Mar 24, 2017 | By Benedict
With over 20 years of experience in digital 3D design, John Robertson is one of the most qualified individuals in the business. Having started his professional career working in the creative arts, Robertson developed a passion for CAD and 3D modeling back in the 1990s, and has gone on to take part in a huge number of creative and technical projects within the industry. His journey has included authoring a 3D printing-specific guide to CAD for London’s Goldsmith’s Company and establishing the Rapid Prototyping department at Weston Beamor, one of Europe’s largest platinum jewelry casting companies.
Throughout his varied career, Robertson has managed to balance exhibitions and creative projects whilst somehow working in every corner of the technical 3D printing world—a rare feat in a field that sometimes appears split between the techies and the creatives. The multidisciplinary designer recently spoke with 3Ders about the state of 3D printing, 3D design, and his exciting new jewelry brand, VerticesEdge.
John Robertson at work in the studio for VerticesEdge
You’ve been at the forefront of the 3D printed jewelry scene for many years. What’s different about VerticesEdge?
With VerticesEdge I’m able to be more flexible with my creative passion and extensive technical skills in design, using the latest technology to showcase its uniqueness, complexity, and beauty in jewelry. Each piece has its own background story to the meaning of its design, whether it be a mathematical form or medical model.
I have 20+ years of experience giving me a full and wide training and understanding of the arts, allowing me to know the rules and limitations (and to experiment beyond them) when producing my designs.
You used generative algorithms in Rhino/Grasshopper to make some of your latest 3D printed items. Could you tell us a bit about that process?
Grasshopper is a plugin for Rhino which is a versatile algorithmic editor to help designers experiment in their designs. I have used Rhino since 2001 and Grasshopper is a great tool to experiment with. I have used it for full color 3D printing in the past, modeling RGB and CYMK color spaces on to geometries.
With my latest designs, I generated the geometry within Grasshopper; this was then passed through tools to scale, sub divide, and smooth.
What other software do you use to design jewelry? And on a related note, do you have a preferred 3D printer?
I’ve used CAD software since 1994, as a trainer in CAD and skilled craftsperson in the specialism, I have use a wide variety of software packages. I have a wide background within architectural modeling, product design, and animation, giving me an extensive tool set when developing and producing my designs.
Each 3D printing process also requires changes to elements of CAD design to produce the best results. I use several 3D printing devices for the design requirements in detail, scale, and materials.
One of the 'Curvaceous' pieces in the VerticesEdge collection
Regarding generative design: do you foresee this technology playing a more prominent role in jewelry design, and in the fashion industry more generally?
As we are in an era where technology is playing a major part in design, generative designs would be a new tool in the box for designers.
A designer working on generative designs will always use his or her skills as well as new tools and technology to create and develop innovative new designs.
The designer ensures not just size limitations are met, they innovate though design and create new aesthetics. Computers are a tool and only a part of the design process; an artist and designer must envisage the design concept and understand the limitations while keeping the aesthetics, feel, and balance.
You say that VerticesEdge pieces are available in many materials, including silver, gold, and platinum. How do you turn a digital design into a piece made of precious metal?
When using additive manufacturing my designs are either produced using direct metal, direct vacuum, or centrifugal casting. The 3D print can also be silicon molded, injected with paraffin wax ,and cast in precious metals, then hand finished to my desired standards.
One piece in your new collection, “Claw,” struck me as quite unlike the others. What inspired that particular item?
The Claw is after my own heart. I carved the piece by hand for its tactile properties, clean lines, and reflection of form, then reverse engineered the design using a structured light 3D scanner to have it manufactured.
Claw, one of Robertson's favorite VerticesEdge pieces
How has the 3D printing (and 3D printed jewelry) landscape changed over the many years you have been part of it?
As CAD was first developed for engineering, creative people where often limited by either their technical skills or the software.
Today in jewelry software tools have been developed for craftspeople to help reduce the learning curve. More affordable 3D printers and materials are available for small workshops, making the technology more accessible to designers and craftspeople in their work.
It takes time to get a technical understanding of the production processes and to achieve a proficiency in any software package, to realize the design idea as a finished piece which keeps true to the design idea and aesthetics.
Do you have any other 3D printing projects on the horizon?
There are exciting projects on the way which I am looking forward to!
Robertson might be coy on his future plans, but for now, VerticesEdge offers more than enough intrigue for any fan of 3D printed jewelry. Check out the website here.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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