Arthritis, 3D digital modelling and 3D printing


As a jeweller, I didn’t know when embarking in 2000 on a research fellowship that I was develoing arthritis in both my thumbs. The research I did eventually led to the development of a haptic 3D modelling package (Anarkik3D Design). In a blog in 2012 I wrote that I used Anarkik3D Design and 3D printing to design and make my daughter’s wedding ring. I didn’t mention in the blog that I had to use 3D printing because it was too painful to hold a small ring securely as well as holding the tools to carve the titanium. I just said that this was now hard for me to remak at the bench.

Wedding-ring 3D printed in titanium

Wedding-ring 3D printed in titanium

In these five years since, I have used Anarkik3D Design a lot, both testing each version that comes out and designing samples to 3D print out for classes and for corporate commissions. The haptic device we use has a spherical grasp with 4 buttons and I am really pleased that using it to design causes very little pain, even after a long session.

Falcon haptic device

Falcon haptic device

Having my designs 3D printed means that much of the making that previously would have been done at the bench has been accomplished using this technology. I can cope with light bench work such as finishing pieces, adding brooch pins and ear fittings, connecting units into a necklace etc..

Necklace 3D printed in paper

Necklace 3D printed in paper

I designed this necklace a couple of years ago and had units made for 3 necklaces, one for myself and the other 2 for two women to celebrate the super work they do promoting 3D printing.

Last year I made an exhibition piece, the first for a very long time. I was, with 20 or so others, invited by the Association for Contemporary Jewellery to send in a new piece of work for their 20:20 Vision Exhibition which opened in January and will tour for a year or so. I designed and prototyped various units, with the final ones printed in paper and strung onto Ninjaflex. And the process was almost pain free as it was very light work. The blog on the prototyping process is here.

Neckpiece in 3D printed paper

Neckpiece in 3D printed paper

Now with an exhibition at Galerie VundV in Vienna planned for October/November 2017 I am really looking forward to getting back to designing and making a cohesive collection of pieces. This will be my first show of work where I have used our Anarkik3D Design package exclusively to do the designing for 3D printing! Exciting year in store!


This is how it happened.

This is how it happened.

Quick sketch so as not to lose the initial idea

Quick sketch

I was involved in a mundane task when this idea came to the fore, a solution to a concept that has been rattling around in my head.  So mid task I did a quick sketch so as not to lose it. But I was so excited to develop it, see if it works that I down tools and switched on my 3d modelling programme.
Idea02Within a few minutes I had a rough 3d digital model I could 3d print. We have an Ultimaker2 3D printer in our office which is used on our courses to demonstrate the principles of 3d printing.
The digital model was processes/sliced in Cura and its g-code sent to the printer. The model printed in about 2 hours so while it was being printed I finished a couple of tasks but was pretty fidgety!Idea04
Anyway with the completed model I tangibly tested my idea and it worked great, helping with the next stage of designing to get the size right and the form more interesting and aesthetic. This second model was also processed for 3D printing out using Cura and printed in white PLA.


This model was then used to decide on the details to make a more finished piece. Having a tangible object helped with decisions on the cord, as the piece is a bead of sorts, and also on design features.  Getting back on the computer I also have ideas bubbling away to create the variations.

Objects printed with the extrusion method used by the Ultimaker can require supports to be built for overhangs – as my model did. As a jeweller I have the bench, tools and expertise to produce a good finish on the bead, to remove the supports and file off the rough bits.  Idea12

