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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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

Fabbing: what’s happening, what’s exciting

Any ‘blogging time’ has been diverted to keeping up with my big interest area as so much is happening around ‘fabbing’ with mega developments in this community: it is all very much about ‘making’, and the power of 3D printing, fabbing, for exploring, playing, inventing and creating. It’s about ‘ownership’ and democratisation of this whole way of doing and experiencing. I am reading Cory Doctorow’s book ‘Makers’ which I am thoroughly enjoying. His vision of how this could all pan out in the near future is fascinating as he begins with fabbing a few years down the line.
Right now, the developments in 3D printing are encouraging more non-professionals to engage in fabbing. The first is that companies like Shapeways (http://www.shapeways.com/) are making direct access as easy and as low cost as possible, catering for different groups: those who want to and can design their objects, others to customise existing designs to be printed in different materials, and those who just order a design they like from the online shop. Similarly UCODO (http://www.ucodo.com/), which is being launched by DigitalForming, will provide “an online platform for ‘Mass Customisation’ and Co-Design’ of lifestyle products”.
My long-standing favourite is Ponoko (http://www.ponoko.com/) in New Zealand who started by providing an online facility and shop for the digital making community for 2D designs and is now going global and moving into 3D. There is tantalising news about something for Europe.
Most encouraging of all is how ‘build-it-yourself’ 3D printers that are available at very affordable prices are ‘replicating’, spreading and developing. In the UK, there is Reprap (replicating rapid prototyping, http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome) as downloadable instructions, and the Rapman (www.rap-man.com) in both kit form and already built and ready for off. In the US, the equivalent is Fab-at-home and Makerbot. These BIY 3D printers are developing fast through open source protocols and collaborations and because these systems can replicate many of their component parts.
The aim of 100KGarages in North America is to offer a network that brings together those with a digital design with those who have the capability and capacity to manufacture 2D and 3D components. By directing the designer’s design to the nearest appropriately resourced ‘garage’ to the purchaser the carbon footprint is kept as small as possible.
There are sites such as Thingiverse where non copyright 3D digital objects and designs can be freely downloaded and/or re-modelled for printing and writing on 6th Jan 2010 The Product Bay states that “RepRap and other 3D printers are the future. There’s no question about it. With the proud tradition from The Pirate Bay, we want to take all of this to the next level. TPB will be TPB, but for real life objects. For now, visit Thingiverse who already understands this. We want you to download those new jeans. We want you to share those new shoes. It’s possible, let’s make it happen.”
This part about jeans and shoes is, I presume, a reference to the quote from the CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos: “Before long,”user-generated content” won’t refer only to media, but to just about anything: user-generated jeans, user-generated sports cars, user-generated breakfast meals. This is because setting up a company that designs, makes and globally sells physical products could become almost as easy as starting a blog – and the repercussions would be earthshaking.”

My interest in this is both personal and commercial. As a designer I want to be able to earn a living from what I do well. So where do I stand on these ‘free everything’ developments and pressures? How might we achieve a balanced and equitable playing field? The music industry is one sector to take heed of for ways to advance. Others are all the many opensource projects such as Linux, OpenSim, applications for mobile phones. Some things can be free, ‘lost leaders’, samplers. Certain products and objects is fine and ‘just good enough’ and do not require complex design knowledge and skills to achieve.

My concerns are the damage caused by churning out ‘quantity’ that gets quickly dumped. Will BIY, by creating ‘ownership’, slow this down and change our materialistic attitude? As many more people become creators and makers I think respect and appreciation will continue for the expertise and talent that underlies well designed, well made, aesthetic and visionary objects that take flair and dedication to achieve. There will continue to be a demand for the know-how of designers, applied artists, craftsmen and artists particularly as they are pretty good at taking on new tools, technology, and processes and bending them to their own purposes.
As water finds it own level designers and creatives find their own states, make decisions about how they make a living, whether they charge for their work, whether they copyright all or some or none, whether they charge for providing services. We should learn from musicians and bands, how they have up-ended this issue, exploiting technologies on all levels, using freebies as a lost leader for attracting audiences and engaging with them in different lucrative ways.
Read Cory Doctorow’s book.