Shapeways’ Automated Thiness Visualization

Shapeways recently launched an automated thinness visualization for models.

It helps detect what areas are potentially problematic for 3D printing, based on the thinness limit of the specific materials.

It’s kinda neat!

When I heard the announcement on launch day, my first inclination was to try it out on the super high polygon models, to see how long it would take. I tried it out on Oona, and it seemed to take hours. However, I retried today, and it finished in a matter of minutes. Maybe the Shapeways engineers changed it? I’m unsure. But it’s pretty awesome.

When you upload a model, it automatically gets checked for thinness. For older models, you need to be in the “Edit Model” mode.

Any problem areas will be flagged.


Clicking the “View Thin Walls” link will bring up a detailed window with problem areas highlighted. Each of the links is material specific, and gives you material details.

Oona Shapeways

I compared this to the Sculpteo thinness check.


Both checks seems to highlight approximately the same areas. I like the way Sculpteo highlights better, with the intensity of the red indicating levels thinness. For speed, on a single pass, Sculpteo is faster. However, Shapeways has a couple spiffy design decisions that make it faster in the long run. First, Shapeways decouples thinness checking from model viewing, so you don’t have to run a check when you purchase the model. Second, it saves the results of the thinness check, so you don’t have to re-run the check, if nothing’s changed. Third, and lastly, it runs the check for all materials at once, so you don’t have to re-check when you select a different material.

I think this feature’ll definitely help speed up Shapeways’ turnaround time.

Of course, just because areas are highlighted doesn’t mean it’s not printable. Oona came out beautifully despite the warnings.


I’d like to see a better algorithm, in the future, from all folks.

For now though, Shapeways’ new feature is pretty slick. Go check it out.

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