Next I will 3d print enough pieces for a neckpiece and take the design to the next stages where I can play around with all the components and proportions while ideas are fresh and excitement high. No waiting for pieces to come back from the printers! Also the quality of the print is sufficiently good that I could use the pieces in the final wearable neckpiece.
This is exciting for me to go so quickly from idea spark to solutions and be able to then concentrate on designing. It is a long time since I last worked this way. I am so pleased as it proves the value of our haptic 3d modelling package, Anarkik3D Design, for concept generation, for designing variations faster and being able to afford the time and space to get immersed in exploring and playing to go into more depth. For me this is very important as running Anarkik3D, managing Touchable Universe and setting up Anarkik Creations leaves too little time for getting back into being a designer maker.
Having the use of the desktop Ultimaker2 3D printer is a huge advantage in the design process as having tangible objects to handle and use for testing quickly provides the wherewithal to select best solutions.  Being so handy and there, on the desktop, I feel my designing and development is staying fresh.
I am though also a great believer in ‘mulling’, letting my brain get on with making connections between new input and ideas and all the other stuff that has gathered there over the years. This new neckpiece is the next exploration in the series of wearable neckchains started in the mid 90’s that taps into the different materials and techniques I used as a jeweller, such as titanium, niobium, steel, aluminium, silver, gold, felt, silk, laser cutting, casting, anodising. Although I did know about 3d printing in early 1990 it was financially out of my reach and finally when I stared designing for it I struggled with the computer aided design (3D CAD) programmes available then. Not being able to digitally explore and play within these programmes and with 3D print technologies was a big issue for how I work as my ideas come directly from what my materials, processes and tools enable me to do and combine through play and pushing boundaries.


So this is how it happened using new technology!

Crowdfunding: Trials and tribulations of setting up!

14th September 11.55 pm.  just 4 hours into crowdfunding and 31 days to go and I am too excited and psyched to go to sleep but tomorrow will be busy busy busy as we start in earnest getting the word and the link out, and generate as much interest as we can.

14th Sept. 7.30 pm. All decisions made and ready to hit the IndieGoGo ‘GO LIVE’ green button at 8 pm.  This is our banner with the link.


14th Sept at 3 pm. IndieGoGo has 2 options: 1) the risky but more exciting route of ‘all or nothing’ where you have to meet your target, or 2) the safer route where you do get all you raise but if you don’t reach your target IndieGoGo takes 9%. Been thinking about this long and hard. I think psychologically that option 1 appeals to people who don’t know us but like what we are trying to achieve and like a bit of frission. I think that this is the reason many people are serial crowdfunders. But would our friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances prefer us to stick to the safer option where at least we get something, especially as we really do need help to get to the 3DPrintShow and get the 12 models from ‘3D Consequences’ 3D printed? Or do we all really like to participate in a bit of a gamble, even when it is only Anarkik3D’s risk?

12th September. Interestingly and distressingly, Kickstarter declined our crowdfunding project. The feedback is that Kickstarter is a platform for finite and specific creative endeavors, as opposed to ‘open ended funding for business expenses and infrastructure’ and that this isn’t a judgment on the quality of our project, just a reflection of their focus. What is this? But we have little room to appeal now being 4 days behind schedule. Funding is for a better presence at the 3DPrintShow in November and for 3D printing 12 models. We will now go with IndieGoGo. Hindsight is a fine thing!

9th September 6 pm: Our planned launch event has flipped into a preview party! Still no response from Kickstarter re. approval of our project.

5th Sept 11 am. Sent in our project to Kickstarter to get approval. Have cut it fine for launch on Monday!

Book’s progress towards publication in September

04.03.2013. A week ago my editor sent me the rough layout of a few of the pages of my book, with the relevant images and ‘boxes’ to ask if I was happy with the design concept. My editor is aiming to have the samples approved by 8th March so she can start laying out the entire book with all the images in place so we can make any changes needed i.e image sizing (and I might have to request higher res pics from some contributors if the images are to be scaled up) as the next stage is the final layout  The book is pretty rich image wise from about 50 designer makers and applied artists and I can’t thank them all enough for the beautiful photographs they have sent to me to use to illustrate the chapters. 

I hope to get down to London to see the final layout because once all this is done and all agreed, it will be sent, I gather, to China to be printed. The date for publishing is set for this September 2013!

So excited! 

Writing a book:Digital Crafts: Industrial Technologies for Applied Artists and Designer Makers.

