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shapewaysWhen I mention to people that I write about 3D printing, I often get impressed looks and comments like, “Wow, that’s really high-tech!” or “I have no idea how that stuff works.” They’re often surprised when I tell them how accessible it is, especially through sites like Shapeways. Even a quick browse through the user-friendly Shapeways site can be a bit intimidating for someone completely unfamiliar with 3D printing, however. It’s easy to look at the complexity of some of the jewelry, art and housewares and think, “I’d never even know where to start with something like that.” Well, rest easy – Shapeways is now offering an application to help even the greenest 3D printing novices create their own, personalized 3D printed accessories.

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The Shapeways Pendant Creator and Keychain Creator are exactly what they sound like – step-by-step tutorials that lead you through the process of creating your own 3D printed pendant or keychain. On a whim, I decided to try it myself.

hummingbirdFor all the writing I’ve done about Shapeways, I’ve never actually ordered anything from them, so I figured it was time to change that. I decided to create a pendant using the beginners’ tutorial. First I needed to upload a design. 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 2mm thickness. You can also alter the sharpness of the image, softening the edges if you like, or add a backing, if your piece contains bits that are 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 red polished strong and flexible plastic, placed my order, and was done. The whole thing probably took five minutes, once I settled on a design.

birdIn short, the Pendant Creator and Keychain Creator are pretty nice applications for 3D printing novices. It’s incredibly simple to use, as long as you keep in mind that you’ll need to stick to relatively simple designs. A grayscale option is available for more advanced users, but for the most part it’s very straightforward. It’s inexpensive; my red hummingbird pendant cost me a whopping $2.81 before shipping. I can see it being 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 it again sometime, with a bit more planning ahead, and use something I drew myself instead of Google-image clip art.  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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