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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Chameleon Case Study

I wrote this recently, and it's a great design story with 3D printing built in. Plus I really do love this jewellery. 

Talented Designer Produces Unique Jewellery Range with a Touch of Advanced Technology

The Chameleon 3D Design Package from A1 Technologies was central to the development of Farah Bandookwala’s intriguing range of Jewellery, which was exhibited recently in Edinburgh and London. 

‘Original’ is a word that is often used loosely, but it is wholly appropriate when describing the jewellery created by Farah Bandookwala. Moreover, this originality is built in to Farah’s jewellery — not only is it original in its aesthetic appeal but also in the way that it is designed and made. This talented Masters graduate has just completed two exhibitions in Edinburgh and London with her jewellery ranges that are as unusual as they are eye-catching. The exhibitions were the culmination of Farah’s Masters of Fine Arts (Jewellery) at Edinburgh College of Art following a Bachelor of Design Degree.

The jewellery ranges that Farah has created — “Grow Your Own Bubbles” and “Parasite” — include captivating pieces in their own right. What might not be so immediately obvious is the fascinating journey that the designer has travelled, to date, in the design and development of the pieces. Each piece of jewellery that Farah has created comes from a dual exploration that is central to her work. In her own words, Farah explained: “My work explores the possibility that identity is a fluid entity and aims to allow the user to convey this changing sense of self over time. Alongside this I am also looking at the impact of new technology on human relationships with material culture.”
Introduced to 3D digital technologies during the course of her studies, Farah was designing using 3D CAD fairly early on. However, a placement in 2009 at Anarkik3D — the software developer of Cloud 9  — ensured Farah encountered a different way of designing and creating in 3D: haptic modelling, which enables users to touch and manipulate their virtual 3D models and to connect with them in a tangible way.
During that placement Farah worked with Cloud9 and the Falcon haptic device to understand and experiment with haptic modelling, — the same complete haptic 3D modelling package that A1 Technologies now supplies as Chameleon.  Consequently, Farah now credits that period at Anarkik3D as the origins of her developing her identity as a designer and since that time she has continued to investigate the use of haptics for creative design, with extraordinary results.
Fascinated by the physical interactions with her designs, Farah was able to use Chameleon to subvert the technological process — which is fundamentally mathematical — to create forms that look entirely organic. Farah’s own take on this is that she has created a “purposeful paradox.”
Chameleon’s haptic qualities allow creative people to physically interact with the virtual material. It is both tactile and intuitive. The direct appeal for Farah with using this medium to design her jewellery is the ability to see — and feel — the input in the outcome. Quite simply, her jewellery designs could not have been created any other way.
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. The bangle illustrated below is a good example of this.
The fundamental physical interaction of the design stage led Farah to explore the best way to physically create a true representation of her jewellery designs. This journey brought her to 3D printing (3DP), a method of manufacturing that has developed significantly over the last decade from its origins in rapid prototyping (RP) to a validated method of production of parts in plastics, composites and metals. 3DP enables the production of complex shapes and parts directly from the virtual computer design — eliminating the need for machine tools and/or tooling or wax models. For creative applications, the design freedom that this offers over traditional methods of manufacture is remarkable; however, using 3DP in conjunction with Chameleon, the result is truly liberating.
In 2009 Farah secured sponsorship from Shapeways and Laser Lines to prove her designs using 3DP. Her jewellery was produced on different 3DP machines using a range of materials including nylon and stainless steel. 
 The Parasite series is a range of jewellery that is intended to become part of the body. Beautiful pieces there is also something distinctly uncomfortable about them — a trait that has been achieved by growing them — using 3D printing — on a machine.

The “Grow Your Own Bubbles” range was conceived to be an adornment that can be re-assembled in various ways as the wearer’s sense of self evolves.
Looking ahead to the future Farah will be considering the potential of clients wishing to wear her jewellery being presented with the opportunity to download and 3D print their own units as they desire them. This is still a speculative aim, but as 3D technologies penetrate more deeply into the consciousness of the general public, it is not beyond the realm of possibility, particularly as A1 Technologies is pushing the boundaries of 3D capabilities, incorporating the Chameleon haptic design product, 3D laser scanning and 3D printing, with a 3D studio package starting at under £2,000.

Biography of Farah Bandookwala
Born in Bombay, India in 1987, Farah moved to New Zealand at the age of 15. Both of these vivid cultures have strongly influenced her work and encouraged her interest in the vastly different approaches to design as a medium for expressing identity across these societies. Farah completed a Bachelor of Design Degree at the School of Art and Design at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute in 2007. Farah has just completed her Masters of Fine Arts (Jewellery) at Edinburgh College of Art. 

