Archive for the 'rapid prototyping' Category

Shillito A. M. Digital Crafts: Industial Technologies for Applied Artists and Designer Makers. 2013

This book by Ann Marie Shillito has been published in October 2013 by Bloomsbury. The first heading of the introduction reads, ‘Don’t be intimidated!’ and serves as Shillito’s motivational motto for the interested maker who is on the verge to engage with digital technologies. ‘I want this book to empower, knowing that engagement with and access to digital technologies will continue to improve and that as designer makers we have exceptional knowledge and expertise to take full advantage of all the means available to enhance our practice.’

Digital crafts cover sml

A practicing designer/maker with a background as a jeweller, Shillito is also the founder of Anarkik3D developer of the 3D modelling product Cloud9. This software enables the user to employ haptic feedback – with a force feedback device – to model virtual 3D objects using also their sense of touch. (I was priveledged to tested an early prototype of this system – it had also stereo-scopic vision co-located with the users real gestural positions).

I like the fact that this complex and multifaceted theme is introduced by an experienced maker. In writing this book, Shillito has also included the voices and works of 45 international contributors who have included digital technologies together with their practice to various degrees.

Being image rich, this book makes it easy to see the diverse opportunities digital technologies have to offer for craft and design practitioners. It takes an honest look as to what would be requried from a maker to access these opportunities. The investment in acquiring the necessary skills is significant. A chapter each is given to 2D and 3D technologies and there distinct applications. Chapter 6 ‘Accessing digital technologies’ might be of particular interest to the novice digital/maker.

Chapter 2, ‘A craft-minded approach’, touches on important questions for contemporary making that sees traditional disciplines becoming less defined through the very technologies that hold so much potential for them. This chapter sets the context against which this book draws its value. It canvases the value of the skills and approaches unique to the designer/maker that both inform the output the creative works as well as the development/application of these digitally-based processes.

I have been familiar with all the technologies introduced in Digital Crafts and have used a fair part of them directly. While all aspects are illustrated with completed works by competent digital Designer/makers, I would have been interested to see how some of these works progressed from conception to realisation.

Digital Craft is certainly a worthwhile resource for anyone interested in the contemporary Designer/Maker model as well as the current state of digital manufacturing and the processes required to access them.

Link to Anarkik3D

All you can do with materials

‘One can do only four things with material’, is my current theory I like to test with this post. Four steps apply to the majority of making processes and some aspects of these are shifting from the makers workbench to distributed digital fabrication online.

It is worthwhile to look at these shifts in more detail as the mastery of digital technologies is involved in defining contemporary craft practitioners as ‘Designer Makers’.

The four processes are:

Cutting – Forming – Fusing Finishing

About these categories:

Many materials used by makers are available in flat, like sheet metal, fabric, glass. Traditional cutting tools such as saws, scissors, blades are used on them, while at the same time digitally controlled cutting processes like laser & water-jet cutting or CNC plasma cutting are becoming more and more accessible. Digital processes influence most significantly the first category, cutting. Just about all flat materials can be ‘fashioned’ this way, allowing the maker to achieve repeatable precision parts countless times. These technologies are still very specialised and expensive usually out of reach of the individual maker. However a growing fabber network will bring these tools closer to the workshop of the individual maker.

The forming is still mostly in the hands of the crafts practitioner with digital 3 dimensional processes only on the periphery and used in niche applications. Once cut to size, many materials are traditionally formed through impact like the use of hammers or with the help of heat, steam or formed into and over molds. Rabid prototyping is a representing the digital fabrication for this category. For example in contemporary jewelery very detailed 3D wax or polymer prints are used to achieve –  once cast in metal – very unique results.

The third category, fusing, relies heavily on the skilled work of the maker and no influence of any digital technology in this category is evident. All crafts have developed processes of combining materials either two of the same kind or as a mix of different materials. Some are permanent while others can be separated again. These fusing processes include welding, gluing, riveting, stitching, bolting.

