Arthritis, 3D digital modelling and 3D printing

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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!

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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.

The wish for easy 3D modelling for access to 3D printing …

It has been an amazing year for 3D printing and there are some interesting threads on various blogs to follow on through.

A year ago Fabbaloo posted their “wishes for 2010” and one was for Easy 3D Software as the packages on offer do require a lot of learning to become fully capable. My issue with most is that they have un-needed complexity. With too many functions also cluttering up the interface many are put off by the steep learning curve and thereby exclude from access to 3D printing.  In Fabbaloo’s wish list  there were 2 developments in 2010 they noted that improve the position:

  • Google Sketchup 8 was released, including some interesting features. This free tool is the gateway for many people introduced to the technology.
  • Anarkik3D released version 2 of their haptic-based 3D design software. While not yet widely used, this approach cou

    Anarkik3D: Cloud9 interface and design for bangle

    ld make things a lot easier for 3D modellers.

Anarkik3D’s haptic based 3D design software is Cloud9 and our distributor (A1 Technologies) imports the Falcon haptic device from Novint in the United States, bundles the software and device together and markets the package as Chameleon.

Another blog (RPES blog) on August 10th covered the designer jewellery created by Farah Bandookwala during her Master’s Degree at Edinburgh College of Art. I have already written about Farah’s work in this blog as she had a residency with us in Summer 2009 to investigate using Cloud9 for her work and we have worked closely with her since then.

To quote from Rachel’s blog: ‘Using Chameleon alongside a traditional 3D CAD package, Rhino, Farah found that the differences between the two software packages were extreme. Most notable was that while the 3D CAD offered control and precision with surfaces, it just could not compare with the ability to freely sculpture the shapes by directly deforming and manipulating surfaces to create the desired morphing. Indeed it is the freedom of the software that is one of the greatest attractions for truly creative design, with no constraints.

Farah secured sponsorship with Shapeways and LaserLines to have her designs 3D printed, from concept stage where she experimented with constructions and fastenings, through to the dyed and finished pieces into which she embedded magnets as connectors.

Farah’s work proves that Fabbaloo’s ‘easy 3D software’ wish for 2010 is here already, as Cloud9 has levels of usability and functionality that are balanced, a rubust .stl format for 3D printing (of course) and compatibility with CAD, it is affordable (£495 with the Falcon haptic device) and it is available (A1 Technologies).

Replicator’s  blog on December 23, 2010 about ‘Who is Getting Interested in 3D Printing? Server Log Stories‘ by Joseph Flaherty says that, yes, ‘3D printers are an amazing technology, but haven’t yet broken into the mainstream. Largely because companies haven’t figured out a way to profitably employ them. Yet. However, based on my Google Analytics I can see some interesting companies are looking into the technology. These are big companies and if they apply 3D printing to their businesses it will make for some really awesome products.’

I am interested in Joseph’s focus on Fire Mountain Gems‘ an ecommerce powerhouse that serves the multibillion dollar home jewelry making market. Using their catalog and online shopping carts crafters crank out beautiful pieces of jewelry. It seems though that the folks at Fire Mountain might be interested in how 3D printing could expand their service offering’. How I agree, as I am sure would Farah, as 3D printing materials are developing fast with steel, ceramics and glass now available at Shapeways, expanding the plastics, nylons, and starches, the range of colours, and resolutions now on offer. We will watch with interest and expect to see a category for 3D printed beads in Fire Mountain Gems catalogue!

On Anarkik3D’s blog I am covering an Mcor/Anarkik3D project as Cloud9’s capability for organic forms, combined with 3D printing in layers of coloured paper using Mcor’s Matrix printer, will illustrate beautifully the potential their technology has for designers. I am particularly interested in the use of actual 3D printed pieces as end products.

Joris Peel’s blog at Materialise has a review of the highlights of 2010 and is well worth reading. His clips for November 23rd cover .MGX opening its flagship store in Brussels, the world’s first store for 3D printed goods.

This area of ‘off-the-machine’ making is now a very exciting, well established state of things, with great designs available from a growing number of companies and individuals. One major example –  see the FOC Collection

What would Fabbaloo wish to happen in 2011?

· A capable and assembled 3D printer for under USD$1500. Yes, especially for early concept work.

·  A consumer-oriented online market for 3D models. I agree with them that Thingiverse is oriented around makers, not consumers. Shapeways and Ponoko’s business models could be tweaked to develop a more consumer orientated online resource but Sculpteo has with its company name more potential to attract those customers who are seeking more ‘desirable’ less techie things to 3D print.

It would be good to have somewhere appropriate to put out some 3D Cloud9 designs as .stl that others can access and get printed – as Fabbaloo says ‘Things They Like. Not things that engineers like to print’. I have put one (my apple and worm) on our Anarkikangels’ website – maybe we should have more!

Virtual 3D world is very bright and tangible – but not pink!

Fabbaloo published an article about Bits from Bytes about getting a new website and unveiling a RapChick at Euromold last week! What is a RapChick?

The new RapChick is a 3D Printer Kit  designed ‘especially for female users in response to the growing numbers of women engineers and creators within our community.  The RapChick features pink accents and unique branding that will appeal to this rapidly expanding, underserved audience’. Unlike Fabbaloo my immediate response to the above description was not favourable and neither were the first 2 comments to their article. Why is it assumed that woman engineers are not capable of building the Rapman? Many creators are capable too but there are those who also have better/more pressing things to do, like design, make and market, than spend precious creative time, and money, building for the technical exercise and a few quid off.  A good few like myself really don’t want to grapple with techie stuff: we don’t understand it nor do we want to. But we want to 3D print.

