Posts Tagged 'digital'

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

Wall Vessels, 3D object from 2D sheeting

Wall Vessels are a new series of objects formed by combining digital and manual processes. These objects are both utilitarian and decorative and are more then 600mm long and about 450mm wide. Please find more images on my web site here.


I design the CNC engraving patterns and save them as digital files, these in turn control the CNC router’s path. The machine cut pattern then guides the manual deformation of the sheet into a 3d object. Using composite aluminium panel, this high performing material is lightweight, durable and colourfast, making it suitable for creating lasting individually designed works. Aluminum Composite Panel is best described as a sandwich panel consisting of a Polyethylene core sandwiched between two aluminum sheets with the entire panel consisting of three layers.

I am interested in experimenting with the surface treatment, as the appearance will translate this material from industrial back to the manually formed and finished object.

A paper folded ‘sketch’ object serves as a mock-up. The creases in the paper are translated into a digital vector drawing in Illustrator and saved as .eps file. This file is then used for the CNC router.

CAD to gold-plated stainless steel

Web-based fabrication has gotten even more exciting with a new material/process offered through the Ponoko system. Getting computer models ‘printed’ in 3D using online rapid prototyping processes is established but having the CAD parts arrive in stainless steel with a gorgeous rich gold coat is quite something.

ponoko stainless steel gold-plated parts

This new material/process is offered through the US hub and is equally as easy to order as the 2d laser-cutting service. I found that dimensions ‘shrink’ slightly eg holes I had modeled as 3.9 mm turned out to be 3.4 mm in the finished parts. Being mostly stainless steel (with some bronze wicked into it) it proved very difficult to drill the holes to the right size. High speed drill bits (even titanium tipped) are blunt after drilling only 6mm deep. Reducing the speed from the recommended 1000 rpm to a third helped to improve their staying power slightly. I look forward to the carbon-nitride drill bit I ordered to finally finish the job.

These parts are for a new light using a mix of digitally fabricated and manually made elements. The ‘gold’ parts are intented to connect carbon fiber rods forming the main structure of the design.

design sketch and wire model

A post about a post

What goes round, comes round. I was surprised to find my post ‘True digital art on iPad by David Hockney‘ almost word for word as well as image for image re-posted and littered with advertising by ‘theproductjudge’. As this post was intended as a thank-you to David Hockney’s for his generosity, I am frustrated by this syndication, code for rip-off. Frustratingly they even ripped-off my title and achieved swiftly a much higher Google ranking.

David Hockney iPad drawings

David Hockney iPad drawings

However, my blog stats  suddenly increased as one of my images showing David Hockney’s drawings on iPads has gone up in Google’s ranking – number 4 if one searched ‘David Hockney iPad’ – due to this appropriation.

David Hockney iPad google hit 4th image

4th image on Google for David Hockney iPad

Similar to this but legit: Martyn Gayford wrote online about Hockney’s current exhibition of iPad drawings in Paris, days later this text was printed – ink on paper – in the ‘Canberra Times’ including the image of me with the iPads taken at an earlier event at ANU School of Art.

So, what ever is available can reappear in many forms. I just would have liked to been asked before someone uses my words and images (intellectual property) and tries to make a commercial gain.

True digital art on iPad by David Hockney

This post is to thank David Hockney for making available two of his recent iPad drawings to my teaching program at the School of Art at the Australian National University.

David Hockney iPad drawings

David Hockney iPad drawings

We celebrated these impressive drawings, which are in every sense true digital art works, as part of Core Computer Studies lecture to our 1st year students and guests. I decided to display these works on two Apple iPads, the very platform/media they were created on.

Lelde, Gordon Bull (Head of School) and I

David Hockney drew them during his stay at Glyndebourne, a 700-year old country house and opera house in East Sussex, England. There he recreated the stage-set for the opera ‘The Rake’s Progress’ by Stravinsky . Looking closely at these drawings  one gets a sense of this location.  The drawings titled: ‘iPad 6 8 2010’ & ‘iPad 7 8 2010’ were sent as email attachments on 21 August 2010.

With David Hockney iPad drawings, photo Karleen Minney

With David Hockney iPad drawings, photo Karleen Minney

I like to thank Martin Gayford, critic for Bloomberg News, for kindly forwarding my emails to David Hockney. I also like to thank Tristan Peemoeller from MAC1, Greg Aldridge and Barbara McConchie for their support, to make the presentation of these works possible.

This event was picked up by the news, please read more here.

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.

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.


images of work

categories