How To Win Friends and Influence People with 3D Printed Gifts

My awesome and amazing friend, Julie Mollo, is a fun, flirty, retro fashion designer with the best, most distinctive personal style. One of her signatures is her equally fun and flirty arrow-and-initial logo. In the past, she’s had me laser cut some acrylic versions to wear as necklaces, but I thought for her birthday this year, she deserved a 3D-printed upgrade.

Customized nameplate necklaces are nothing new- just ask Carrie Bradshaw. I never watched Sex and the City and even I know about Carrie’s necklace. After that point, they started popping up in every possible iteration- in script, in block letters, in diamonds, in acrylic- and they haven’t really gone away. 

There are a bunch of companies that offer personalised signature jewelry, usually costing about $100-300 at the low end, and much, much more at the high end.

But… you can make your own, quite easily, for less than half that cost.

The one I made for Julie is, as I mentioned, the logo that’s featured on the top of her website and on her packaging. Like any good logo, it really says everything about her brand in one little vectorized package.

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The applications for little pendants like this are endless. Ermmm.. bridesmaids gifts, anyone? Or you could even turn one of your shitty little-kid-drawings or elementary school scrawls into a necklace that is guaranteed to elicit some tears on Mother’s Day. Your siblings will hate you forever, but it will be worth it when they’re all written out of the will in order to make you the single heir to the family fortune.

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As for me- I’m just trying to make sure Julie throws me a bone when she’s rich and famous.

If you were scared or discouraged by the previous tutorial, I beseech you: give this one a try. The process to make this necklace is easy, especially if you have artwork ready to go.

CUSTOM PENDANT NECKLACE

PROGRAMS USED: Adobe Illustrator (or vector program of choice), Autodesk Fusion 360

FUSION 360 Tools used: Import SVG, Extrude, Torus, Move, Combine

LEVEL: Beginner

Time: <1 hr

1. Choose your artwork.

This can be a signature, a drawing, a logo- anything, really. When choosing or making your design, keep a couple things in mind:  1. any “floating” elements (the dot of an “i,” separate words, etc) will need to be connected to the main body of the piece. Secondly, make sure the lines of your artwork are at LEAST 1mm (that’s about a 3 pt line). 1 mm is TINY- and although it’s technically within the capabilities of the 3d printer, you’ll probably want to make it a little bigger to ensure a sturdy piece that can be polished without incident.

You can create your artwork with good old pen and paper, or you can make it digitally. If you have access to a Wacom tablet or similar and can DRAW it digitally, that’s the best of both worlds.

2. Convert your artwork to SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).

Unlike a jpeg or other image files, which are comprised of pixels, vector files are made of geometric primitives (lines, shapes and points). Practically, what does this mean? It means that as artwork is scaled, the design will not lose any fidelity. We’re all familiar with the way a jpeg blown up past its limits starts to look like all the pictures on your great-aunt’s Facebook page: pixelated, grainy, and just generally a mess. Vector files, because they are created from a series of points, aren’t subject to these indignities. And if you want to turn your artwork into a 3D model, vector- specifically SVG- is the name of the game.

In Julie’s example, you can see that the artwork is broken up into two elements- the initials/heart, and the arrow. Because I ultimately wanted them to be slightly different heights to give it a little more dimension, I elected to keep them separate. You can do the same, or you can combine it into a single element.

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If you’re working in Illustrator, this should be pretty straightforward. Just expand your lines (Object>Expand) combine them into the elements you want for your necklace (pathfinder>combine), and basta! You’re finished. Save your image as an SVG and you’re ready to go.

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If you don’t have Illustrator or a similar program, don’t worry. You can turn your jpeg image-whether it’s something you drew by hand and scanned or something you’ve drawn with another program- into an svg in a single step by using this (http://online.rapidresizer.com/tracer.php) website. Upload your image file (make sure it’s already black and white, and as high-quality as possible), choose SVG from the dropdown, and click trace. If your new image is to your liking, just right click and “save as” and you’re ready to rock.

3. Import the SVG into your Fusion 360 workspace.

Make a new file, select a working plane (I tend to work “top down,” like my object is laying on table), then go to the Insert menu.

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One note: for some reason, regardless of how I save the SVG, the artwork never imports at the size it was in Illustrator. I always have to scale it to my intended size (.3, in this case). Annoying.

