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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]


4 Responses to Shapeways.com Builds What You Model

  1. Pablo says:

    Check out http://www.emachineshop.com as well–they have a free CAD program which you can use to design your parts, and get free and instant price quotes for your job. Once you’re happy with your design, you can place your order online from within the CAD software. Your parts show up 2-6 weeks later depending on the price you’re willing to pay.

    Services from laser and water-jet cutting, to extrusion and molding, EDM, milling and turning, etc.

    Job prices are usually higher than local machine shops, but the ease of use and instant price quoting is extremely valuable since dealing with shops can be a hassle, especially for low quantities.

  2. joe says:

    the future of 3D oprinting has arrived: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQoTro9WfbQ

  3. Michael Pendleton says:

    I’ve been interested in these kinds of places for a while, although I’ve never had cause to use their services. Collected a couple of links though:
    I also like the look of the above mentioned
    And this place is not really the same thing, but it’s close and really cool:
    Too bad it’s not more widespread…

  4. Jimbo says:

    Far too expensive for one-offs, especially anything more complicated than a couple blocks. Detail makes the prices skyrocket!

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