Meet the makers of the NTH Synth, following their successful Kickstarter campaign
This mouth-wateringly good looking machine is the NTH Synth, a product that was recently crowd-funded on Kickstarter. I interviewed the guys behind NTH Synth about DIY electronics, designing for Ponoko, and how to get your crowd-funding campaign to stand out from the crowd.
Meet the makers of the NTH Synth, following their successful Kickstarter campaign
SF Bay Area – a Design Inspiration for little and big thingsWe’re used to seeing locations and landmarks serving as inspiration for design and art around us. Think how much influence the Eiffel Tower, for example, or anything NY has had on so much of the styling we are exposed to. As a designer you may be particularly influenced by design styles of places you’ve travelled to or your own city that you commute through every day. One US designer has chosen his place of residence – San Francisco as a catalyst for his creative endeavours.
David Nichols of Dotmatrix Design takes major inspiration from various infrastructure and industry around the Bay Area. Conveniently located in same area, Ponoko has helped shape his creative process. David’s first project was a human scale model of SF Sutro Tower, “a local landmark TV tower that pokes through the fog of the city most days of the year”. He had the tower CNC routed out of plywood, and it will be making its way to Maker Faire next month as part of the Ponoko display.
David likes the challenge of using interlocking to produce 3D objects out of 2D shapes, so laser cutting and CNC routing are his ideal precision fabrication methods. He’d made a tiny model of the container cranes in the Port of Oakland and also laser cut maps of the Bay Area. Most of the objects he created are fabricated out of wood, either in plywood or composite form. Hardboard and MDF are some of David’s favourite materials to work with. The material choices allow for minimal finishing and easy assembly that doesn’t require adhesives.A few words from the designer after the jump:
The world of Chicago based digital artist Sophie Kahn is firmly embedded in 3D. Originally from Australia, Sophie trained as a photographer and came to perceive 3D scanning and 3D printing as post-photographic processes. Much of her work over the last eight years has revolved around these digital processes.
Initially Sophie used wax stereolithography for lost wax casting in bronze. More recently, she has been experimenting with full color 3D printing for which the digital model was generated using a laser scan and a photograph of a model. The final 3D print then requires sandblasting and sanding to create “the appearance of an unearthed ancient artifact.” The option of on-demand online fabrication has allowed the artist to experiment and test ideas quickly without much capital, whereas earlier work involved using large service bureaus that were often prohibitively expensive.
Sophie’s fabrication process is an involved one that expands beyond the computer screen and various scanning and printing technologies. 3D printing is often only an intermediate phase in creating the final art piece. The artist uses 3D prints for molds as part of wax casting or ceramic clip casting. She’s hoping to be able to 3D print in ceramic once it is possible to print larger objects. The goal is “to move away from plastic and towards more natural materials with longer histories”.
Double-take for double-sidedWhen Auckland jeweller Kirsten Turnbull discovered that she had a creative streak, she started looking for ways of making her products look professional. School craft fair aesthetics have their place in the world, but the goal was to move beyond that. After some extensive searching, Kirsten came across Ponoko and two years later she is still using the service to laser cut the bases for all her Cheek Pinchy jewelry.
Now instead of hand cutting balsa wood and then sanding and staining it, Kirsten opts for laser cut beech and bamboo which produce a cleaner finish and are generally much more durable and solid materials than the lightweight balsa. The shift to digifabbing has allowed the artist to extend her range to include necklaces, earrings, rings, cufflinks as well as the initial selection of brooches.At first glance, the jewelry pieces are a window into what could be termed as contemporary vintage elegance. The simple geometric shapes are adorned with nostalgic images taken from vintage books, often children’s (apparently no children are harmed in this exercise). These visually rich publications are what inspires Kirsten’s range, and she is always on the lookout for more.
The assembly process, as with most jewelry, requires patience. Kirsten adheres the selected images to the plywood bases and applies several glaze coats before attaching the findings.
One of the elements that differentiates Cheek Pinchy designs from many others, is the laser engraved design detail on the back of each piece. The patterns are intended to add another level of interest when the jewellery swings around.
