How to Craft Personal Storefronts with 3D Printing - dummies

How to Craft Personal Storefronts with 3D Printing

By Kalani Kirk Hausman, Richard Horne

Even if you don’t have a 3D printer, you could create an online storefront to sell your own designs by taking advantage of services like Ponoko, Shapeways, and iMaterialize. These services have 3D printers of their own — and allow individuals to upload their own designs to be printed and shipped in a few days’ time.

These designs aren’t limited to 3D-printed plastic kittens and the like — they can be fashioned with a great deal of artistic style and creative skill which illustrates the online Ponoko storefront of mathematical artist Asher Nahmias, who goes by the name Dizingof.


Many of the more mature online storefronts for 3D-printed goods are starting to provide their own tools for the design and creation of items to be sold, simplifying things for those hobbyists without strong CAD backgrounds.

To illustrate the power of services like Shapeways, Kirk created a “For Dummies” 3D-printed keychain fob by using one of Shapeways’ tools to convert 2D artwork into a 3D model. He just followed these steps. (Note that every step was without cost until he ordered the final object for delivery.)

  1. Create the black-and-white text and graphic design using a free online word processor.

  2. After you have the text and image the way you want them, save everything as an image on your hard drive.

  3. Upload your image into Shapeways’ 2D-to-3D design tool, selecting the thickness of the design.

    You can create the final object here, but to give it a more interesting background and border, Kirk added a few extra steps. Consider these optional:

    1. Export the STL file generated by Shapeways’ tool, import it into the free TinkerCAD software from Autodesk, and add details.


    2. After adding a curved, raised border and a solid background to connect the picture and all of the letters, export the design as an STL back to your computer.

  4. Wait patiently for the commercially printed version.

    Kirk specified that his key-fob from Shapeways be printed in “Alumide,” which is a nice-looking mixture of plastic and flakes of aluminum. The object was delivered about two weeks later.