The wait is over.
Two weeks can be a long time…if you are waiting for certain 3D printed items to arrive. Prototyping the Boxjellyfish in its actual material for the first time is exciting and also entails working on some improvements. But that’ll be part of the next post. This one will be an assessment of the prints and services and possible future changes.
Small reminder: the Boxjellyfish consists of two parts: a 1 × 1cm box and a 2cm long fine metal pendant. Here is a spec image in Autodesk’s Fusion 360.
In my last post I talked about the initial 3D print in plastic done in Berlin’s Fab Lab. See the image below:
The parts fitted just right so the next step was to get a proper print. The box in a transparent resin and the tentacles-pendant in a brass make.
I researched some printing stations in Berlin to keep it local, but their quotes were just impossible for this little prototype. However, as I know my fellow Germans, the printing quality would’ve been excellent.
3D Hubs is a great platform to search nearby print stations – first upload file, then you choose your location + range and lastly the desired material. Disclaimer: the material selection didn’t include metal printing, meaning I had to look up another printing platform for the brass tentacles.
Again, the Berlin print hubs were quite pricey so I went for one in the Netherlands.
Box 1: Printplaat.
First one to arrive! “Printplaat”, found through 3D Hubs were super friendly, quick, and accurate. I received my delivery beginning of September, only about a week after ordering. This is what I unwrapped:
I separated the important variables into sections for an easier read.
Mechanics: does the plastic pendant fit? YES, IT DOES! Does the brass pendant fit? PARTLY.
The two plastic types were rather soft, hence adjusting to each other. This was partly the case when the brass pendant arrived. The box soft resin hole adjusted to the stiff & strong brass screw, making for a snug fit. However, there is also a vacillation in the pendant’s screw size. One of them is a tiny bit smaller than the other but already provides gravity with a job.
Appearance: The box has the most important effect I was going for – transparency! Of course, the print lines are visible, but that is a given. The resin is a bit yellow-ish, though in comparison to the other boxes, the second clearest one.
Wearability: I transported the box in a velvet bag and the fabric dust stuck onto the lines. Not a great look if you want to wear the Boxjellyfish as earrings or a necklace (would even hurt the clothing you’re wearing). If I would try to polish and soften the surface of the box, the transparent effect would be gone.
Product (2 boxes): 28,25€
Box 2: i.materialise.
This is a well-known service in the 3D printing world. You can easily upload your file and get the quote instantly. I ordered the two boxes, but got a refund after an hour. Apparently, the 3d file cannot have two separate shells, so no pairing up allowed. Adjustment done, file uploaded, one box in line for production. This was better anyways – I only needed one box for testing. Thanks, i.materialise, this saved me some money!
If I want to picky: The display of the quotes could be more user friendly, in my opinion. I like the Shapeways instant quote page. It is clearly organised on one long scrolling page, to easily compare prices and colours.
Also the upload of one item/shell per file could be a negative for displaying jewellery or anything that has two parts to complete the set. But I would have to check out the shop system on i.materialise first, before I can make this a valid point.
Mechanics: Does the pendant fit into the resin box?
Plastic pendant fit: Almost, but with a lot of pressure.
Brass pendant fit: Half-way.
As I made the holes and screw size equal measurements it is just natural, for a really hard material not to fit. This speak for the properties of the resin i.materialise used. The material is stiff & strong and does not adjust to the pendant.
Appearance: Really great shine and looks like a glas material. Clear and transparent, just as I pictured it to be. However, the inside walls were not cleaned properly/had print marks left, resulting in three sides to be cloudy. I tried cleaning them with wet sandpaper and resin cleaner as suggested on formlabs, but that made it worse. Probably used the wrong technique?
Wearability: The resin stays clear and does not collect dust. Would be great for daily use. But is this resin without toxins?
Product (one box): 43.67€
Box 3 & 4: Sculpteo.
Ah, Sculpteo. Also a big entity in the 3D printing world and the only ones in Europe to offer the new 3D printing technology CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production)! I had to order a box (no. 4) made from this technology, even though it was not what I was looking for appearance-wise. They are still testing the material I wanted. The one I finally chose is called cyanate ester, some sort of heat resistent stuff, amber in colour and transparent. Quite costly (50€ – unpolished & ca. 130€ polished), so I went for the unpolished version. I ordered box no. 3 in transparent resin to compare it with the other services.