Exploring form and space in 3D printed jewelryTexan designer Melissa Borrell has an interest in sculptural geometry, and the aesthetic is evident in much of her work. We’ve already featured some of her work on the blog. She’s certainly not new to digital making and has worked with fabricators on material experiments for various projects. Her work has been recognized by Enterpreneur magazine, where her company Melissa Borrell Design was named as one of the “100 Brilliant Companies to Watch” in 2010.
Currently Melissa uses Personal Factory as part of the fabrication process for her jewelry. Initially she experimented with laser cutting, producing a lace neckpiece out of felt. Most recently, her focus has been on creating 3D printed pieces that reflect a strong formalist approach. The jewelry is printed in Durable Plastic, then the pieces are dyed with fabric dye and finished with findings and sometime silver and gold elements. Melissa’s choice of the material is very deliberate:
I love it because I can create things that are too delicate to cast in traditional jewelry making techniques or make things that are linked or have moving parts that are made all in one piece. I think this is very exciting and has so much potential!
Stuff that makes you go really fast without leaving the house. Derek Speare designs and makes products for high performance virtual racing. The products are plug-in controls or control components to make you go extra extra fast, but without the unenviable price tag of physical motorsport. Virtual racing is probably how Stig stays on form after he’s had too many sweet mince pies over Christmas and can’t get into his white overalls.
The Tampa Bay business Derek Speare Designs takes the fabrication process very seriously using a combination of CNC milling, laser cutting, 3D printing and casting. So far Derek has made several component prototypes using Personal Factory and is currently perfecting the final production unit. The working components are machined and laser cut from ABS, Acetal HDPE, UHMW, Acrylic and 6061 aluminum alloys.
3D printing isn’t yet economical enough for creating final production parts, but it is an integral step in the overall fabrication process. Derek found that Rainbow Plastic is the optimum material for making master copies of various components. The 3D printed master parts are used to make silicone molds for casting the final production components from high performance urethane resin or making wax parts for the lost wax casting of metal production components.
Creating precision parts for a 1:6 scale model tank
Somewhere, in an unspecified location there lives and engineer known as Robbontherock. In his spare time this mysterious man enjoys tinkering – something that we’ve found to be a very common ailment in the Ponoko community.
Currently Robbontherock is building a 1:6 scale model of the British Army Challenger 2 recovery vehicle, aka CRARRV, which is probably a pretty convincing onomatopoeic abbreviation. The build has been an ongoing project for the engineer, with a multi-annual timeline you’d expect for the real thing.
So why a tank?
I have an interest in tanks since I was a little boy, I’ve always hated the violence aspect but loved the recovery vehicle variants, always felt they had more interesting features cranes, winches etc. this particular model started life as a challenger 2 which was made by Mark-1 tanks in the uk, it has since been heavily modified and now only shares the running gear as a common aspect between models.
The whole process is certainly about the thrill of the chase and not the final kill, excuse the war pun. The fun part is the building process and all the necessary working out of details that’s an inherent part of model making. Digital fabrication via CAD drawings can be time consuming, but it ensures precise fit of the components. Then there are the moving parts to resolve, such as the winch and the crane. The tank model is designed to be radio controlled, so the potential to mechanise the design adds a layer of complexity as well as interest. Once completed, the tank will, no doubt, be a popular show and tell piece for the progeny.
Check out the 3D printed parts after the jump:
Design passion is when design is both your day job and your after hours hobby.
By day, Colin is a Product Designer. Outside of work his occupation is never far away, but in a very dissimilar way to the mass production clockwork. When it comes to making stuff, his creative background isn’t exactly glue and popsicle sticks. Working for a large kitchen gadget manufacturer that creates mass-consumer products, Colin gets a serious daily dose of 3D printing and dealing with factories for mass manufacturing. In his spare time, his design persona is entirely different. Getting to design his OWN products, means the focus shifts to small scale, on demand fabrication, variety of [non-plastic] materials, and often, quite involved artisan finishing.
