Production stories - James Bridle

One thing I’ve really enjoyed about putting CONTAINER together has been the chance to explore new processes and manufacturing techniques and I’d never done any 3D printing before, so I was excited when James sent over his idea.

It seems to me that knowing a lot about conventional printing provides very little useful grounding for 3D printing and I felt like I was venturing into the unknown. I found a lovely chap called Nick Allen at 3DPrint.UK who explained that, unlike conventional print, there is no price advantage for quantity and that pricing is calculated purely on either the overall volume or the mass of the item.

Nick provided the prototype and was generous enough to admit that his equipment was probably not able to match the industrial scale of Shapeways in The Netherlands and helped me get it produced by them since they offer no interpersonal customer service at all—like trying to get something made by PayPal.

As some indicator of how rapidly 3D print technology is advancing, the price halved from when the first sample was produced to the actual production quantity.

Production stories - Accept & Proceed

Here is the first in a series of write-ups of how we made the various items in CONTAINER.

After a couple of false starts, A&P settled on the idea of an information graphic of the North & South pole etched into a piece of stainless steel with a cut-out circle.

I looked at both photo-etching and laser etching stainless steel and we settled for laser etching because it could reproduce lines of 10 microns. Stephen Heath, the designer at A&P even produced a test artwork to see what different point sizes would look like.

Unfortunately, my regular laser etchers in Sheffield couldn’t accommodate an A5 plate, so A&P suggested some people they knew, Boundstone Engineering in Farnborough to make the steel plates.

Unlike the print industry, which uses the same software as the design industry, engineering firms use PC-based CAD software, which doesn’t automatically mesh with Mac-based software and so, a frustrating period of many weeks ensued while we batted files back and forth trying to get to the bottom of why the artwork wouldn’t process. At one point, Boundstone admitted that it had blown up one of their machines in one vain attempt to read the file.

Sometimes, there is only so many emails and calls you can make, so I collected a rather bleary-eyed Stephen from his house at 6:30 and headed to Farnborough to sit in front of the engineer to see what was getting lost in translation. It was a worthwhile visit as it turned out the CAD software was reading a bunch of extraneous detail hidden in the Illustrator files.

Distracted by the metal drama, we’d not yet gotten beyond a vague notion of putting it in a Colorplan envelope. So, I managed to get the boys at A&P excited about matching the cut out in the metal with the envelope—meaning you could see straight through it.

But this needed precision to get right and had we made a CAD cut prototype, there would have been too much variation when we came to manufacturing, so we decided to make all the plates, then make the wallets to fit the finished plates and then laser etch the finished wallets after they were made up (going through both the front and the back simultaneously). It was a risk, but it worked beautifully and sometimes it’s worth the risk of not seeing a dummy.

Interview with Accept & Proceed

In the first of a series of interviews with CONTAINER contributors, Accept & Proceed's Stephen Heath and David Johnston explain their thinking and the reasons for choosing their item in the first edition of CONTAINER.

Interview is here: