About 4-5 months ago, I started thinking a lot about 3d printing and wanted to find an activity that Steph and I could do together. We found an activity that combined Steph’s flair for design, style and experience of jewellery with my experience with 3d graphics, modelling, and the like. We decided to try to make a ring.
The design for the ring was based on the Waratah flower. I can’t remember exactly why we chose the Waratah as the template for the design. It might have been because of our memories of seeing Waratahs in Tassie, or just because of its simple, repeating structures.
We spent a week or so fleshing out the design, trying to balance Steph’s taste with what could be modelled fairly easily. Once the design was down on paper, we spent a full Saturday modelling the design in 3D using a modelling program called Blender, which I use a lot in my research. The resulting model is shown below. Once we had modelled one flower floret, it was relatively easy to shrink it and duplicate it to make the nice Waratah floret arrangement. Suprisingly, the most difficult part of the modelling process was the ring body. The ring body was designed by drawing a front and side profile with smooth curves, however in building the 3D surface model, we required a smooth transition between these curves. This eventually reduced to Steph and I taking turns manually tweaking triangles (the model used subdivision surfaces). After combing all the parts together with Blender’s CSG modifiers, I imported the mesh into MeshLab, in order to fix some of the bad geometry and do a high-res smooth.
Whether through luck or planning, at the time we finished out model, Shapeways was still offering Silver printing in a trial phase (which is now over). This meant that we could print out the model in solid silver, at a non too costly price (about $90 AUD). We submitted the model and waited. And waited.
We ordered the model on the 3rd of November. We received an email on the 10th saying that it was now in production and would be finished soon (3 weeks?). After many email exchanges over December it was revealed that the ring was actually quite difficult to print using their prototype silver printing process. Moreover, because I had ordered the “glossy” version, it was actually impossibly to machine polish the waratah florets, and so I had to revert my order to “partially glossy”.
Yesterday, Steph and I received our Waratah Ring from Shapeways, and it’s awesome. :) I’m really impressed with the detail that Shapeways was able to achieve with their silver printing process, and can’t wait to print out some more stuff when Shapeways brings silver printing back into their material options.
Photos of the printed ring are shown at the top of this post. The ring is available to print in other materials (like Stainless Steel) if you wish to have your own copy. I’m not sure how it will turn out in other materials, as each material has different printing resolutions.