Blog by Gemma Downey; Design Credit by Nicole Niland; Solidworks Recreation by Chris Richter
As an engineer I have many non-engineer friends, so I am always trying to impress them with something related to my work. It’s no secret that 3D Printing touches everyone in more ways than they know, particularly when it comes to designing jewelry.
My college roommate, Suzanne, sent me a picture of a 3D printed necklace one of her friend designed and printed at Philadelphia University, which was pretty incredible.
I would love to print this myself, but I didn’t have the artist’s designs and I have minimal 3D CAD experience. Luckily, I have access to multiple 3D printers in our service bureau as well as engineers with years of experience in Solidworks. The first thing I did was save the file and bump up the contrast on the above picture so that I could trace the outline (I later filled the empty space in with black for optimal contrast):
Solidworks has a trace feature that allows you to import a photo and the software can trace it and turn it into a 3D CAD file. It will turn these shapes into printable “STLs,” which are 3D CAD files divided into many thin layers that get sent to a 3D printer to be laid down one at a time.
Chris Richter, our head of technical support here at R&D Technologies, viewed my drawing, saved the shapes as STLs and gave the parts depth. I only needed to draw one half of the necklace, which allowed Solidworks to mirror the image, creating both the left and right halves of the necklace.
Chris nested the STL files together to optimize print time. I wanted a smooth white necklace and our Polyjet 3D printers afforded me the ability to do so. Stratasys Polyjet printers produce a high-resolution acrylic plastic part. Polyjet sprays a liquid resin onto the build tray that is cured with UV light. See the part below encased in support material to support the edges as the printer built upwards.
Polyjet support material crumbles off the part like a waxy cheddar cheese and in this case it is removed most efficiently with a water jet that blasts off the remaining support material. Check it out above:
Once the parts were printed and support materialcleaned (which probably took a total of an hour for everything), all that was left to do was the link the parts together with some craft store hardware and ribbon and voila! My own custom 3D-printed necklace!
This just proves how if you can imagine it, it can be created, even without design experience!