Adventures in space and time

3D printed personalized code rings, from failure to perfection.

Wow, little did I know what I was getting myself into, when I had this simple yet tingling idea last year :
Personally encoded rings using Braille, created using 3d printing.

Enthousiastic start
After gaining plenty of experience with the services at Shapeways, I was eager to try more the new 3d printed polished stainless steel (SS for short, brr, I’ll just call it : PSS)

The material seemed like the ultimate match for the code ring concept. Especially with the co-creation options offered. I got working on the first samples and really dived into it, on my first test run I went all out : Braille, Morse, binary, gray code. As I had no idea what to expect fr0m the PSS, I made them in all sorts and detail levels.

Under pressure
Meanwhile, I made a the idea and a few of the models public; ouch, should not have done that 😉
Almost instantly people contacted me and told me how much they loved the idea. Including Shapeways, who were so inspired they set up a whole Braille gallery ! And everyone kept asking : when are they ready.. show us pictures.. make me one..
OMG the pressure !

Expectation management
I was still waiting for the first batch to arrive myself. Due to all the attention, my expectations had run sky-high. And then it arrived.. Man was I disappointed.. Instead of the uber shiny rings of perfection I had envisioned by now, I got a bunch of metal scraps.. Well.. that’s not really true, but I was really bummed with the mismatch of expectation vs reality 😉

And with all the high hopes around, I was kinda ashamed to show the results..

Batch #1

Code ring Batch #1

This was one of the earlier steel batches, so the process was still highly experimental. The biggest problem was immediate : they hadn’t dared to polish them properly. In hind-sight, not a big surprise, the details (0.25 – 0.5 mm) turned out to be only a little larger than the rough printing resolution of the process, any decent polishing would destroy the surface detail. It’s not supposed to, but with the ring beings so tiny (diameter 18-22 mm, 3 mm wide and only 1.5 mm thick) I couldn’t blame them.
Not all was bad, the Morse through-hole rings came out wonderful 🙂

If at first you don’t succeed..
But I desired more perfection, so while my attention was drawn to other projects, I put this one in the fridge for a while.
Then beginning this year I figured the process had evolved enough to give it another go, but to be safe I tried a batch of 5mm wide 1.5 mm thick rings.

Batch #2 picture will come here 😉

I still was not entirely convinced on the braille ring, but the Morse rings turned out very well.
In the case of surface detail versions, polishing could still be a lot better.

More attention
The through hole version were ready for launch ! It was also a runner up in the co-creator contest !
Happy with at least the viable Morse rings, I put the rest in the fridge again.

Wax on, Wax off
Shapeways had been secretly experimenting (gotta love them) with high res wax materials! And they used the original braille ring as a test sample 🙂
And what made it even better : they send me one of the samples 😀

Braille ring, Wax vs Steel
Code ring Wax
Finally, the ring as it’s supposed to be ! The green wax material captures the true detail of the ring design.

Thank you Shapeways, it was a very nice surprise !

What now ?
Too bad, the material is not wearable, being wax and all. But it would be suited for lost-wax casting. Although I guess the fine detail might be too much. And unfortunately, I have no budget for testing lost-wax yet. But I will guard the wax ring closely until I do ! My precious !

And I was almost finished typing the blog here (took me only 1 month ahum) but then they really did it :


Silver Braille
Picture by Shapeways.

This is done with silver SLS, WOW !
The amount of details is amazing and I love that you can still see the hints of the printing process!

No news on cost yet, but I hope it will be available and affordable soon 🙂