Today in APIs: Shapeways API Used to Print 3D Key Chains

Print 3D for Me uses the Shapeways API to start keychain photo business. Google backs away from the Pointer Events API, hurting developers. Plus bank hackathon offers $7,500 prize, and Centscere features donations while posting on Facebook.

Print 3D for Me Uses Shapeways API to Launch Key Chain Business

Here's an example of an API that made it possible not only to integrate the cutting edge technology of 3D printing, but to launch a business using it as well. The API belongs to Shapeways, a company that runs 3D printers. Programmableweb's own Eric Carter wrote about the Shapeways API when it was launched over a year ago in March 2013. Now, a company called "Print 3D for Me" sells keychains that feature photos sent by customers that are then printed in 3D relief. Holding the product up against the light reveals remarkable detail in the photo, as this photo reveals.


In 3DPrint, Tiffany Orr explains how the process works to create the lithophane:

Print 3D For Me’s key chain creation process is simple. An individual will upload a photo of something—perhaps a photo of their child or favorite pet. The company then turns their image into a 3D rendering, and sends the image off to Shapeways. Shapeways then prints the 3D model, and before long the key chain is in the mail, on its way to your doorstep, so that you can give it as a gift or use it as an interesting conversation piece.

Want to launch the next big 3D product company? The Shapeways API is available here.

Google Withdraws Enthusiasm for Pointer Events API, Burdening Developers

Microsoft's Pointer Events technology is a single API that makes it possible to write code that covers input from touch, mouse and stylus as one project rather than requiring 3 separate coding tasks. Google announced in January that this would be a priority, but is now favoring Apple's touch technology alone as a matter of pragmatism. This move will put pressure on mouse and stylus input, favoring touch. As Mary Branscombe reports in CITEworld backing away wasn't an attack on Microsoft but an issue of user experience:

Google's most important objection will probably be performance: The time it takes to find out if you're touching or clicking or writing on a web page.

The impetus for Pointer Events support by Google came from developers. It's reversal means more work for them. But the problems aren't all of Google's making. As Branscombe points out, Touch Events is only on Windows Phone and not Windows 8.1 because turning it on means the mouse or trackpad fails to handle about 10% of the websites.

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Be sure to read the next Printing article: Printchomp Print API Brings Scalable Print Functionality to Apps


Comments (4)


Interesting writeup! Some insight as a software developer.....attempting to use Shapeways' API, the road isn't so clear. They're missing key components in their API holding back apps to really take off. Most notably, they've missing the ability to do drop shipping, or more technically speaking, being able to push a shipping address via the API and processing the transaction. Until this is fixed, it requires manual intervention with every single transaction - not something that's scalable or that's going to build a big developer ecosystem around 3D printing.


Thanks for taking the time to write this up Greg. However, I think a key point is missing here regarding the API. As a developer who has attempted to use the Shapeways API, it has proved to be incomplete in order to satisfy a larger audience. Currently, every single transaction with the API requires manual intervention (as a storeowner selling products created by Shapeways). What's missing is the ability to do drop shipping, or more technically speaking, the ability to push a shipping address via the API and complete a transaction to a 3rd party shipping address (ie. your cusomter). Until this is done, somebody has to sit there and manually re-process each transaction once your customer confirms a purchase. This isn't scalable and isn't going to allow an ecosystem or any serious apps/businesses to flourish. It's been requested for years for Shapeways to add this functionality as it would benefit everyone in the chain, but they still haven't done this! Luckily, we've found a competitor who's offering this in their API so we can proceed with our project :) 


The statement that pointer events aren't on in Windows 8.1 is dubious.  They work fine on every Windows 8.1 machine I've used.  Checking again on this machine... works fine.  The statement may be incomplete or perhaps I am just lucky.


Saying Pointer Events are disabled in Windows 8.1 is a dubious statement.  They've worked fine on every Windows 8.1 machine I've encountered... including this one.  Checking again and it works fine.  Perhaps the statement is incomplete or just poorly worded.

The example below is slightly modified from the Pointer Events specification (  It was only modified so that it would operate in CodePen.Io.  It works fine on a Windows 8.1 device.  Tested three so far.  Something is wrong with the article's assertion, but perhaps the author can clarify.