I was commissioned to write a book and my part is almost done. The copy editor sent me all her corrections, amendments and suggestions so the whole content had to be gone through with a fine tooth comb. Now there are 4 new images and their captions to collect together to fill gaps the editor would like filled! The publisher has started on the design of the pages so I ‘m looking forward to seeing the first roughs pretty soon.

'Coral' brooch by Elizabeth Armour

3D printed ‘Coral’ brooch by Elizabeth Armour

And what you ask is the book about? The title gives a pretty big clue. It is about how designer makers use digital technologies for their creative practice, technologies such as laser cutting and 3D printing. I want to inspire more designer makers to exploit the amazing potential these can provide and offer the information to understand the barriers and how to get around them.

This 3D printed brooch by Elizabeth Armour demonstrates this potential for both design and making. She used Cloud9 3D modelling software and had the piece 3D printed at the MAKLAB in Glasgow.

I intend to use my blog to share some of the information that didn’t get into the book – I was commissioned to write 30K words and did 74K so had to cut a lot out.

I am unsure how often I will get on to blogging as I am getting more and more interest in the courses we have started to run at Anarkik3D. Designer makers are wanting practical knowledge and experience of 3D modelling for 3D printing and we have different programmes for different levels of expertise. We cater especially for those who have no CAD or 3D modelling experience at all by using our haptic 3D modelling software, Cloud9 and having small classes of no more than 5 people.

A discussion one of my Linkedin groups is on the current hype about ‘a 3D printer in every home‘ and Al Dean (of Develop3D) who started the discussion and Geert Van den Poorten of 3Digit are both very skeptical. Geert remarked that ‘Making/3dprinting something needs a special “maker” mindset that not every one has’. And good thing too as design needs to be a highly regarded profession to attract talented and hard grafting people. This is not to say that making, designing and 3D printing should be an elite mystical practice. Others appreciate talent and skills when they understand how hard the graft that goes into achieving something has to be.

The hype on 3D printing is because what is mostly known about it is from articles with images, from videos, from finished objects, and not from any hands-on experience of actually designing for the technology. Being able to photograph objects with a mobile’s camera and stitch the images together to create a 3D object that is 3D printable is an interesting one as this does not take a special mindset. This is not designing though, neither is the act of ‘customising’ objects that are designed by someone else, manipulated on a website and printed out. The word ‘design’ has been adulterated unfortunately but I do see the ‘personal 3D printer’ placed in schools, workshops and sheds as a great facilitator towards getting more people, involved in designing and enthused about making, especially kids, to nurture the mindset that a designer needs.
As a designer maker, using 3D printing for jewellery units I am waiting impatiently to get Anarkik3D’s ‘personal printer’ for the courses we will run, covering designing for 3D printing as this hands-on opportunity will demonstrate the constraints and principles involved. It is also sufficiently open to experiment and isn’t this just what designer makers want to do.

No such thing as cheating: cont…..

11 month’s ago I headlined a blog “Is a designer ‘cheating’ if they use 3D modelling packages that are incredibly ‘easy to learn and use’?”

So this following quote from Nick Grace who runs RapidForm at the Royal College of Art in London is pertinent to my point that complexity of process excludes many talented and creative people from using digital tools as they do not have the time and resources to begin to learn software of any sort with steep learning curves.

“That’s why the debate between traditional craftspeople and digital designers is getting lively. “Traditionally,” says Grace, “the non-maker had to rely on another human being to help him out. Now they can do it all themselves. There’s a lot of Luddite mentality attached to it, a lot of fear. Some people think that in order for something to be good it has to be difficult to achieve, and for someone to achieve something easily, it’s just not fair.”

Nick is referring to 3D printing and being able with this technology to ‘make’ complex forms difficult to produce by any other method. I am referring to 3D software for creating the model to be 3D printed. Unlike standard CAD, the software should be as easy as picking up a pencil or piece of clay and of a quality to provide the balance between pleasure and challenge whereby it is possible to progress and to master the medium. That is our goal for Anarkik3D’s haptic Cloud9 3S sketch/modelling package!