Jan 20, 2015 | By Simon

While a lot of 3D printing enthusiasts use Shapeways to simply get their own 3D models printed or browse amongst other designers’ creations, there are some who have taken to using the on-demand 3D printing service’s storefront as a full-fledged online brand and have found great success.   

Among those who have been able to use their 3D modeling skills to setup a 3D printed toy business is a man named Alex from the Netherlands.  

Under his Shapeways storefront brand Mini F1 Drivers, Alex creates an ongoing series of 3D printed figurines that simultaneously mix two of his favorite things: F1 car racing and design.  

“I've been watching F1 for more than 20 years and I have always had design-related jobs; I'm a car-wrapper actually! ” he said an interview with 3Ders.   

While he started out using 2D design tools including Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator, he has since been designing in 3D after being introduced to Blender, the free online computer animation suite... although that’s not where he first started 3D modeling.

“I first started out using Sketchup, a modeling program I used to create Google Earth content.  I made a lot of buildings,” he said.  

Besides making ordinary models, SketchUp helped Alex learn the building blocks of UV-mapping, which would become useful later when he created the bright colors for his figurines, however he was soon finding himself wanting to create more organic shapes, which proved to be difficult.  

“That's how I came to use Blender3D,” he said.   

“I had to learn a lot of things over again, since it's a completely different interface and way of building. For Sketchup, I learned a lot from YouTube tutorials, for  Blender3D, I learned by experimenting... trial and error!”

Today, Alex has used his Blender3D skills to develop a full collection of 3D printable figurines and accessories that looks more like an established toy brand than a typical Shapeways storefront.  

My "home" is Shapeways,” he adds.  “They offer a wide range of printers and materials. They also have very good guidelines for each material.”.

Alex adds that by the time he had started making the Minis, Shapeways had already become one of the major players in the 3D printing business with a proven logistics system and shop integration.  He also counts their customer support as being very quick and communicative whenever he has a question.   

“...And it's great to see they are really involved and love their product. After all, I have to feel confident in them making my Mini's,  and I do!”

Alex told us that all of his Mini’s and their accompanying cars are printed in full-color sandstone on Shapeways’ Zcorp 650 printer, although he admits that he is still trying to fine-tune the printing parameters to deliver the highest-quality product.

“Sandstone can do 2mm, but better to make them 3! I'm trying to combine the best characteristics of the materials!”    

Additionally, Alex has created rims that can come as an additional accessory, however he recommends that these be printed in metallic plastic because the detail ends up looking better and more life-like.  

As for how long it takes to print a Mini, Alex adds that it takes roughly 9 hours to print a batch, which have to also be cleaned afterwards and receive an extra coating of material to make the materials stronger and the colors more vibrant.  

Currently, Alex is working on some official licensing for the figurines and has promised that there are some crowdfunding plans on the horizon although he’s not ready to give away any details.  He also wants to start becoming more involved with animation and on-site photography (at the race track) to hopefully push his side-business above and beyond.    

He feels he has benefited from learning how to 3D model and become involved with 3D printing, he adds:

“I'm designing, I’m making renders, talking to fans and customers... if I can do more like this in the future and continue with my business, I'm happy!”

While we don't have specifics on any sort of a crowdfunding timeline, you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or head directly over to his Mini F1 Drivers Shapeways storefront to stay updated.  


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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