Finishing: the treatment of the works surface is typically one of the last steps in the making process, while adding significant value to the finished object, it is time consuming.  Many of the finishing processes are completed by hand. However an increasing number of digital and computer controlled processes are relevant to this category such as digital printing on fabric, laser engraving. Some of the finishing processes are mechanical or chemical and can include techniques such as engraving, polishing, printing, anodizing, lacquering.

Digital fabrication has without doubt much to offer for contemporary craft practice and over time will get more important for the contemporary designer maker. By becoming more accessible digital fabrication has the potential to contribute significantly across the entire making processes.

To integrate these technologies with traditional tools the maker has to add the required digital skills to the tool set as well. Just about all cutting processes I mentioned are based on the ability to generate vector based drawings. These would require a basic knowledge of a software such as Illustrator.

To address rapid prototyping processes, one has to master a CAD program first. Typically this requires a much steeper learning curve until one is able to create a well-formed 3D computer model. However non of these skills can’t be learned (or taught for that matter).

Together with an increasingly fast, accessible internet and more user friendly web 2 services, digital fabrication is ready to be explored creatively.

Light objects for Art School Library, making

This post describes some technical and making aspects of the Light objects for the ANU School of Art library. You can read more about the design aspects here.

reading pit at ANU School of Art

During the making of these lights a mix of manual and digital fabrication processes have been used.  Brass and aluminium pieces have been laser cut while the translucent red elements had been rapid prototyped by ‘Rapid Pro‘ in Victoria, Australia.

The black curved arms are five 2.5mm layers aluminium, riveted together to create an inside channel concealing the cables up to the brass cylinder. They have been laser cut locally in Canberra by Acuform.  The cylinder forms a central hub from which four conical carbon fiber tubes stretch out and support two light heads on each lamp. The lights have a wingspan of 1.4 meter.

right of two light objects

Each light head has six one-watt LEDs. The LEDs are mounted on a decorative brass cooling plate (cut by Ponoko) and are cooled by a fan. The following parts had been used: LED ring with six one watt LED (LSP6-WW-XXX) and Controller/Driver (MDU9-SC-3570) from Future Electronics. All elements are enclosed by ABS housings. These housings are rapid-prototyped using translucent red FDM material from ‘Stratasys’.

Three views of the light head

Views of light head

The curved aluminium arm extent from the main brass fitting which is strapped onto the existing column with an aluminium strip. This strip has custom brass connectors to adjust the tension of the strapping.

Main bracket and centre bracket

The electronics – led drivers and fan power supplies – are placed inside the void between the column and the main brass fitting. The 12 volt fans are driven by 6 volt power-supplies letting them run without developing noise. Before the installation the lights had been tested for several days.

Light objects for Art School Library, design

In December 2009 I installed two light objects in the library at the ANU School of Art. Please find a post about the making of these lights here.

reading pit at ANU School of Art

These two lights provide four ‘highlighted’ spots for reading or lab top use within the reading pit. The design intent was to connect the space inside the glass walls of the reading pit with the surrounding architecture. The objects themselves should have a mechanical but yet organic feel to them. I used the two columns on either side of the reading pit as anchor points from which the lights reach over the seating area in a ‘branch and twig’ fashion. All brass parts of these lights – being cylinders of sorts – referring to these columns. The lights are lightly strapped to the columns highlighting their light weight construction. The colours have been limited to Brass (gold), black and red.

right of two light objects

The lights are made of aluminium (powder coated black), brass, carbon fiber tubes and LEDs.

one of four light heads

one of four light heads

The designs on the glass panels and on the fabric on the cushions are by Annie Trevillian. Many thanks also to Irene Hansen (head librarian) and Murray Napier for their support of this project.

