Ever since computer modeling started transforming the future of manufacturing, we’ve dreamed of being able to do it ourselves, without having to pony up millions of dollars. The folks at Shapeways.com are bringing us a step closer to that dream of home tool design and creation — they put you in the designer’s seat, and they’ll crank out whatever you can dream up.
It looks like a decent setup: you provide a model file, and they print it out in plastic and send it to you. If you think you could design and build a better clip, for instance, you can actually find out — and you can try many times till you find one that suits you. The possibilities are pretty open — you only need some patience and a little modeling practice.
The real obstacle here is producing a model that can be printed. Real-world concerns like stability, wall thickness, and closed objects can bewilder a beginner and separate the interested amateur from his goal. Shapeways does offer help, and a forum looks like it’ll help tackle some of the common issues — but don’t expect to turn out the world’s greatest new widget in ten minutes. 3D modeling presents a challenge even for the well-trained, and it can be uber-frustrating for the uninitiated.
Shapeways 3D Prototyping [Website]