You have a very unique product, describe your process a bit?
Many of these knot patterns have been around forever and these are just my take on them. Others, such as my leaf pendant, are original. For my original ones I might see a shape that I like or that means something to me. I figure out how to make it into a knot pattern. Once I have a sketch I can start to 3D model it. Once the basic 2D shape is modeled I extend it into 3D and make the interwoven pattern. This can take time to make sure the pattern is nice and uniform and smooth. Once I have a model done then I have to check the integrity to make sure it can be 3D printed. Sometimes I do have to revise or start over if it cannot be made or is not turning out how I had hoped.
How do you get a piece of metal jewelry from a 3D printer?
Some of the metals are made with 3D printing. They have a powdered metal that is sintered together for their stainless steel material. Then it is hardened and plated with gold or bronze or whatever you want. The other metals such as brass, bronze, silver and gold are first 3D printed in wax. Then they make a mold and cast it, then polish it. But the fact that they had so many metals available and for reasonable prices is one big thing that drew me to Shapeways.
Besides jewelry, what else have you created?
When I first discovered Shapeways I tried a little bit of everything. I designed vases, toys, and prototype products for people. One was a prototype tool. I did experiment with the Celtic knots at some point and people really liked it. So I decided to focus on that.
There are so many applications for 3D printing. Where do you anticipate this technology going in the next five years?
The area where there is a ton of innovation going on right now is on the modeling side. There are people who are creating apps that allow the user to personalize or customize their own product (check out Freakin' Sweet Knots or Monstermatic for two examples). They might have a basic model, or set of models you can start with. Then the app allows the customer to make a unique and custom product on their own without having to be a 3D modeling expert.
What are some of the limitations that you encounter?
The one we run into by far the most often is walls being too thin, or details being too fine. A number of my designs have gotten rejected as "unprintable" because one area or another was too thin for them to make. The printers continue to get better but for intricate details things can get fuzzy.
What would you like to design in the near future?
I have started designing a prototype of a "puzzle ring". If you aren't familiar with those, it's a ring that would contain 3 or more different shaped loops that would stack together in a certain way into a ring you can wear. I've seen these elsewhere and it seems like a fun challenge. For some materials, Shapeways could 3D print the loops already loosely interlocked together. You'd have to "solve" it in order to wear it.