content to enjoy,

    • varkenvarken on

       Come on, why such a knee-jerk reaction? The information is relevant to Blender and clearly labeled. I probably would resent and infomercial on washing powder or baby nappies (unless of course there was a commercial made with Blender :-) but this one? Bart is clearly proud of the company he's working for (and rightly so!) and this is his site after all...

    •  The article is clearly flagged as non-Blender and Barts relationship to Shapeways is in the first paragraph - read it or don't, but there's nothing unethical about it.

    • Mal Praktis on

      I agree.  More handles = better.  However, I don't think it will fit well with the other mugs in the cabinet.

      As for 3d printing...  well with prices that low it is within reach.  Now I just need to create a model of something 3d print worthy!

  3. beta-tester on

    can somebody tell me, which materials the use are absolutely non-toxic (the finished 3D model), so it can be use for food (not to eat, i mean e.g. when i build a cup or bottle, will the material of the 3D model corroded, or will toxic chemical diffuse/mix) ?

    • beta-tester on

       or which materials are for use for implants (or piercings)... or for toys for kids (OK, for toys you mist respect the dimensions and the shape as well)

      •  The only 'food-safe' material right now is the ceramics, and none are suitable to be used as implants.

        Here's an excerpt from our terms&conditions:

        Please note that the materials we use for manufacturing the models make the models suitable only for decorative purposes and they are not suited for any other purpose. The models are not suited to be used as toys, to be given to children. The models should not come in contact with electricity or food or liquids and should be kept away from heat.

  4. I agree with Bart's perspective.  I think of Shapeways as a pioneer and am glad to read of advancements like steel powder.  Shapeways service is the natural extension to doing something very useful with Blender, beyond video and architecture.
    Please let us know when stem cells become an available Shapeways material!  This form of Blending would be an additional stream for medical illustrators:  [watch: @ 8:10 ]
    Anyways, I appreciate the transparency you use at BN, Bart.  For me, this site is a first-read every day, thanks to you.

  5. Don't listen to that guy! on

    Ignore the "Infomercial" complaint, Bart. There's absolutely NOTHING wrong with putting this on BlenderNation. It is very relevant to Blender, and I found it interesting too. I've known all about Shapeways for some time, but it is always nice to stay up with changes in their technology.

  6. Animaticoide on

    Why so many people get so upset when someone makes money from Blender? Advertise? Publicity? What the heck is the problem with you guys? Publicity>>>>>>>>>>Business>>>>>>>>>Money !   Learn that and make your own money !
      Stop being so jealous about somebody else business !

  7. When I first heard about 3D printing a few months ago I was giddy with excitement, I'm glad it is available to the common market. First thing that comes to mind are custom minatures. Cannot wait to do business with you guys.

  8. Thanks Bart for this article. I live in France, and I created two little simple design for Sculpteo, but the prices are totally ridiculous. Even if i'm not in the US, can I use Shapeways to try to sell one of my design ?

  9. Good Article!
    I have always been quite interested in 3D printing, and also tinkering with some concepts i want to print in the future.
    I think it is very good to have these kind of "Blender Supporting" company's as news posts on Blendernation, since it informs us about commercial and even industrial company's that use and/or support Blender, and giving a wider perspective of the possibility's of Blender.
    Commercial does not necessarily means wrong, on the contrary, I think it can only boost the overall experience of the software.

  10. Davidjamesmcdermott on

     Thanks for posting about shapeways. I absolutely love the site. I printed one of my models Trex and it was fantastic. 

    I think 3D printing and Opensource are as revolutionary as the gutenberg press. I cant wait until I can order all the parts for an opensource car onshapeways.(or on a reprap) No more designed obsolesence, no more one peg fits all no more blind consumerism. no limits to our creativity. Even better when will they start printing concrete?    Blender and shapeways rock.

  11. Bart ... you should tell every one how Shapeways has been ripping off its designers sales and payments since 2010..

    "You can fool some of the people some of time but not ALL the people all the time"

    Shapeways has been caught too many times shaving off designers sales and payments -
    when confronted they reply with the usual "ohhh our buggy website"...

    Read all about it and the recent CEO's email explaining of a surprisingly NEW bug found just 2 weeks ago.. which was responsible for yet another payment discrepancy..


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