Production of exhibition catalogue made easy

While sorting photos of a recent exhibition using iPhoto on an Apple Mac I explored the ‘book’ option in this free software. After selecting one of the many layout templates it was easy to populate the pages with images. The basic image editing tools in iPhoto also helped to improve the look of the pictures significantly. After tweaking the templates and adding the images and some text, I only needed to press the ‘buy’ button and through my Apple account the prove of my catalog was on its way to be printed. This is just another example of a web2 based production method.

iPhoto-book-highlights-09

iPhoto book interface

The price of about $25 (Australian) for each copy is good if one needs only a few copies instead of hundreds to make a traditional print-run viable. I also used a pdf export of this catalog to get 20 copies printed locally, the price was comparable but the quality of the ‘Apple’ print was superior. You can download (500KB) a low res pdf of this catalog.

I have now a lasting document that helps with promoting my work and a little giveaway for everyone who supported my work. In the process I also registered as a publisher and this booklet has an ISBN. This might sound like a lot of effort for a little 30 page publication, but this catalog documents my recent ‘highlights‘ exhibition, which in turn represented the outcome of an intensive period of research and work as part of my professional practice.

web 2 and distributed manufacturing for designer – maker

Based on web 2 technologies, a growing variety of production processes are becoming easily accessible for anyone.
An online interface makes highly specialized technologies available. Once you setup your account, payment and shipping options are selected you can start producing and in some cases have access to a network of like-minded users or potential customers.
Companies like Ponoko (laser cutting and engraving), RedEye (Rapid Prototyping) and blurb (bookmaking) can successfully contribute to a designer/maker practice. A competent level of computer skills are required to address these services to achieve the best outcome. For waterjet or laser cutting, which are essentially two dimensional processes, of flat or sheet materials the mastery of a vector-based graphics program like Adobe Illustrator is essential. To use the RedEye ‘factory of the future’ one needs to generate a .stl file of a virtual 3D object that had been modeled in a CAD program.
The underlying specialized technology, for a long time the domain of the manufacturing industry, is expensive and usually out of reach of a single craft practitioner. If acquired, such equipment would ‘tie’ the individual maker to this technology for a long time and introducing a high level of risk to their business. Not to mention high running cost and that these digitally based technologies become obsolete within a few years.

desk lamp head

I have used several of these processes while designing and making the ‘desk light‘, it has a waterjet cut stainless steel plate, a lasercut lamp shade (Ponoko) and Rapid Prototyping parts. Using these technologies has led the design process to new solutions and made the making of this light relatively easy.

Preparing for Highlights, 3

Further to my last blog, Preparing for Highlights, 2.
Yesterday, my first Ponoko laser cut pieces arrived and it was worth waiting for. After peeling off the protective sheet, that still showed the impact of the laser’s heat, clean clear pieces popped out of the cut Perspex sheet. I had used the clear 2mm thick Perspex material out of Ponoko’s material catalogue.

Peeling off the protective layer

Peeling off the protective layer

The edges are clean and appear almost polished and do not show, as I had expected, some ‘burn’ marks. As Ponoko suggests in their ‘starter kit’ the dimensioning of interlocking pieces might need a bit of fine-tuning, I found that while having a good fit the slots I had designed have been a bit too wide. This will be easily fixed in Illustrator, as I have in mind to get more of the same parts cut in different colours for further variations of this lamp.

close up of the lamp's head with heatsinks for Led's

close up of the lamp

These parts form the ‘head’ of the desk-lamp for which I had already made all other parts. The assembly was straight forward as everything, the rapid prototyped and laser cut parts fitted very well together. I used sandpaper to make the surface of the parts opaque as the clear was ‘too’ transparent. Now the LED’s make the whole head light up.

Prototype put together

Prototype put together

Opaque surfaces

Opaque surfaces

I am very pleased about the straight forward way Ponoko’s system enables me to include precision cut pieces as part of my designs. Living in Australia made it a three week turn-around-time which was somewhat testing. But I already look forward to the next shipment with parts that will combine laser cutting with laser engraving. Ponoko has great instructional videos about this on their site.


images of work

More Photos

categories