The CLIP version was supposed to take 3 weeks, the resin 1.5 weeks. Unfortunately, the first box they’ve sent was wrong in shape and material. Strange things must have happened to my file in the production. See for yourself below:
??? Spot the mistake…
Luckily, Sculpteo has a great customer service. I got a reply within the 24 hours they advertised and got the reference number for a re-print. It arrived together with the cyanate ester box.
Mechanics: does the pendant fit?
Plastic pendant: yes
Brass pendant: partly, I had to squeeze it in but extremely difficult to get out.
Appearance: Similar to Printplaat’s print. A little more yellow-ish in its colouring.
Wearability: Same as Printplaat’s.
product (one box): 7.20€
shipping: 12€ (6€ – shared cost with cyanate ester box even though they came separately)
Finally. THE new technology I am so thrilled about. CLIP has found its way into my hands – this is so exciting! Check out the images and analysis below.
Mechanics: Does the pendant fit?
Plastic Pendant: No
Brass Pendant: No
This is really the most accurate print. The hole, which I designed threaded to fit in the screw of the pendant, actually has this minute feature.
Appearance: So, yes, it is not the colour I wanted, though I am very pleased with the look whenever its polished (first image in this section). And it compliments the colour of the brass nicely. I might wait till the clear & transparent resin is out of the test run and see how that works out.
Wearability: Once I polished the surface, the dents were off. It also gathers no dust, even if unpolished. I used sandpaper and plastic cleaner to give it a nice finish.
total with Box 3: 73.20€
Group photo of the Boxes.
Brass Pendant: Shapeways.
The pendant arrived mid September. It is super tiny and looks fragile. I’ve plugged it in and out of the boxes and carried it in the fabric bags…the little thing keeps on going strong. Check it out:
Mechanics: The pendant’s screw is that detail that makes or breaks it. I accessorised it threaded, but those don’t show at all (too fine of a detail for metal printing). The top is now totally dependent on the accuracy of the diameter, so that it just plugged in the box. Unfortunately, they are differently sized. Meaning, I can rely on each print to be with ±0.2mm vacillation. Puh, this is not a great realisation at first. On the second thought though, it is helping me to learn and adjust those constraints. Back to work!
Appearance: The colour is how I imagined it. Nice golden tone and beautiful shine. One detail is a little dissatisfying though. The tentacles are not parallel to each other – they all grow and gather into one point it appears. I assume, this was probably the only way this fine detail printing works. If this grows in size the detail might work. Test runs are in order!
Wearability: For now, the pendant is withstanding heavy pulling and touching. The brass will probably start getting antique look after a lot of touching, but that is a given. Brass is a typical jewellery material, so the common customer will know about its characteristics.
Product (both pendants): 26.95€
I feel like I am doing a lab report here. Luckily, it’s not schooling, but education.
What are the consequences after trying out all those boxes? Well, for once I know, that I need to change the mechanism that holds the pendant. So no matter what the size of the pendant and hole, that thing stays in. Also, to make it into a customisable product with minimal investment and no buying in bulk, the current variables need to be consistent. I want to re-direct my customers to my Shapeways shop from where they can buy the pendant directly. This would eliminate overproduction, making space for the products and me spending my savings.
The issue of ordering on demand is the long waiting time for the customer and the complicated ordering system. Also, not every 3D printing service offers both transparent resin and brass together and is to the quality that I want. It would be a nuisance to open my own shop on many platforms. Logistics are a problem here!
I want the end price for the customer to be a max. of 50€. The pendant will most likely be around 30€ and the box(es) around 30 – 40€. That is already 70€ in production cost without me getting a share for my design. This is not effective. Other options would be to invest in the bulk production of the resin boxes. This could be funded through Kickstarter, but then a complete set with box and pendants is more appealing. I see more stock coming my way.
As you can see, a simple 3D end-to-end production is not working for this design… yet.
Another factor to consider: the body and environment. Are those materials toxic? Especially the resin: is it safe to have on skin? Is it harming the environment? Some important questions!
There are probably plenty more variables to think about. But this post is getting lengthy, and I am tired of writing. Ciao for now!