Model Lindsay Ellingson wears a pair of 3D printed wings
If you've tuned in to the recent 2013 Victoria's Secret Fashion show, you might have noticed one particularly impressive set of snowflake-like wings (see picture above), which were designed by Bradley Rothenberg and printed by the 3D printing service Shapeways. Although somewhat extreme, this example demonstrates the flexibility and freedom this technique can offer in the hands of talented artisans. Last week,we featured the work of Dario Scapitta, a talented jewellery designer from the Netherlands, who is embracing 3D printing as one of his main approach to design and fabricate his pieces. We wanted to know more about this movement, as it is clearly something that is gaining more popularity these days. Without further ado, let's jump right in with our questions to Dario...
Hello Dario, can you tell us about yourself and what inspires you?
I was born in Valenza, Italy, the capital of Italian of goldsmiths and jewellery design. All my family was involved in the jewellery and goldsmith field, this is why I'm always thinking that I was destined to became a jewellery designer. I've also studied set and custom design at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan, the city where I've met fashion and where I've started to be interested in design.
I'm inspired by everything that is surrounding me, especially nature. It is amazing to see how many suggestions the nature is able to give, a lot of details waiting to be transformed in something wearable. I'm also inspired by arts, fashion, architecture, a designer has just to be curious and will find inspiration everywhere.
You've designed jewellery using traditional materials such as silver and steel, what gave you the idea to start using 3D printing for making jewellery?
I was thinking to experiment with new materials and I thought that 3D-printed nylon was the best choice. I like its properties, the material's texture and its lightness, perfect if you decide to use it for jewellery. 3D printing allows you to experiment with materials; you can print some prototypes before deciding which material to use and of course it is the best way to start your own production if you are an independent designer. I'm now focused on trying to combine 3D printed materials with fabric, leather or different "traditional" materials.
Can you describe the main steps and tools required to design and produce 3D printed jewelry?
3D printing is just a part of the process, and for me is actually just a new way to produce my creations. First of all you need an idea, your inspiration and concept, then I make some sketches on paper to fix the concept and try to visualize the object. At this point I'm starting to work on my pc using a 3D software which allows you to model lines and surfaces having a 3D virtual model of your concept.
As soon as the modelling process is complete, I render photo realistic pictures of the model in order to test colours and materials and have a better idea of the final result. If the 3D model is complete, it can then be printed on a personal home printer or using one of the 3D printing services like "i.materilise", "Shapeways", "Sculpteo" and many other.
BLACK ROSE necklace design process
I do not have a home 3D printer, personally I do not like the quality and the properties of the material they are using; I'm usually working with the 3D printing services that I've mentioned before because they can offer high quality service and a high range of different materials, such as nylon, stainless steel, ceramic and many more.
A&A wedding rings holder design process
What are the main challenges?
You need actually a good know-how of 3D modelling, most of the people think that to have 3D printed object you need just to press "print" and that's it. It is not like this, a 3D printer is just waiting for the informations that have to be printed. Behind a 3D printed object there is much more, there is a concept, there are 3D modelling skills and first of all there should be creativity. 3D printing is a an amazing technology, but sometimes it passes a wrong message, for example that 3D printing is just a way to REproduce things instead of creating amazing new objects.
Are there things you can do with 3D printing that couldn't be achieved through standard jewelry techniques?
As already mentioned before, 3D printing is an a amazing technology that allows you also to create things that are not normally possible with traditional methods and techniques. You can create very intricate forms and shapes in one piece, without adding any post production finishing. This technology is growing every day, materials and print quality are improving. A simple example is that you can create interlocked parts (like a chain) in a single piece; this allows you to create movable objects without connecting any parts in post-production. When this will also be possible with metal, you can imagine how many possibilities there will be. 3D printing technology has been used in the jewellery field for more that 15 years as part of the production, especially to create prototypes and samples for the final production.
Is nylon the only material that can be used for 3D printing?
Of course not. As mentioned above, the range of the materials is very big and the 3D companies are testing new materials every day. I've started also to experiment with a rubber-like material, in collaborations with "i.materialise", a Belgium based 3D company, material that I've used to create my EXTRAVAGANZA concept collection. This material is very flexible like rubber and it was the perfect choice for this kind of designs. The first prototypes were printed in nylon but they were much too stiff and not easy to wear but in the rubber-like material they are more flexible and comfortable to wear. I like also the stainless steel material, I love its rough look which seems handmade.
How are customers reacting to your nylon-based creations?
They are always surprised about how light and comfortable the material is. People also like the feeling when they are touching it, the smoothness of it. Sometimes they think it's very fragile, but it is not. It is always important for me to receive feedback from my customer, it is absolutely necessary to improve quality.
Are the economics interesting for you versus working with precious metals?
Of course investing in alternative materials is actually easier than investing in precious materials like gold, platinum or silver, especially when the prices of these materials is increasing a lot. One advantage on working with 3D printing is that you can produce your designs on demand, without investing in huge stock. In this case every piece can be made just when ordered. However, as a jewellery and fashion designer, I'm not focused on 3D printed materials, I will test new materials and even combine them with 3D printing.
What kind of innovation should we expect in this field for the next few years?
The innovation process is already started for the manufacturing world. Especially industrial design and fashion are really involved with this technology and the big companies are testing and working on new possibilities and aspect. We are already
to talk about 4D technology, that is a 3D printed object able to move by itself. Especially for jewellery the challenge will be on improving the quality of 3D printed objects directly printed in metal (like gold and silver) or the possibility to have metal interlocked objects. First there was the Industrial revolution, then the Internet revolution, now we are talking about the Manufacturing revolution, people will be able to print a chair, a ring or a piece of their car at home. It's just a question of time.
Who are you other favorite designers of 3D printed jewelry?
Above all, I love the amazing work of Iris van Herpen, a Dutch fashion designer that is using 3D printing technology to create amazing and wonderful haute couture collections. I love her inspiring way to use the technology mixed with traditional manufacturing methods and other materials, it is an explosion of creativity. This is what I would like to create in jewellery, designing pieces where the technology is part of the creation process but is hidden by the creative mix of materials used.
Wilderness Embodied 3D printed dress - July 2013, Paris Haute Couture week
I would like to thank Dario for his participation to this interview. Please let me know if you'd like to see more interviews like this with other talented designers! Love. S.