Gaming the Shapeways Size Limits…I Hope

So, I wrote a few weeks ago here about my “Mystery Rail Vehicle #3” project, and how very inconveniently, a full length passenger car doesn’t fit in Shapeways print envelope.

There are several ways to fix this, but it seems that Shapeways has maybe finally accepted allowing users to turn their model so it fits into the bounding box.  All I did to get the model accepted through the automated analysis to get a price and confirm it could be fully assessed for printing was turn the HO Scale part in my 3D modelling program before I output the STL file for the 3D printed to generate a part from.  I assume, in light of recent pricing changes at Shapeways, this means they are charging me more for machine space, but letting the part go through.  Their system wouldn’t attempt to manually re-orient a part to fit the print tray, but it at least let me turn it myself and accept it.  Following an order, Shapeways does a series of manual more in-depth checks before sending a part to print, so now we see if it gets through their manual analysis, or if a human calls me on my efforts to at least beat their automated system.

If I have beat their automated system, and all goes to plan, I should have the print in early September.  If it does work, I am planning on being at the Brampton Model Railroad Show with the Toronto Railway Museum (I’ll be there either way, but won’t have a booth to be at if the museum doesn’t), and will announce what the car is and have it available to show to anyone who knows to ask about it then.  I am just waiting to hear back from the show if they still have space for us as we were a bit delayed in making a request to attend.

For now,  a couple of quick renders from Shapeways of the project sent to print, now the wait to see if they print it or reject it (either for my efforts to game them, or for them finding an error/thin area in my modelling).


Mystery Rail Vehicle #3 renders from Shapeways 3D Tools Visualization system.

I will update this post in the next few days as the Shapeways manual checks proceed to see if the car makes it through to print, or gets kicked back at me.

Update 1, Aug 23 9:30am – So the Chassis has made it through the “processing” and “pre-production” stages to “production”.  So it is at the printer.  the interior is still at “pre-production”, and the car body exterior is “processing” (which is the first stage of manual analysis of the file/part.  At least the parts are moving forward.  Still waiting to see on the big question of if they print the body exterior or not.

Update 2, Aug 23, 11:30am – So, I happened to check in on Shapeways again, the Body Shell has jumped right to “In Production”.  Hopefully that means it’s passed the tests and is actually going to print.  Fingers crossed!!  Now I really need to get on finishing the trucks for this car to tack them onto this order!

Update 3, Aug 24, 9:00am – The chassis for the car has printed and moved to the packing stage, so success on that at least.  Now the long anxious wait to see how it printed given this is the most detailed attempt at an underbody I have designed.  My first attempt at detailed trucks have also moved to printing.  I have designed these without having the wheels I need in hand, so I expect a major re-design will be in their future, but I wanted to try and have something.

Update 4, Sept 1, 9:00am – So last night I got the dreaded “Your order will ship late” email from Shapeways.  Better than the “Parts in your order can’t be printed”, but not great.  My order that was expected to ship Aug 31 is now Sept 4-7.  The issue seems to be the interior of the car which is in “White Strong & Flexible” Nylon.  Its a very large part, which had a 10 day lead anyways because of the size, but it has gone back and forth between “pre-production” and “in production” status, but I haven’t gotten any feedback that its my part that is the issue, and not someone elses in the same print job causing the issues.  Given how long the shipping to Canada has been taking of late, this really pushes back when i am likely to receive my order.

Update 5, September 7, 4:00pm – The order still hasn’t shipped.  I have however, had some very helpful interactions with Shapeways customer service team. The production department is trying hard to get the interior part to print, apparently the seats as shown in the render above, while meeting the minimum standards are too fragile.  I’ll have to add some additional support, but for now, it looks like if the 4th attempt to print doesn’t succeed today/tomorrow, it will be shipping early next week without the interior.  Not ideal, but I can live with that given that Shapeways has taken 4 shots instead of 1 and giving up and saying it won’t print.

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