lace pendant necklace

by lefroyobunny

In this week’s assignment, I continued to experiment with knit structures but in an untraditional sense. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a demo session by Felicia Davis (Design Computation-MIT) on 3d-print knit structures. During the demo, we used Rhino to model a knit structure which can be 3d printed. I became very interested in this method, and wanted to combine the 3d print idea with some of the work that other artists like Diana Eng does with textiles.

I started my design by visiting the Shapeways website to learn about the different materials and their properties. Most importantly, I need to find out the minimum thickness of the material that can be 3d printed, and the bed size of the 3d printers. The material properties, like flexibility and malleability, is also important, because it defines the wear-ablility of the jewelry. In the end, I chose to 3d print with the white, strong, and flexible in the color purple.

I started my design by creating simple modules that promise interesting, tessellation effects. For the module to become textile-like, it also needs to easily attach to itself. I experimented with several designs by first drawing lines, then rotating them in 3d space, and finally use the command “pipe” to give them thickness. The diameter of the module is 2 mm. It is unlikely that structures with alls <2mm in diameter can withstand the stress of wear and tear as jewelry, as explained to me in the tutorial section of the Shapeways website. Another important requirement is that the design must be a solid. This means that the structure must be fully closed on itself. A final piece of advice when creating 3d textiles is that each module can not intersect with one another in the structure. If they do, this will render the final product useless as a movable piece. It will be rigid where it intersects. I figured out a trick to speed things up in checking for intersections. Simply select the entire structure and type in the command “boolean union.” If meshes are created, that means there are intersecting modules. If not, then the design is good to go.

Originally, I designed a full necklace at a thickness of 0.9mm before I realized my mistake. If this structure survives the 3d printing and excavation, it will be “string-like”, and unwearable.

[rendering of first trial necklace]

I scrapped the original design, and started fresh, this time with the correct thickness for the walls. Below is a rendering of my favorite module.

During the design process, I didn’t really think about the cost. I had thought that the company would charge based on the amount of material in the final product, but it turns out that they charge based on the dimensions of an imaginary 3D box that can encase the design. Below is a render of my ideal 3D print necklace.

This structure would have costed me over $250 to print!

Of course, I don’t have this kind of money, so I had to downsize. Below is a smaller version of the necklace.

Still, this is too expensive. It would cost me $180.

I realize at this point that the amount of the necklace that I can print would be less than 1/4 of what I designed in Rhino.

This small section of my design cost me $90. 3D printing is extremely expensive, I learned. However, I look forward to receiving this little piece of art and wear it as a piece of my own design.

I have not received my order yet. It is scheduled to be delivered by the end of the day, May 1. If I’m lucky, it will get here before class! I will upload some pictures after I receive the product!


I finally received the 3D printed necklace! To make it wearable, I used strings of yellow leather strands to braid fishtail pattern on either side of the necklace.