In a previous post I talked about using 3D programs to design jewelry. I’ve continued to play with using Shapeways to design and create rings. Here are a few examples of what I’ve done, along with some of the difficulties I’ve encountered along the way.
Shapeways is a site that permits you to upload models you’ve created using 3D software. You can then print the models using their high-end 3D printers in a variety of materials: plastic, ceramic, stainless steel, alumide, sandstone, silver, brass. The cost of the service is a function of the volume of material needed to print the model, with additional fees for special handling; for example, it costs extra to have an object polished after it’s printed.
Shapeways has a few tools to ease the creation of common items like pendants. One of their pages allows you to design rings; you create a 2D image, and the software wraps it into a circle and applies depth to turn it into a ring. Here are some examples.
|What I designed||What Shapeways displayed||Material I chose||What I got|
|stainless steel with bronze matte finish|
Depending on your browser, you should be able to right-click on these pictures, select “View Image”, and see a higher-resolution picture.
Some things to note:
- The ring-design application can accept gray-scale information in the picture to create engraving and embossing in the printed ring. I used that feature in the first five ring designs. The sixth design I created in Cheetah3D, a low-end 3D modeling program for the Mac.
- Shapeways is picky about small details in designs. They have guidelines on the level of detail permitted in their models, and they’re rigorously enforced (for the rings, at least). Their automated model-review software will reject any design that fails those guidelines.
- As an example, consider the last item in the above table. Shapeways’ automated software accepted the design for stainless steel, but rejected it for plastic because of the tips of the points of the pentacle were too small.
- If you look carefully at the final results, the stainless-steel models in particular, you can just make out the layers of the 3D printer. Even the high-end 3D printers can’t match what human jewelers can sculpt… yet.
- It took me time to design each ring, mainly because I’m a perfectionist; I wasted a few hours tweaking details that were far too small to be visible on the final rings. I estimate I spent 1-2 hours on each ring I designed using Shapeways’ application, and about six hours on the 3D model. This does not include the time I spent learning the software, and creating about three rings for every one I show here that were flawed in some way.
- The cost of a plastic ring is roughly $3.50; that of a stainless steel ring roughly $20; that of a silver ring about $100. On top of that, there’s a shipping fee of $6.50 per order. This means there’s not much point to ordering one plastic ring at a time, unless you’re really desperate (as I sometimes was) to get a prototype.
- Delivery times also vary based on the material, with plastic the fastest (roughly a week) and stainless steel taking 2-3 weeks.
- I learned that hard way that stainless steel can rust, at least in contact with my skin. I have to coat the inside of a stainless steel ring with nail polish to prevent this.
What’s next? For me, it’s this:
This a libation bowl I designed for Acorn Garden rituals. I’ve wanted one like this ever since I saw a beautiful libation bowl used by Deborah Lipp. It has separate compartments for libating food and drinks, so you don’t get an unsightly pile of swollen bread as the bowl is passed around. I’ve hunted around in stores for one, but all I could find were chips’n’dips bowls that were shaped like footballs. Thanks to modern technology, I can have a bowl crafted to my own specifications. It’s being printed in ceramic, and should arrive in a week or two.
If it turns out to be flawed, I can always use it for chips and dips…