4. Check artwork and extrude.

If all went well, your SVG should show up as a series of points, and it should be fully shaded in orange, like this:

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Any areas NOT shaded will not be able to be extruded. If this is the case, go back to your vector file and try to simplify any tricky-looking areas; it’s easier to fix them in Illustrator or another editing software than in Fusion. I will note that with the last Fusion update, it seems like the SVG importing was drastically improved, so make sure you always update to the latest version.

If your artwork IS all shaded, like this, you’re good to go! Simply select your sketch, then Create>Extrude (or hotkey E). Set the options to your desired dimensions- play around with the options to start understanding how they work- your model will change in real time. For Julie’s necklace, my settings were as follows:

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I did the exact same operations for the arrow, except I changed the distance to 1.5, so the initials have a little more height, and we have a slightly 3D feel.

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I then, using the move tool, scooted my arrow up to be under the initials. For lateral moves like this, just use the arrows to keep it on the right plane.

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If you wanted to stop here, you’d have a rad paperweight.

But you’re not going to stop here.

Step 5. Add Bails

Because our end game is to be able to put this on a chain, we’re going to add bails– aka the loops jewelers use to attach a pendant to a chain or other findings. 

Under the Create menu, you’ll find the Torus tool. If you want to get technical, wikipedia tells us that :

“In geometry, a torus (plural tori) is a surface of revolution generated by revolving a circle in three-dimensional space about an axis coplanar with the circle. If the axis of revolution does not touch the circle, the surface has a ring shape and is called a torus of revolution.”

Torus of Revolution is a REALLY good name for, like, a Warcraft or Legends of the Guardians movie.

But it’s basically just a ring. A ring perfect for attaching a chain.

Because the signature is so delicate, I don’t want to distract from it by adding a big, honking torus to either end. Instead, I’ll hide it behind the actual motif itself. To do this, I make a torus like this:

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So now I have a little ring floating in space. To get it to where I need it to be, I have to rotate it 90 degrees and drag it to the spot I need (you can do all this with the Move tool).

I forgot to crop this screenshot so now you can see all my secrets.

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You’ll notice that, the way I positioned it, the edge of the torus is actually poking out the right side of the pendant. That’s ok- we’ll deal with it in a moment.

Because I’m adding 2 bails, I then copy and paste the body, and move the copy over to the other side.

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Once I’m happy with how everything looks, I’m ready to turn this into a combined object. Go to the Combine tool in the Modify Menu:

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Select all the bodies you want to combine, and hit OK.

If you have any pesky bail bits sticking out from the front of your pendant like I do, you can now carefully select ONLY the bits that are sticking out, and just delete them.

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Once your design is perfect- all combined into a single body, and all annoying bits deleted, you’re ready to convert the file to a 3D printable STL file!

Step 5. Print

You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought we were making something 3D-printable the whole time!”

Kind of. See, when you’re making a model in Fusion, or any other modeling program, you’re actually seeing a representation of the underlying mathematical equations that form those shapes and relationships. In order for those equations to be transmitted to 3D printing software, they have to be converted into a series of points and faces- or a StereoLithography (STL) file. See more about this in this post.

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Now you can upload the file to the 3D printing service of your choice. Check the bounding box of your desired material- most cast metals will have a bounding box of around 100x100x90mm (just about 4” x 4” x 3.5” ). You’ll have to make sure your artwork fits in that box- if it doesn’t, scale it down. You’re not Flava Flav- you don’t need a 6” necklace (unless you ARE Flava Flav, in which case, I apologize, sir).

This is what I like to see.
This is what I like to see. Green checkmarks for days.

Make sure your model passes the requirements of your chosen material, send it to print, and then wait by the door like a puppy for the next 2-3 weeks while you wait for it to be delivered.

Approximate cost to print ~70mm wide necklace (Shapeways):

  • Nylon: $3-5ish
  • Polished Brass & Bronze: $35-45ish
  • Silver: $50-65ish
  • Precious Metals: $600-800ish (ok, Mr. Money Dollars, you can stop showing off now)

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Questions? Comments? Need help with anything? Drop me a line, or send me a message through the contact form.

Kasia

Designer/HBIC

Designer, magpie, maximalist.

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