Thursday, 5 August 2010

An Uninspiring Consensus on the Future of 3D Printing from the Trade Press

A fair proportion of my time is spent reading — whether in print or online — as there is a great deal of information and endless opinions about additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing (3DP) available these days. I like to keep up, partly because it is good for my business, but also because I like it! I do sometimes miss the more classical material that I used to lose myself in, prior to two children and running my own business, but sleep deprivation is something I don't cope well with. 

Anyway, the reason for this post? A noticeable consensus between the two Editors of the only two trade magazines that focus heavily on AM and 3DP in the UK. And strangely enough, both aired similar opinions when discussing the arrival of the two new ZCorp 3D printers (see previous post). 

In a blog post dated 27th July, entitled 'The Rise and Rise of 3D Printing,' James Woodcock, Editor of the TCT Magazine stated: 

"Some see the ultimate goal for 3D Printers to be on every desk next to your home computer. I don't see it happening myself, but I realise that could be a 'one computer in every town in America' type of statememt." 

And then, today I was flicking through the latest print edition of Develop3D and came across this commentary from Al Dean, Editor: 

"The mass adoption of 3D printing has been talked about for some time, but I'm not entirely convinced that everyone is going to have a 3D printer in their home for a good long while .... if at all." 

The similarity in their opinions is striking, but notice that they both include a get-out clause!! 

Having been there myself, it is a tricky course to negotiate. One can't be too negative, there are clients to consider after all, and they sell these machines and pay your bills!! On the flip side, if you go out too positive then you risk credibility. 

For my tuppence worth, I am still where I was about 6 months ago, I think that the volumes of machines sold, starting at the entry level sub-£5k machines, will continue to increase. System and material performance will be incrementally improved, as will usability. This will open up the rest of the market and when one or more of the system vendors taps into a universal application and is in a position to scale up their own production, then at that point the universe will be the limit!

For positivity and a genuine interest in making this happen — my vote goes to Shapeways. This is a company that is doing AND saying, albeit online only. I wonder what would happen if they went into 2D print???? 

Monday, 2 August 2010

3 New 3DPs

So a few days away from it all, with the smart bit of my phone switched off, and I come back to three new additive manufacturing (AM) machines and an inbox groaning under the strain of undeleted messages!

/Aside/ The aim of the time away was quality time with the children before they took off for independent adventures at summer camp. Having a bolt hole in a beautiful location on the coast of the island of Anglesey, North Wales, courtesy of my parents' love of the place half a century ago, and hard work to acquire a place there, is something for which I am eternally grateful. The third generation of our family is now completely besotted with the place. A safe haven that allows for freedom and adventure. The quality time did not quite pan out as I had envisaged, however it was 100% quality nonetheless.  It turned out that all my two needed for "the best week ever" was the freedom to roam with their new BFF's, material for building dens, regular fuel stops, the odd plaster and an occasional snuggle (the power of which should never be underestimated). The only discord originated from the disparity in what was deemed to be an acceptable time to end the day and get ready for bed. We came back on top of the world.

So, the new AM machines — a new entry level 3D printer and two more from ZCorp (100% ZCorp) in the mid-range market.

The two new machines from ZCorp are the lowest priced offerings from the company. A fact that, coming quite closely after the uPrint, sees many of the predictions from the last decade — of how the competitive landscape will shape the industry and what it can offer in terms of improved performance — coming to fruition. The two machines in question are the ZPrinter 150 (monochrome, priced at £10,900) and the ZPrinter 250 (multicolour, priced somewhat higher, at £17,900). With this announcement, ZCorp is highlighting lower prices and higher specs, claiming that they 'print 5–10 times faster than other 3D printing technologies, with the unique ability to print multiple, stacked models simultaneously.' Obviously, the other big selling point — for the ZPrinter 250 — is its capability of simultaneously printing in multiple colours. What did make me smile was the swipe that ZCorp took at the entry level machines. Check this out: "Unlike low-end 3D printers, the new ZPrinter 150 and ZPrinter 250 are: easy to use out of the box; build 3D models with five times the resolution; and have the industry’s lowest operating cost (lowest cost per model)."

At this point, I would dispute the last claim in that list, but will try and get some actual facts and figures together before I wax lyrical, the stacking capability may just swing it in ZCorp's favour. 

And despite ZCorp's prickles at the increasing volumes of 'low' end systems, this competition is all good. Besides, there is another 'low' end contender coming into play, priced under £1,000 (sort of). 

The UP! system comes from a company that seems to be overly fond of alliteration and wants to remain shrouded in terms of its origins. UP! is a Personal, Portable 3D Printer and is being marketed as a 'micro-factory for Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.' Okay, cynicism aside, the machine itself looks quite interesting (and different), plenty of pictures and standard spec info at the pp3dp site: http://www.pp3dp.com/. However, little to go on in terms of who, why and what is behind this development. And the $1500 price tag, it should be noted, is only for the first 100 system sales, after that, the RRP is $2990.