Shapeways 3D tools provides designers with more transparency and functionality as you prepare your 3D models for 3D printing. These tools are based on checks performed by Shapeways 3D Printing Engineers when you order your model, so by sharing what we see, we hope to help you check, visualize, and fix potential problems with your own model before purchasing. If you've received an email detailing why your model is not printable, the 3D Tools should help you address any specific issues we've identified.
All of the tools contain information for you to check your model, and some contain automatic checks, visualizations, and automatic fixes you can choose to apply.
There are two ways to get to 3D tools.
Model page: directly after you have uploaded a model and you can see all the material prices, click "Tools" and then "Open in 3D tools."
On your "My 3D Models" page: find your model in the list, then open the model menu on the right by clicking the three gray dots, then choose "Open in 3D tools."
Each tab represents problems your model may have, as well as any results, whether automatic or manual we have and possibly a fixing tool. The tools are split into two groups on the sidebar: those we check upon upload and those we manually check after a model is ordered.
These are the tools we use for automatic checks upon upload:
Mesh integrity & repair check
The mesh integrity & repair tool ensures your model can be printed. Most 3D printers require a model to be manifold and orientable. A manifold surface is one that has a continuous surface with no holes. An orientable surface is one where you distinguish the inside from the outside. We check for and repair the for the following issues:
- Holes in the mesh
- Flipped triangles
- Double triangles
- Degenerate faces
- Overlapping shells
This helps to ensure your model is in a format that the printer can recognize and print.
Bounding box check
The bounding box check ensures your model is large enough to be printed and successfully get through any post processing steps. This is important as really small items may get lost in the during printing or polishing. It also makes sure your object is not too large for the printer or post processing steps. Each of our materials has concrete boundaries, they're all listed on the material pages.
The bounding box visualization shows you the size of your model relative to the maximum bounding box. If you have a multi-part model, if any of the parts are too big or too small, they will be shown in red to help you identify which part is outside the material-specific guidelines.
Wall thickness check
Each material has different physical properties, like how much it will flex before breaking, and its innate material strength. We have published a set of wall thickness guidelines that summarize this information in each material page. While wall thickness is not a perfect metric, it can help you understand when certain geometries definitely will not work, and you can see problem areas with two different visualizations. The wall thickness check will analyze your model for places that are below the published thickness and identifies them with a color coded guide.
The tool does have some issues, especially around the edges of objects. It can sometimes identify areas that are not actually problems, like a triangular edge coming to a point. Consider these areas it flags as problems and decide whether you think the objects need to be thicker. Additionally, if your model has really thin areas, the tool may not detect those. Areas below ¼ of the wall thickness guidelines may not always be detected, so be aware of those.
This tool has an option to 'FIX THIN WALLS', which is an automatic fix we can apply for you. The Wall Thickness Visualization identified weak points in your model with areas below our recommended wall thickness guidelines. Pressing the 'FIX THIN WALLS' button will prompt the tool to actually thicken those walls to the minimum recommended wall thickness for the material you’re working with. You can click ‘Save and Exit’ to apply your fixes or download the fixed model files for use in your 3D Modeling software. You can read more detail about how fixing thin walls works here.
Wall thickness heatmap check
The wall thickness heat map tool is a visualization of the wall thickness issues. The underlying algorithm we use is different between the Wall Thickness check and the Wall Thickness Heat map. The heatmap version finds the skeleton of the object and insures the surrounding geometry is at least as thick as the required minimum. This tool is currently in beta as we refine its accuracy.
Why are there two Wall Thickness tools?
Both styles have their strengths and weaknesses and you can toggle back and forth between them. We expect eventually to move to the heatmap tool. We’ll continue to display both until we are satisfied the new tool provides accurate results.
Loose shells check
Loose shells happen when two separate shells are positioned closer than the clearance value. These shells are at risk of fusing together during printing. This check visualizes the areas at risk by making a semi-transparent box around the region for your review.
Part count check
The part count check counts the number of separate parts in your upload. Intertwined shells are considered one part, for example, a chain mail shirt is composed of thousands of links, but since the links won’t separate during printing they are considered to be one part.
The part count visualization allows you to see how many parts you have as each and every part is uniquely colored. This can help protect you from ordering a model you expect to come in one piece, but actually receive in many pieces.
