This Creates a Shapie

Small statues of themselves, of the pet or the child are currently the racer in 3D printing. The guide illuminates how the figures are created.

With 3D technology small statues can be made by ourselves, the loved ones or pets. The so-called Shapie is amazingly life-like: the clone is in the proportions, shows typical attitude and mimicry. And in shades of color that match exactly the clothes or the fur of the Bello. At home, you can not create the Shapie. You must become a specialized service provider. In the meantime these are no more insider tips, but to be found in Germany. The table at the end of the article shows the service provider in your area. Some figures are even mobile and can be booked for events. They all use a combination of three-dimensional scanning and printing to produce the 3D figure. The sizes of mini-ichs range from ten to 35 centimeters. Prices range from 150 to 1000 euros.

Start for the 3D figure: The 3D scan

Whichever service provider you choose, the process always begins with the 3D whole-body scan. Two methods are used: photogrammetry or a 3D hand scanner. In the case of photogrammetry you stand in a structure of lamps and cameras on a given point. The construction is either closed and thus a kind of cabin, or open, allowing you to keep the photographer and the space in view. The camera types differ: some service providers use SLR cameras, some rely on fixed-focus cameras – similar to those used in smartphones or tablets. In any case, the cameras are interlinked. Often hangs behind each apparatus Raspberry Pi mini computer. The number of cameras varies according to the service provider. Whether 96 or 150 cameras, they are triggered at the same time. In fixed cabins a countdown runs, with open constructions the service provider controls the trigger. In the case of photogrammetry, the pure 3D scan only takes a moment. On the computer you will immediately see the result in single images. If you do not like the pose, you can create a new 3D scan. The photoset itself has a surprisingly small amount of data: 280 to 300 MB are sufficient for further processing on the way to the 3D figure.

The hand scanner requires more patience. On the one hand, the employee of the service provider keeps the events in hand because he moves slowly with the scanner around the person to be scanned. On the other hand, the object must remain motionless for several minutes, otherwise the scan will not succeed. If disturbances occur, the process breaks down and must begin anew. Handscanners like the Artec Eva do not need any markers or adjustments and work without lasers. Therefore, there is no risk of radiation from them.

The right outfit for the perfect Shapie

In addition to the patience and immobility of the object, the success of the recordings depends on the right outfit. Materials such as leather, silk or chiffon are very shiny, and they can deteriorate the absorption due to reflections. Also avoid dark clothes as too much detail is lost. However, materials with a structure such as jeans and knitwear can be easily digitized. There is no objection to counter-patterns in sweaters and shirts.

Eyeglasses must be removed for scanning. Their frames shine too much and the scanner does not recognize the glasses. The nose racks are either from templates generated or scanned separately, if I have to choose your model necessarily. The cost of the extra costs an average of 40 euros extra. However, the individual eyeglasses can be seen only in larger figures anyway. And rimless spectacles can not be reproduced at all, since they almost consist only of glass. Therefore, consider whether the additional costs are really worth it. Additional items such as large handbags, backpacks, helmets, guitars, or soccer balls also cause extra money. As a guideline, everything that is carried directly on the body or held in the hand, such as belts or smartphones, is included in the price. Large accessories can increase the price of the figure up to 100 euros.


The post-processing

If the recordings are in the box, the post-processing begins. It is complex and a reason why the figures are quite costly. After all, you pay for a small I in 15 centimeters size around 200 euros. To print a 3D figure you need a geometric model. And this requires handwork. The individual images flow in a software , which it a first 3D model created such Agisoft Photo Scan. The program automatically recognizes different points on the individual images and misses the distances to each other. The result is a point cloud. Reflections, contrast weaknesses, and blurring in the source material provide incorrect information to the program, thereby worsening the 3D model.


Basically, Photoscan also has weaknesses in the case of optimal starting images. Therefore, the first 3D model has to be edited with a modeling tool such as ZBrush. The program corrects bumps and holes. In addition, the surface can also be smoothed – an important step for the 3D print to be high-quality later. In the best case, the post-processing takes about two hours. In case of tricky customer requests like a bouquet in the hand, the service provider can be employed up to one day. The effort is worthwhile, however, because the finer the original, the more accurate the subsequent pressure. As a rule, you decide how long the data from the 3D model will be retained by the service provider. Some of them can also be purchased. Here, the usage decides on the price: If the data is used only privately, it is much cheaper than the commercial use.

The 3D print

Only when the 3D model has been completely reworked is the 3D printing company. In most cases, this is again a specialized service provider. At the moment, there is only one 3D printing machine that can output shapies in color – the Project 660Pro of the Z-Printer series from 3D Systems. As in the case of selective laser sintering, the 3D printer hardens a layer of powder from which the figure is built. However, he uses a printhead like the inkjet printer. At the same time as the printing inks cyan, magenta, yellow, black, the printer ejects a clinker that cures the gypsum powder in the desired places. Form and color are created simultaneously. And that makes the machine so unique. In doing so, she knows that only the surface is dyed. The inner layers of the figure remain white.


For most service providers, the figures are printed on a horizontal basis. The space of 25 x 38 x 20 centimeters (width x depth x height) is fully utilized. The figures are mostly filled. However, there are also hollow variants that break more easily. For a figure with a size of 15 centimeters, the printing process takes about three hours. The resolution per layer is 0.1 millimeter. After the print, the statue is freed from the residual powder and has to cure in the printer for about an hour. In this state, it is very sensitive. Also the colors are still pale. It is only by infiltrating – dipping into a kind of liquid second adhesive – that the colors come out correctly. During the bath, the figure is heated and the surface is closed. Since the infiltration also requires sensitivity, the process proceeds by hand. A bath that is too long causes the surface to wear out and the colors dull. The finished figure would be ruined.

View: Prices for Shapies are falling

Currently, the consumables such as powders, binders or immersion bath liquid are only available as originals from the printer manufacturer 3D Systems. As we know from the suppliers of inkjet printers and laser devices, such adjustments do not just cost the material costs. Thus, the 3D print is the second big cost block, besides the effort for editing the template on the computer. The growing demand for mini-selfies, however, brings movement into the market.

The service is currently working on making the software to automate Editing possible. And also in the manufacturing machines there are indications that the selection of pressure models could increase. A hope is HP Multijet Fusion , which is to come on the market in 2016. The 3D printer uses a comparable process like the Projet 660Pro, but should be able to produce especially fast and at reasonable prices. The consumer will be happy, because the prices for the figure will drop. The waiting period could also be shortened. At the moment you have to wait an average of three to four weeks until you can pick up the completed figure or send it to you.

3D figure service provider

– a selection

3D generation

Dortmund, Hamburg, Munich, Germany



3D Miniworld


3D Scaper




Clon Studios


Frankfurt, Rhine-Main area

Doob 3D

Dusseldorf, Germany



Figur works


Glasow 3D

Erlangen, Germany

Maker Lounge


Manhilen printing technology






Mr Make


My3D (flyer arm)

Munich, Würzburg, Germany


Frankfurt, Friedrichshafen (Lake Constance)

Piccos 3D World

Deggendorf, Vaterstetten

Printec 3D

Leverkusen, Germany


Wiesbaden, Germany

Project 3D

Göppingen, Germany

Room for haptography








You Little

Hamburg, Munich, Germany