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04 May 2015

3D Print Your Bitcoin Gear

Bitcoin is a pretty cool technology. 3D printing is a pretty cool technology. What does that tell you about combining the two? I'll leave that up to you to decide while I continue with my shameless plug of promoting a few Bitcoin related accessories and other gear that I 3D modelled and put up for anyone to order from Shapeways, the international 3D printing service company.

3D printing is, as hinted by the name, the process of producing a physical object from a 3D model in a computer. The typical way of doing so is on a 3D printer that slowly builds the object from the bottom up by adding layer by layer of ultra-thin molten plastic that is extruded much like an inkjet printer sprays ink on paper. Companies like Shapeways have taken this a step further by using much more advanced ways of printing which give much finer and smoother faces, but also by offering 3D prints in many different sorts of metal and, soon, in porcelain.

When ordering a product from Shapeways, you deal with Shapeways only, which I like as a customer there. So if you trust Shapeways to deliver, there is no need to worry about crooked individuals trying to scam people into buying their designs and then never deliver, or something like that. You pay directly to Shapeways, they print and send the item directly to you. And in the rare case of a sub-standard item arriving at your door, all complaints and refunds are handled by Shapeways, who will also take care of everything with regards to the designer. The only thing, Bitcoin-wise, that I don't like so much about Shapeways, is that they don't accept BTC yet. Here's to hoping that will change in the future.

Customizable Bitcoin QR Code Keychain

Measures app. 3 × 3.4 × 0.3 cm (1.18 × 1.33 × 0.12 in)
Order this 3D print from Shapeways.

Keyring with your own Bitcoin QR code.

The back side has a Bitcoin logo on it.

This item came out of a need that I felt I had for myself. Or, feared I would one day have without being able to fulfil it.

The fact that the Bitcoin network is Internet based has the downside that it doesn't work without a piece of technology, such as your computer or mobile phone. So what if, one day, you were away from your computer, your mobile phone just ran out of juice from playing too much Bitcoin Millionaire, and you needed to take a Bitcoin payment from someone?

A physically printed QR code that you always carry on you would solve that, of course. But a QR on a piece of paper folded in your (analogue) wallet just doesn't cut it on the nerd coolness scale. A QR code engraved in a 3D printed stainless steel keychain does, however. You always carry your keys with you. Attach your emergency Bitcoin QR code to your keys, and you always have your QR code with you. Of course, as multiple use of one Bitcoin address is discouraged, this is not for everyday use, but for that few times where you can't take a payment in any other way. Sort of an insurance, if you will.

When ordering this QR code keyring from Shapeways, you will be asked to provide a Bitcoin address in the process. I will generate a QR code containing a "bitcoin:" payment request with your address in it and model it into the keychain model that you see in the photos and then let Shapeways print it and send it to you. This way you will get your very own customized and unique Bitcoin keychain.

Bitcoin Microstand

The tiny Bitcoin Microstand in a hand.

Both these are printed in Frosted Ultra Detail plastic.

Measures app. 2.3 × 0.7 × 0.6 cm (9.89 × 0.28 × 0.25 in)
Order this 3D print from Shapeways.

I like to think of this as a neat piece of office decoration. Whether it's at work or your home office, or just for that empty spot on the shelf. Anywhere would look nice with the Bitcoin logo displayed. If you own a shop that takes Bitcoin payments, you might even display it next to your cash register.

This extremely small stand doesn't take up much space; in fact the logo itself is only 2 cm wide, half a cm tall and half a cm deep (0.8 × 0.2 × 0.2 in) which makes the details on this incredibly small and delicate. It is definitely not something you want the children to play with (and why would they?) since it's quite fragile, the smallest parts being less than three quarters of a millimeter thin (0.025 in). But it's perfect for display. Letting people that visit your home or office know that you're up to beats on the most innovative payment technology around.

You have the choice between two materials that are both very well suited for the ultra-fine level of details that are on this model. The pictures show the model printed in a plastic material called "Frosted Ultra Detail" which is the lesser detailed of the two. The other material "Frosted Extreme Detail" is exactly the same, except edges and faces will be slightly smoother and print lines slightly less visible.

Both materials appear with a partly see-through, partly opaque, frosted, matte surface. If you wish, you can paint the model with acrylic paint in any colour you see fit, since this is the same material that model train hobbyists use for their incredibly small and detailed models.

The Bitcoin Blockchain

Measures (stretched out) app. 12 × 1 × 1.2 cm (4.74 × 0.4 × 0.5 in)
Order this 3D print from Shapeways.

The Bitcoin Blockchain printed in
blue strong & flexible plastic.

This is a physical representation of the Bitcoin blockchain. Yes, blocks and chains. Sneaky, eh? With the naturally behaving chains, you can move the model around and display it with the blocks arranged in different positions. Your visitors will wonder and ask what it is, and you have yourself the perfect opportunity, served on a silver platter, to introduce them to Bitcoin and blockchain technology.

If printed in one of the "strong and flexible" plastic materials, this model can actually take some slight playing and fiddling to a certain degree (but again, don't let small children play with it). The pictures show it as printed in blue strong and flexible plastic. It's available in multiple colours, and also in the transparent and frosted detail plastic (which is less strong and flexible, though, and is more suited for display only). Each block is around 2.5 cm wide (~1 in) with a Bitcoin logo on the sides.

Bitcoin Keychain in metal or plastic

Front and back side of the Bitcoin keychain,
here printed in Polished Metallic Plastic.

Measures app. 4 × 4 × 0.3 cm (1.57 × 1.57 × 0.12 in)
Order this 3D print from Shapeways.

Here is another Bitcoin themed keychain. As opposed to the one above, this one is of more generic character, and it's the perfect conversation starter for when someone sees you take out your keys: "Oh, so you're into Bitcoin—tell me about it!"

It has the round, tilted Bitcoin logo on one side, and on the other the word "bitcoin" is written in the same font as is often displayed with the logo. You can get it in either metal or plastic, and while the metal versions are of course much more durable, the plastic versions are less expensive. The material shown on the pictures is the so-called "Polished Metallic Plastic" which is grey plastic that was made to look like metal a bit, by adding a slight sparkle to it.

More Bitcoin 3D Printed Objects

As for all of my items, if you miss a certain plastic colour, or a certain type of metal (either precious or non-precious), Shapeways have lots to choose from. Have a look at their materials descriptions. Just get in touch with me (via the comments below or via Shapeways), and I will do what I can to add it as an option, provided the item in question supports it, and Shapeways has it available. So, in other words, if you want to show off Bitcoin in 18 karat pure gold, or even platinum, or perhaps you just happen to like pink or purple plastic, that will most likely be possible.

Take a look at my other Bitcoin themed 3D stuff at my Shapeways shop. You'll find tie pins, cuff links, and a cover case for the Raspberry Pi, for instance. Also some Storj stuff.

Some of the items that are not specifically mentioned on this page haven't been tried out in printing yet (you will see them marked as "first to try"), but Shapeways makes thorough tests and inspections both before and after print to make sure everything is ok. And if something imperfect happens to slip through to you after all, they have a really good reputation of making refunds. Actually, while you're there, also surf around for Bitcoin themed stuff by other designers on Shapeways. You'll find a lot of neat and impressive work there.

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