Alison Friedlander
Web Ring_Polished Grey Steel.JPG


Texture & Finish Permanence

...Varies drasticly for each material. I'll have more specific info for each material below. 

Nickel Content

Many of the steels have nickel in the band.

Highest nickel content: Polished Nickel Steel, Matte Gold Steel, Polished Gold Steel

Very low, but existent nickel content: Stainless Steel, Matte Black Steel. 

Personally, I wouldn't be overly concerned with the nickel steel except in the 'highest nickel content' category above. The other ones may have 1-3% nickel content. 

Detail capturing

Depends on the print, but it's generally pretty good. 

Sometimes the print lines show up in certain areas, but that's just a function of the production method. 

You can see on the right that steel seems to capture small details on a ring better than the white strong and flexible plastic. Based off the info on the Shapeways site, I'd expect the opposite, but on small rings I've found steel to consistently capture detail significantly better than the strong and flexible plastic. 

Digital rendering of rings.

Top: stainless steel dyed with alcohol ink; Middle: Stainless Steel; Bottom: White Strong & Flexible

The bottom two rings are the exact same design in the same size. The plastic didn't really capture the detail at all.



I haven't tried violently bashing a hammer into any of my steel prints (maybe I'll post a video of that at some point...), but all the rings and assorted other steel prints I made have held up very well to any abuse I've personally thrown at them and haven't deformed in any way. 

 White strong & Flexible - band is thin enough where I feel paranoid about it breaking/bending but it hasn't broken yet. Some of the little ribs in the webby part DID break/crack before I actually got a hold of the ring. 

White strong & Flexible - band is thin enough where I feel paranoid about it breaking/bending but it hasn't broken yet. Some of the little ribs in the webby part DID break/crack before I actually got a hold of the ring. 

Polished Nickle Steel - details may cause a problem in plastic because of thinness

The thinnest thing I've printed is on the triforce ring (above) and it hasn't fallen apart. I've even poked it with a bamboo skewer and I couldn't get it to budge. 




Acrylic paint will stick in the crevics, but won't adhere well to large smooth surfaces and will rub off with use. 

It may be possible to paint a whole steel print and seal it with spraypaint or similar to prevent the paint from rubbing off, but it's not something I've personally tried. 



Same story as the painting - sticks in cracks but will rub off readily on large areas. 

I would recommend against trying to alcohol ink steel rings. In my experience, the dye will start rubbing off within 1-3 hours and will stain your finger with whatever color dye you used.



This material is definitely sandable. You can start with a coarse sand paper to remove stray nubs and go to a finer grit to smooth. 

It's not a bad way to get the yellowish tinge off the stainless steel rings. 

Bear in mind that sandpaper won't get into finely detailed areas, which may result in uneven finishes occasionally. 

Many of the steel rings I've had printed will come with little sanded areas where the Shapeways employees had sanded small supports off the model. 

NOTE: Sanding some metals (matte black steel) will result in the finish coming off. The only one I've personally tried sanding is the stainless steel. 

Stainless Steel ring antiqued with acrylic paint.

Stainless Steel ring soaked in black alcohol ink. It sticks in all the little crevices and accentuates the texture of the steel. In my opinion it's kind of gross looking and requires high maintence and constant redying to keep it the color you want it. 

Stainless Steel


It's a relatively smooth material without any rough bits.

Finish Permanence

The Stainless Steel is generally yellowish when it arrives, but can be sanded to achieve a more typical, greyish color. 

My personal thoughts

Stainless is a solid material. I print a lot of my prototypes in stainless. Color does vary widely from a white-grey through a sort of muted mustard yellow, which is my biggest complaint about the material.

Matte Black Steel


The roughest of all the steels. If you have super sensitive skin, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this material to you. It feels pretty gross on your finger if you wash your hand with the ring on. 

Finish Permanence

Finish is on the surface only, so I wouldn't sand this material. 

Finish seems to be pretty permanent and not rub off, the worst I've seen is little orange/copper colored specs pop up uniformly on the piece where small areas of the finish will rub off, but it never seems to spread. I have images of this in the slideshow. 

Matte vs Polished

For a smoother, gloss version, I'd recommend getting the polished grey steel - It's basically the same color, but it's smoother and shiny. 


My Personal Thoughts

A reasonable material, but I'm partial to the polished grey because the sheen highlights details nicely and it has a nicer feel when handled. 

Polished Grey Steel


Lovely and smooth. It's on par with the stainless for smoothless

Finish Permanence

It seems pretty permanent. I haven't noticed it flaking off anywhere and it doesn't get the little orange flecks like the matte black will.

I haven't tried sanding the material, but I think the finish is only surface deep, so I wouldn't recommend sanding, but I could be mistaken. 

Matte vs Polished

The matte black steel is essentially a matte version of the polished grey

My Personal thoughts

I love this material. It's smooth, shows off details nicely and reminds me of the 'gunmetal' kind of color, which I've always loved.

Polished & Matte Bronze SteEl


Polished Bronze pretty smooth (on par with the stainless) and the matte bronze is pretty rough and probably not great for a ring if you have sensitive skin. 

Finish Permanence

Super permanent. I think the finish is more than surface deep and it could be sanded, but I'm not sure. One day I'll try sanding the bronze steel. 

Matte vs Polished

The matte version is definitely darker and could be used as a poor-man's matte black steel. Details show up better in the polished bronze because details pop with the little bit of extra sheen. 

my Personal Thoughts

I like these materials a lot. It's just a solid material that always seems to turn out well and not cause issues. 

Polished & Matte Gold Steel


I've never personally handled either of these materials, but based on a customer image of a pendant, I'd say the matte gold looks pretty rough. It seems like it would be as rough as the matte black. 

Finish Permanence

I have heard reports of the finish rubbing off with use, which is why I usually recommend against the material.

Matte vs Polished

I'm getting some samples of each material soon (within the next month or so).

My personal thoughts

I generally recommend against using this material purely because the finish wears off. It also has a higher nickel content than most of the other steels. 

Polished Nickel Steel


Relativly smooth, just rougher than the stainless by my reckoning. 

Finish Permanence

Not permanent at all. 

The finish will tarnish pretty quickly and can't be buffed back to it's original shine. It does look nice when it first come though...

This material shouldn't be sanded as the finish is only surface deep. 

My personal thoughts

Honestly, I kind of hate this material because it tarnishes so quickly. It would probably work for things that get less wear (like earrings or perhaps a necklace pendant) but i think it's really gross for rings. If I wanted a shiny white-grey steel, I'd get stainless over the polished nickel because it won't rust or tarnish. My roommate likes the way her polished nickel ring tarnished, but to me it seems nuts to spend $xxx on something to have tit look gross a week later. If I wanted the black look I'd just get the polished grey steel (which also doesn't have the nickel content).