All the products on this website can be purchased from Shapeways. There is a Model Railway Structures shop on Shapeways that you can visit, but the format of the Shapeways shop is not so easy to navigate. This website provides an easier way to find the products that you are looking for and can provide more information and news about our products and how to use them than can be accommodated at Shapeways.
The website also includes a blog that is regularly updated with news about new products, examples of work by our customers and general items that could be of interest to the railway modeler.
A contact page allows you to have direct communication with the designer, where you can send requests for custom models and print batches as well as comments and suggestions for new product lines. As the products are actually sold, printed and dispatched by Shapeways, any queries regarding your order should be sent to them at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am an architect by profession and a railway modeler whenever time permits. I initially started designing 3D printed items for my own use, because I just couldn't find things available elsewhere that would help me to make good looking models for my layout. My modelling skills with card and craft knife are quite limited and my time for model making is scarce. I'd much rather be playing trains than cutting and gluing. My "proper job" gives me the software and skills to generate quite complex 3D architectural models, so I thought I would apply the technology at my disposal to design 3D models at a smaller scale that could then be 3D printed. I purchased a 3D printer ( a Makerbot Replicator 2X), but soon discovered that the speed and level of detail was just not there yet for the type of 3D printing that I needed. Shapeways provided the printing solution and also opened up the opportunity to market and sell my designs to others.
The Shapeways Process
There is a lot of information on the Shapeways site, including short videos explaining how the process works, from taking your order through to couriering the items to your door. So this explanation is just a very quick summary of how it works.
- I create a 3D model in my computer. Typically I model everything at 1:1 size and then scale it down to the size that I want to have it printed at.
- I upload the model to Shapeways.
- Shapeways software carries out some automatic checks on the model to ensure it is printable.
- The shapeways software works out how much material will be needed to print it, how many parts there are in the object, how much space it will take up in the printer and establishes a base cost for the model.
- I look at the base cost that Shapeways have determined and add my mark up as a designers fee. This is normally somewhere around 10%
- I then add a few words of description and tick a couple of boxes to make the item available for sale and visible to the customer.
- You pick items that they want to buy, just like most other online shops, and proceed through the checkout paying for the items ordered. (Shapeways charge the same for packing and postage for a single item as they do for a thousand items, so it pays to plan your orders and order in bulk when possible.)
- Once Shapeways have received your order, the items are programmed into their print production run. (The anticipated dispatch date is actually shown at check out time, before you have to confirm the order and pay some money)
- Just prior to printing, further manual checks of the computer model are carried out to avoid any printing problems that may not have been detected in the automatic when the design was first uploaded.
- Shapeways print the model, clean it, pack it and send it off by courier. Currently Shapeways have print factories in the USA and Holland. Normally it is the factory that is closest to you that will do the printing.
- Once the order has been dispatched, Shapeways pay me my designer mark up.
- You can check out the progress of your order as it passes through the Shapeways process. And if you live a long way away from the factory like I do, you can follow its progress as it passes through each of the air cargo hubs on its way to you.
- You receive a smart Shapeways box that feels so light that you think it must be empty. Once opened you find the items you ordered in labeled zip-lock bags, all cunningly protected for transit by a selection of polythene air filled bubbles.
At present very few people own a home printer that is capable of printing to the level of detail or quality that can be achieved by the commercial printers at Shapeways. Over time, as technology improves and the cost of high quality printers comes down, this will change. It is my intention to make the 3D files available for purchase to download and print for personal use once the technology is ready for them. If you feel that you already have a printer that has that capability, contact me and we will arrange an appropriate fee for you to license a copy of the model for you to print as many as you want own your own machine. Most home printers at present will end up printing a tangled mess if you try printing these models. Don't go down this route unless you really know what you are doing and you are certain that you have a machine that is up to it.