So, what exactly is 3-D printing? From the outside, these machines look a bit like giant refrigerators. But inside, advanced technology works to slowly layer materials - like stainless steel, porcelain, or plastic - into 3-D products. Three-dimensional printing can take anywhere from a couple hours to multiple days, depending on the complexity and size of the finished product.
While this technology may seem out of reach for the average person, you may be surprised to learn that 3-D printing is now accessible to anyone with Internet access. With options to fit just about any budget, companies like Shapeways make it possible for you to find the perfect 3-D gift for anyone on your list. Here are some gift ideas to fit any personality type:
Green thumbs: Add a touch of green anywhere and everywhere with planters and bud vases for the front of the refrigerator, bike planters and more.
Tech gurus: From custom smartphone cases to unique stands that turn tablets into televisions, you'll find many items that enhance any type of mobile device.
Coffee-lovers: Choose from a variety of whimsical espresso cups to brighten their daily morning ritual.
Hipsters: Open a beer the classy way - with the Mo-Beer mustache-shaped bottle opener. Choose from basic black or hot pink, to fit any personality.
Jewelry fanatics: From funky, fashionable bracelets to intricate necklaces, 3-D designed jewelry is unlike anything else. Ask the designer how you can customize the product by incorporating a message to a loved one.
Do you have an idea for the perfect gift, but can't seem to find it anywhere? Why not create it yourself? Bring your ideas to life by making your own 3-D design. The process is easier than you think:
Step 1: Use the tools available on Shapeways.com to create a 3-D model of your product, or upload a 2-D design to transform it into 3-D.
Step 2: Once you've uploaded your model to Shapeways, choose a material from 3-D printing material options including plastics, metals and ceramics.
Step 3: Place your order to have your custom product 3-D printed and delivered right to your door.
Shapeways also offers a range of apps that make creating customized gifts very easy. Use Ring Creator to design your own custom, 3-D printed ring. Choose from beautiful patterns or create your own. 2-D to 3-D lets you easily turn your 2-D designs into 3-D prints to make jewelry, art and more. Use the Crayon Creatures app to turn your children's drawings into 3-D printed figurines and Cookie Caster to create your own custom cookie cutters. You can even create little 3-D clones of your loved ones with the ShapeMe app.
With 3-D printing, you're sure to discover an amazing gift like no other - one that is uniquely crafted and comes from the heart.