Colin’s designs have a strong overall graphic element and feature a clear emphasis on form using two-dimensional laser cut shapes. The laser cut products range from the Cuffmodern leather jewelry to homeware, such as clocks and vases made from bamboo. When it comes to his own designs, Colin prefers materials that age well: leather, brass, bamboo and wood. Time permitting, CNC routing is the next fabbing process to experiment with in the near future.
The slot-together homeware products are designed to require minimal finishing. The dyeing of the leather jewelry is more intensive in that regard, and Colin considers this part to be a soothing, hands on past time of tactile engagement, contrasted with the daily grind of eye watering digital work. The therapy of using hands on something other than the keyboard is something many makers can relate to.
More from Colin after the jump:
Bespoke stationary and gifts for weddings
I’ve been to a few weddings now, most of which have fallen into at least a “tolerable” category. You can always tell when it’s two designers getting married because when you’re not surrounded by decorations that scream “catalogue stock” at you. Luckily, for the majority of the couples, there are countless services that provide custom wedding designs. One such is Luxecuts™ from Kate Miller Events, which moves away from traditional print media, and instead specialises in wedding ornaments crafted from more solid materials.
Luxecuts products are fabricated using Ponoko Personal Factory and range from place cards to cake toppers, signage, table numbers and whatever else the couple may request. The Sacramento design boutique still prints some of the décor on paper, but the popularity of the more lasting mementos is gaining prominence. Prior to the availability of Ponoko’s on demand fabrication service, moving away from standard printing wasn’t an option for the company.The ornaments are laser cut and engraved from a wide range of materials, such as wood veneers, bamboo, metal and acrylic in various colors. The designs are inspired by textures and fonts, which become the starting point for a collection of elements. Once the final designs are cut, little finishing is required to create the end product. The final touches vary from the occasional painting or staining or adding a ribbon.
The challenge of working with scripted and glyph-heavy fonts when stenciling – it’s truly become an art working with the complicated paths.
Don’t let your use of making be limited to products already in use – reinvent and improve!
Winged pendants with a unique twistOn the Ponoko NZ HQ glory wall is an old article about a very talented New Zealand jeweller and sculptor Lisa Black. It’s up there because she lists Ponoko as one of her favourite things, and for extra brownie points, we love her work. In a slightly embarrassing light bulb moment, I discovered that Lisa uses Personal Factory to make ornate parts for her Gilded Butterflies collection of jewellery. The dots should have been joined considerably earlier.
Gilded Butterlies is a joint project between the Auckland artist and a graphic designer Dan Gordon. They create beautifully detailed hinged pendants with real butterfly wings, which are mounted on bamboo and then sealed with a protective layer of resin. For a number of years they have been using Personal Factory on regular basis to laser cut the bamboo wings and the brass hinges. It was the discovery of the online fabrication service that inspired them to create this line of jewellery. Initially Lisa came up with the butterfly concept, and the company spent years relentlessly testing a variety of prototypes and assembly processes. These are still continuously evolving.
The total process, from design to fabrication to assembly is very involved. The assembly is particularly delicate, and Lisa devotes hours to put together each piece of jewellery: prepping the wings, applying resin, waiting for it to cure and finishing the bamboo with linseed oil to enhance the grain and ensure durability. The butterfly wings are sourced from different farms and suppliers.Dan Gordon emphasises that their design consideration isn’t purely aesthetic:
I think people want unique, genuine artifacts in their lives, which translates to using natural and raw materials. Sustainability is paramount as well. Butterflies are a fantastically renewable source, and farming them for research, education and collection ensures many species survival, we are still picky about the ones we chose though.
A few more words from Dan after the jump:
Have you been surprised by anything in the PF process: One big positive is that there are no surprises with your orders. You are totally responsible for your designs and you can make the smallest iterations without incurring incurring any extra time or setup costs.
Do you have any tips for other makers? Our strategy is basically “Make unique things, build good relationships” and it seems to be working out ok.
Wooden materials have grain, with the bamboo it’s a very pronounced straight grain. If you are making something with multiple parts it’s worth bearing in mind that if you rotate your designs to fit more pieces into the template, the direction of the grain won’t match the other pieces. It might not matter depending on what you are making, but for us with two symmetrical wings, inconsistent direction of the grain is really obvious and a bit of a deal-breaker.