Parametric Dreams is a new space we've opened specifically for early entrepreneurs and students to share their stories and projects involving Parametric Design. Every world-renowned designer was once a student and we believe every student dream deserves to be heard!
Jacob Blitzer is an American computational designer that, as many reading this blog, fell in love with Parametric Design years ago. He decided to do something about it so he started his Coronate Project, an experiment involving a parametric rings and his will to sell them whatever it took!
I was introduced to Rhino 4 in late 2010, in my first year at Architecture School. I stuck with Rhino alone for four years, and only ever opened up Grasshopper once or twice. It was well known that Grasshopper was how students created the "crazy" designs, but I had little interest in it at the time.
It wasn't until the summer of 2016, when I was working to create customized 3D printed eyewear for children, when I realized that the only way I could bring this to life was through Grasshopper. So, I shut myself in my apartment for a few months and binged on YouTube tutorials until I had a working definition.
Turning Parametric Design into a viable business is something that I have been working on in some form or another since 2014. I've looked into doing it online, or as part of an ophthalmologists office, but Coronate was the first time it actually worked. It is more difficult that people would imagine to correctly present a parametric design as something to buy, rather than some sort of technical marvel.
If a system like Coronate can be broken down into smaller component bits, there is really nothing special. There is UI/UX Design, Branding, Computational Design, Fashion Design, Supply Chain Management, and 3D Printing... all disciplines where professional expertise already exists. The challenge is being able to seamlessly connect all these parts into a cohesive and appealing product. ShapeDiver and its integration with Shapeways will enable a much wider range of designers to experiment with selling parametrically configured products.
The Coronate designs were finished by The 14th Factory's exhibit. Initially I set out to create rings that really took advantage of the geometric freedom afforded by 3D printing, and these designs would emulate some of Simon Birch's more complex designs from the show (which were also 3D printed). But I eventually ended up taking inspiration from the traditional crowns, which were carved by hand from wood and marble, and looked almost like what a child's drawing of a crown would look like.
There are a few things I would definitely change. First of all, I wouldn't do rings again! Rings are difficult to size properly, and dealing with returns and complaints wasn't something I enjoyed. I would spend a lot more time on the physical display and promotional materials, and would have more sample products on hand. But I would leave the core of Coronate's operation unchanged, though I would consider having a version of the platform available via ShapeDiver.
3D Printing is beginning to evolve from a prototyping technology to something that belongs on the factory floor. Formlabs, Ultimaker, and Desktop Metal have all released case studies outlining the use of the technology at least for jigs or fixtures, and even in production runs. Use of CAM technologies will really explode once the software/hardware can deliver on the promise of "free complexity", and reduce the effort required to design, test, and fabricate parts made with said technologies. nTopology, for example, is offering optimization software that makes use of 3D printers' ability to make lattice structures.
Honestly, I think the hardware used at the moment is fine. You get a lot of bang for your buck in 2018 if you're looking to buy a 3D printer. Smarter machines and software that reduce failure will foster a willingness for consumers and businesses to rely on CAM. But that's not as much fun as tinkering!
I'm not sure! I've created two potential Coronate successors in the past year which are much more polished, and tried to set up a supplier for the output; someone to print, cast and ship the items that would be ordered. I've also spent an enormous amount of time on the lengthy write-up that I posted on my website, which is actually an abridged version of the document I created to analyze the successes and failures of my time running Coronate. So I definitely want to do this again.
But I keep my ear very close to the ground for new from the 3D Printing community, and 2018 hasn't disappointed. Between announcements from Diabase Engineering, Prusa Printer, and E3D, multi-material FDM printing seems destined for big things, and there is a lot that I'd like to do to exploit these capabilities!
You're more than welcome! And please, don't forget to check my write-up of this six-week experiment I conducted for Coronate! I learnt a lot along the way, and would like to share my experiences with anyone else looking to sell Parametric Designs in person.
That's it for our fourth episode of Parametric Dreams! Would you like to be featured in this space? Make sure to contact us! Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your work!