If you have many parts in a model, a sintershell will sometimes reduce the price of your model which you can do by clicking "sintershell." A sintershell encloses your parts inside a mesh, making it easier to handle and sort. It uses more material and space in the machine, but lets you only pay labor on one part. While a sintershell may help you reduce your overall cost, it is NOT designed to optimize for price alone.
Please note you can only generate a sintershell for printing in Versatile Plastic.
Machine space check
Some material prices are based on the total machine space your model uses. This visualization shows you the amount of space dedicated to your model during printing. Any holes smaller than 40mm are closed and a buffer of 1mm is added to the object. This tool is only available when viewing materials that use machine space as part of its price calculation. Read more about how machine space is calculated.
After you place an order, we use these tools to manually check your model(s):
Wire thickness check
The wire thickness tool will allow you to see our design guidelines for that material next to your 3D model.
A detail is a feature that's length is less than twice its width. Embossed details stick out from a surface, like a lace napkin lying on a table. The minimum detail is determined by the printer's resolution. When detail dimensions are below the minimum, the printer may not be able to accurately replicate them. Details that are too small also run the risk of being smoothed over in the polishing process. To ensure details come out clearly, make them larger than the indicated minimum. We may not be able to print products with details smaller than the minimum, since the final product will not be true to your design. If your product has details smaller than the minimum, try making them larger, removing them, or considering a material with finer detail capabilities. Currently this check is just for returning manual results, there is no automated component so it's up to you to review if details are a possible issue for your model.
This is a manual check that any text you have on your model will be readable. Each material has guidelines helping you to make legible text. As a rough guideline, sticking to non-italics and non-serif fonts gives you a better chance at both legibility and printability.
The texture tool automatically checks to see if your model has color and textures. Manually we will check to see if you have any problematic texture maps.
*This tool is only available for Full Color models.
Part clearance check
Clearance is the space between any two parts, walls or wires. Versatile plastic is printed with an SLS process that uses a laser to fuse together nylon powder. When there is a very small gap between features or parts, partially fused powder can get stuck in between the parts. This can prevent mechanical parts from moving, or fill in intended gaps between features.
To ensure a successful product, make the clearance between parts, walls, and wires greater than the indicated minimum. If your clearance is too small, try making the gap bigger, or consider fusing the parts or features if their independence isn't necessary. You can also try a material with a smaller minimum clearance. Currently this check is just for returning manual results as there is no automated component, so it's up to you to review if clearance is a possible issue for your model.
Your model needs to be able to withstand the forces undergone in our production processes, including printing, cleaning, and other post-processing such as polishing so we check for structural integrity. If your model consistently breaks during production, we’ll have to reject it.
Escape Holes Check
Escape holes allow unbuilt material inside hollow products to be removed.
When products contain hollow cavities, they are often filled with powder even after they are removed from the build tray. If escape holes are not large enough, or the geometry of the product makes it difficult to shake or blast the powder out, we cannot successfully clean it. This is especially important for our water-based dyeing process as models cannot be successfully dyed if they cannot be successfully cleaned inside and out. To ensure a successful, cleanable product, make sure to include sufficiently large escape holes for each hollow cavity in your product. Multiple escape holes are recommended for large hollow parts. A single escape hole at the end of a cavity will not allow material in the corners near the escape hole to fully escape; so multiple escape holes at both ends of the cavity are recommended. If your escape holes are insufficient, try enlarging them, adding more, or filling in the hollow space. Currently this check is just for returning manual results as there is no automated component, so use your judgement to determine if your escape holes are sufficient.
Interlocking part check*
The interlocking or the parts tool checks to see if you have parts that are interlocked or enclosed. With the production process of this material, we’re unable to produce interlocking and enclosed parts.
*This tool only shows for the Steel, Brass, Bronze, Silver and Gold material families.
Content policy check
All models uploaded to Shapeways are subject to our guidelines, so we've included them here to help you make sure you are complying with the content policy. It speaks to intellectual property, sexually explicit content, hate speech, and weapons. This is something we manually check once you order, so we list out our content policy for you to review for yourself here.
In the picture window, the clipping tool allows you to see an x-ray version of your model along the x, y, and z planes. You might find this useful to investigate problem areas.
Whichever tool you are using, you can use the 'SHARE FOR FEEDBACK' button to share your model visualization with others.