When I mention to people that I write about 3D printing, I often get awed stares and comments like, “Wow, that’s really high tech! or “I have no idea how it works.” They are often surprised when I tell them how accessible it is, especially through sites like Shapeways. However, even a quick browse through Shapeways’ user-friendly site can be a bit daunting for someone new to 3D printing. It’s easy to look at the intricacy of some jewelry, art, and household items and think, “I wouldn’t even know where to start with something like this.” Well, rest assured – Shapeways now has an app to help even the greenest 3D printing newbies create their own custom 3D printed accessories.
Shapeways Pendant Maker and Keychain Maker are exactly what they sound like – step-by-step tutorials that walk you through the process of creating your own 3D printed pendant or keychain. On a whim, I decided to try it myself.
Despite all the reviews I’ve written on Shapeways, I’ve never ordered anything from them, so I thought it was time to change that. I decided to create a pendant using the beginners tutorial. First I needed to upload a drawing. Shapeways suggests you keep it simple, like a black and white shape or pattern; I went with a simple hummingbird silhouette. The site allows you to customize the size and thickness of your pendant, but for the sake of simplicity I decided to stick with the default settings: 30mm, with a thickness of 2mm. You can also change the sharpness of the image, softening the edges if you wish, or add support, if your piece contains elements detached from the main design. Finally, I added a loop for a chain, clicked “create my pendant” and within ten seconds my pendant was ready to order. I selected strong and flexible plastic polished red, placed my order and was done. The whole thing probably took five minutes, once I decided on a design.
In short, the Pendant Creator and the Keychain Creator are pretty cool applications for those new to 3D printing. It’s incredibly simple to use, as long as you keep in mind that you’ll have to stick to relatively simple designs. A grayscale option is available for more advanced users, but for most it’s very simple. It is inexpensive; my red hummingbird pendant cost me $2.81 before shipping. I see this as a great way to introduce kids to 3D printing for the first time, or to allow them to make their own personalized but inexpensive Christmas presents. I may try again someday, with a little more planning ahead, and use something I drew myself instead of Google-image clipart. It’s a fun way to experiment with turning your own art into jewelry without a major commitment of time and money.
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