Cloud 9, from on-screen to 3D print..

As a maker I believe it is important to explore the materials and techniques you are using, to enjoy the process, overcome obstacles and make new discoveries. In my final year at Duncan of Jordanstone, I wanted to make sure that I tried out new ways of making, ones that interest me and that I enjoy.

In Second year, we were introduced as a class to a Computer Aided Design programme (CAD) called Cloud 9, which is a 3D modelling software that allows you to create virtual objects (in my case jewellery) which can then be physically printed in 3D form.  Simple objects are provided on the programme which can then be manipulated/transformed using straightforward commands. The unique aspect of Cloud 9 is that it uses a Haptics device, which is like a 360 degree mouse, you can push, pull and turn the object, the fun part is that you can also ‘feel’ your object on the screen with this mouse. However brief this introduction to Cloud 9 was, I knew I wanted to explore it further or at least see what I could create on it through experimentation in 4th year. This was potentially a new and exciting tool I could use.

After a few months experience of using Cloud 9 in my final year, I would describe it as a ‘Virtual Sketchbook’.  The major advantage of using it I’ve found is that you don’t need to have an exact idea of what you’re going to make before you go to do it. There is an amount of freedom on there that you do not get with other CAD programmes thanks to the haptics.

My designs are based on microscopic spores from natural fungi – I’m interested in the idea of taking something organic and replicating this in synthetic material. I had been studying collections of mushrooms under the microscope, and thought I would re-create shapes reminiscent to these on Cloud 9 and 3D print these, however a lot of these shapes and designs are just created through ‘play’ too!

I’d do some simple sketches of the kind of thing I’d like to produce, using Cloud 9 gave me a better idea of how these designs would come together to form a solid object as it shows the object in 360 resolution and 3D. You can also create grid backgrounds which tell you in MM, CM or inches what size your object is.  With the 360 mouse you can go inside your object, and push the shape outwards, as well as pushing it inwards from the outside to form it.  You can ‘Boolean’ your objects which can join, or subtract an object or part of an object. You can also change the scale, add meshes and take away meshes (changes the surface area) on an object.

So far I have created an object which has been incorporated into a brooch, a large ‘mountainous’ looking ring and I have a brooch and another object which I’ll be 3D printing also. (See images below)

The transition from Cloud 9 to 3D print can be done in various ways, through a selection of 3D Print companies, such as Shapeways, (which is used regularly quite a few students at DOJ) I-materialise and Sculpteo. The materials you can choose to print your models in vary from nylon to silver, ceramics to glass, and the price depends on the size and mass of your object and whichever material you choose. The prices also depend on which company you choose to print through so it’s always good to compare prices by going onto their websites and uploading your objects (which is free, you just need to register with them).

I printed my pieces out with an UP printer, which was available to me through the college. This particular 3D printer prints out objects in nylon. On the computer you have a screen which will show the UP printer’s ‘bed’ on which the object will be made. You upload your Cloud 9 STL file onto the screen and place it on the ‘bed’. Press ‘print’ and that’s your job done- the UP calculates your object in layers, once it has done this, the reel of nylon on the side of the printer will be slowly melted into the ‘pen’ on the printer; this ‘draws’ the layers of your model onto the printer bed, exactly. However as you might think, if you draw straight onto the bed with the nylon, the object would be flat on the bottom; not only does the printer calculate the layers of your model, but it works out a scaffolding first of all which supports the model. So it begins with the scaffolding building up small meshes and then builds your model layer by layer. It also tells you on-screen the time it will take your model to be made.  My models were about 4x4 inches and took just under two hours for example.

Once the model is completed, the bed needs to be left to cool, before gently prising the model off.  I am very pleased with the quality of my models; you can see each individual layer which I think look a little like latitude lines. The scaffolding on the model can be easily sawn off and gently cleaned up with a file.

How to ‘finish’ my pieces was a tough decision, I knew I wanted to work back into them though to make them my own. I had thought about dyeing the models natural/ neutral colours, but I needed to do more research into that- dylon does not work on nylon folks! However I thought flocking them would be appropriate to create tactile pieces luckily we have a ‘flock department’ in the college and there were some natural colours which I could use.

After flocking the nylon models I worked in silver granulation to vary the texture and just give it them a little bit of a ‘precious’ feeling.  The flock gives them a tactile quality and I also think they now look more like growing, living little creatures!  My hope is that viewers will want to touch/play with my jewellery, be curious and a little unsure of what to expect.

Here are some photos of Cloud 9 screenshots, models and finished pieces..