The RapChick’s ‘pink accents’ did made me see red as it seems that pink plus the branding were the only design differences between the RapChick and the Rapman! There is an excellent article by Femmeden http://www.femmeden.com/pdf/SmartDesign_SexontheBrain.pdf  that explains precisely why I was incensed. And all designers should read it. 

Seriously, I do applaud what BfB are doing but to truly democatise 3D printing (as BfB say they are doing), they have to also appeal to all rapidly expanding, underserved audiences. For non technical groups Rapman and RapChick kits are not the way to do this.

Development must be on usability and understanding how to include people of all ages who have different learning styles, requirements and preferences who want to engage with this very exciting technology. So thank you, Shapeways, Sculpteo, and I am sure Ponoko – I haven’t experienced their 3D services yet – for making the route to 3D printing so straightforward.

 Thre is a remaining barrier to more people being able to use 3D printing: how to create that virtual model. CAD is not suitable for many on many levels. It is prescriptive, has a huge learning curve, designed for operatives working with it almost full time, complex interface, too many functions that will never be touched or used, too expensive and difficult to justify when used sporadically in conjunction with other tasks such as making and marketing. It does not fit comfortably, for example, with the way many in the applied arts work within their disciplines of ceramics, jewellery, metalwork, furniture, accessories etc.

The main influencers to many budget holders, responsible for selecting and recommending 3D hardware and software for schools, colleges, workshops, fablabs, are themselves CAD users and do not fully grasp the divide that exists. Many in the arts have turned technophobic, overwhelmed by complexity and prescriptiveness, becoming a barrier unto themselves and teachers for their pupils to the extent that digital technologies are now off their radar.

I only fully grasped why our haptic Cloud9 3D sketch modelling software was special when I read the femmeden article (link is above) a few years ago – Cloud9 is INCLUSIVE. CAD isn’t. By using a haptic device to replace the 3D mouse, to give the user 3D ‘virtual touch’ and movement in 3D, interaction in the digital environment remains familiar. Cloud9 is so intuitive and free flowing, serendipity is a default. It is  easy to learn and to use, and fun (virtual 3D touch is special), caters for all stages of creativity (amateur to professional), can be picked up quickly again after a long break as the non complex interface taps into our more natural way of interacting in 3D, is being developed with the feed back from stakeholders and other users about what they want and need and how they want to work, and unbelievably the software and the haptic device bundle together costs under £500.

It can also be difficult to justify even this until the enormous potential of 3D printing is understood! And from Cloud9 you can 3D print your model directly. £500 then becomes a no brainer. Design companies internationally are buying Cloud9 as it fits into their design pipeline and complements CAD. Schools are purchasing: all kids should now be able to access 3D technologies. Colleges are buying into it too.

Previously I spotlighted Farah Bandookwala. She uses Cloud9 with Rhino, and Shapeways for tangible output for her whole Masters Degree Show. Have a look on her website: http://www.farahb.com. See Shapeways, Ponoko, FoC and so on for the rising numbers of applied artists working internationally who are using 3D printing to create wonderful pieces of work. 

Creativity and the inspiration for this fantastic work can be sparked off by having a good understanding of the process of 3D printing and the properties of the material used. The BfB products are excellent for seeing the build up happening and therefore understanding the affordances and constraints. Plus the resulting parts are inexpensive enough to experiment and play with so this valuable part of creativity is not checked by any ‘preciousness.’

What many of us need then is not so much the Rapman kit but a ready built 3D printer with easy processing of 3D data at an entry level price in a workshop/fablab nearby as this way it would get more usage and more people engaged. 

3D virtual world is indeed very bright and tangible.

Bits From Bytes

Using Cloud9 to create work for InsideOut

I have this piece of work in the Inside Out exhibition (http://www.insideoutexhibition.com/) which is a compelling international touring exhibition which opened in Australia last June and features forty-six miniature sculptures produced in resin using 3D printing technologies. The Exhibition illustrates how developments in virtual computer visualisation and integrated digital technologies are giving contemporary makers new insight and opportunities to create objects and forms which were previously impossible to produce or difficult to envisage.

I used Cloud9 (version 1) to initially explore ideas and had 3 different streams/themes and not particularly struck by one enough to take it further. But on my bike going home something went ‘click’ – which was to bring two of these together as the basis on which to form my mini sculpture.

I have since recycled this idea/piece for a bookend competition and now re-working it for a piece of jewellery. This intensive time I have had using Cloud9 has highlighted a couple of very interesting advantages our combined soft/hardware has, re. haptics and 3 degrees of movement (as against 6 degrees of movement – x,y,z and rotation in x,y,z). The default material ‘feel’ is rubberyness so that not only do you have touch to let you know where you are in the 3D space, the fact that the form you touch flexes with contact with the cursor gives a strong visual cue to see your exact position- and 2 cues are always better than 1.

The other insight is more interesting for me and I hope generally! From our Tacitus Research Project it seemed that 6 degrees of Freedom (6DoF = x,y,z and rotation in x,y,z) is superior to 3DoF and for some interactions this is true. With having only 3DoF, using the more affordable Falcon haptic device, we focused on programming and adding shortcut keys to provide greater usability. What I experienced during designing and creating my sculpture is that the combination of dominant/non-dominant hand actions for 3 degrees of movement and 3 degrees of rotation was sufficiently intuitive for working fluidly AND brought just the right measure of control to the process. So for working intensively there is an excellent degree of immersion experienced as well as effective control for reflective and purposeful actions. So I am feeling very elated by the progress we have made with version2 of Cloud9. I hope you can try it sometime!

(The InsideOut exhibition is the result of collaboration between the Art Technology Coalition, the University of Technology Sydney and RMIT University in Australia along with De Montfort University, Manchester Metropolitan University and Dartington College of Arts at University College Falmouth in the United Kingdom.  The exhibition opens in the UK in Sept and opened in Australia on June 4th.)