Thursday, December 13, 2012

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Artist 3D Prints Her Second Life Jewelry into Real Life Steel & Silver Rings & Necklaces for Under USD$125

3D printing SL jewelry

Maxi Gossamer poses with her jewelry in SL and in RL

This is seriously cool for many reasons: An SL artisan who goes by the name Maxi Gossamer recently 3D printed some of her virtual jewelry into real life steel and silver rings and necklaces, via Shapeways. To judge by the photos, they came out looking great, and to my own surprise, weren't too expensive to make: To print her Marrakech Heart in sterling silver, for instance, she spent 95 Euros -- about $125. (You'd probably buy a pendant like that for $200 at retail, at least.) Obviously this is a great way for SL content creators to launch a real world business from their virtual creations, but this seems even more disruptive to me: Instead of spending all that time and effort making jewelry without any assurance it'll be bought by customers, you can create jewelry as a 3D mesh file, feature it in Second Life machinima or another 3D platform, and only print and ship it when a customer is ready to buy.

"I still have a lot to learn about how to get the best from 3D prints," Maxi acknowledges on her blog, "for instance, how deep to etch in the designs to get the best and most accurate results for the real world." Still, to get such great, cost-effective results on the first try, you can see where this is going.

"My advice would be just start doing it," Maxi tells me by e-mail. "The Shapeways team are very helpfull. I've learned so much from just jumping in and trying. There is no cost to upload and have your models checked by Shapeways to see if your design will print -- wall thickness, scale etc. There is almost zero cost to just start doing it. And you can always test print in the flexible plastics which are super cheap."

There's lot of practical aspects to the process that content creators will need to keep in mind, of course, so I asked Maxi (who kindly sent me the photos and screenshots in this post) to explain in more detail how she did it:

3D printing SL to RL silver jewelry

What file type did you use? How complicated was the object in SL?

"The file I used to upload to Shapeways was .obj. You can also upload .stl and .vrml to do the coloured sandstone printing. The original Marrakech Heart was approximately 10 million polygons in Zbrush and i decimated the model down to 300K polygons to upload to Shapeways for 3D printing and the Second Life version is approx 10k polygons - the equivelant of about 5 sculpties. The 10k SL version of the heart is complicated/detailed enough to maintain the squiggly relief pattern to make it look real and will be great for when Linden Lab releases specular and environmental reflection mapping, which I believe is in the works."

How much did the printing cost?

"The Marrakech Heart cost 95 EUROS, printed in sterling silver. The Little Reef Anemone Ring cost 53 EUROS, printed in sterling silver. The Ottoman Heart Ring cost 12 EUROS, printed in stainless steel. The Mermaid's Stinger Ring cost 16 EUROS, printed in stainless steel."

3D printing conversion process

How long did the whole process take?

"The original base, low poly mesh was modeled in Lightwave3D. Then to Zbrush for all the detail work. It took about 2 days all in all to finish the high detail model. Then it took another day to prepare it for Second Life and upload it to the Marketplace. The Marrakech Heart was released for the Second Life Collabor88 event several months ago. Then about 6 weeks ago, because I had the high-res version of the model and I'd been thinking about the Shapeways thing for a while, I decided to prepare a version for Shapeways So, probably about 4 to 5 days actual work. I'm learning as I move forward."

And as she learns, so do I. Only recently, I wondered out loud if 3D printing was over-hyped, but maybe Maxi makes the case it's going to be bigger than I thought.

All images and photos by Maxi Gossamer.


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I'd really love to get my SL wedding ring 3D printed, especially since my husband and I met in SL, married in SL and in RL, and we're still married and still very much in love. Our rings in SL were custom-designed by Jackal Ennui in 2007, and our real life wedding rings are similar to the SL rings, though not nearly as beautiful as the ones Jackal made for us. Thanks for the story. This is definitely something to think about.

Connie Arida

I will go out on a limb and say 3D printing will be bigger than we imagine. A vague prediction I know :)

JoJa Dhara

Great article!!! Hope more will be motivated to create for tge virtual worlds and printed out for real :-) Maxi you rock!!!

Csven Concord

Still wish that LL made it easier for people to convert their inworld creations into the data necessary to fab parts.

It's been a long time now since I first got an SL creation into my CAD system. Why LL doesn't have an "Export to .STL" (or .obj or .STEP or whatever) seven years later is beyond me.

Tiffy Vella

This is very inspiring, and not as cost prohibitive as I'd have imagined. Thankyou!

Pussycat Catnap

I think it was in sfgate, if not some other online paper I read... on a list of the top 10 Christmas gifts for kids... a 3D Printer...

Tagline something like "forget legos and logblocks, get your kid the gift to really free up the imagination."

Followed by a low price of $2500 or so...

I was like... /1%ers need to get outta my news. :P

That said in a few years this will probably be something so cheap we'll all go down to Best Buy and get one for free as part of the deal in a new discount laptop... :P
(like my last printer...)


3D printing is teetering on the bleeding edge and ready to fall over into the masses. The playing field will level out when two things happen: there will be inexpensive 3D plastics printers on every desktop, and commercial grade 3D metals printers in box store locations. Once that happens, every WalMart around the globe will suddenly become bulk materials warehouses.


This is so cool, I'm so obsessed with 3D printing and all we have is the Replicator 2 from Makerbot (which is pretty rudimentary). Can't wait to see this technology take off!


This is cool, I love Maxi's stuff inworld and would definitely be interested in having the real version of this necklace to add to my collection!

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