Gesa, could you let us know about your background and your journey to Additive Manufacturing?
My background lies in the traditional craft of goldsmithing, where I finished my degree with an award for best graduation piece. Even though I enjoyed working with the traditional methods, I always felt that manipulating gold and silver in the usual way was not “fluid” enough for me. The possibility of shaping and reshaping the ideas like magic until settling on a specific design via 3D-modeling fascinated me immensely. This is what brought me to trying to learn everything I could about the technology.
Can you tell us what a “digital goldsmith” is and the kind of services you’re offering to your customers?
First, maybe I should explain a bit about what a traditional goldsmith does, as this question also seems to come up quite often. A goldsmith works with all kinds of precious metals and uses ancient and modern techniques to shape the metal into rings, bracelets, pendants, and so on. Techniques used include milling, burring, filing, soldering, casting, setting gemstones, and many more. I have started to coin the term “digital goldsmith”, because I still work with precious metals and the casting technique. But all the designing and creating of shapes is done via 3D-modeling software. The resulting models get usually printed in wax or resin, and are then cast in metal. Directly printing in metal with laser or glued powder is also possible today. This workflow enables me to work with a wider range of materials, like plastics and steel or aluminium, and also gives me a broader range of design choices to choose from.
In short, I offer similar services as a traditional goldsmith in terms of that I create jewelry and also small sculptures. But I am not limited to the traditional tools nor to the traditional shapes. Especially with naturalistic sculpting, there are so many possibilities. I also offer 3D-models which do not necessarily need to be printed, for photorealistic rendering.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
Creating a complete model of a real renaissance castle, which was then printed and cast in silver and gold. Another goldsmith attached hinges to it, and it became a (very luxurious) piggy bank. I had to personally travel to the location and my husband helped me with photographing the whole building from all angles. We could have made a reconstruction with the pictures like with a 3D-scan. But the customer wanted to have the model re-designed in a way that the proportions would work with the extremely small details of the windows or the doorway, and this was only possible with reconstructing it from the ground up. I think this was a very important milestone, because not only was the workload much bigger than with other projects, it also completely pushed me out of my comfort zone (and made me pull my hair a few times, as well :). The result was all worth it, though.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about your career to share with us?
At the end of my apprenticeship, where I already had started to experiment with 3D-modeling, everyone needed to make a technical drawing of our graduation’s piece of jewelry. Technical drawing was a subject not loved by many, because the accuracy and tidyness of every line and letter was very strictly rated, and it is traditionally done by hand in the school where I learned.
So I used 3D-software to create the technical drawings from all angles. This had the additional benefit of being able to very accurately check all the dimensions. When a girl from my class commented on this and how she envied me being able to create such a clean work, I shared my secret with her. She was baffled but quickly recognized the advantages of doing it in this way! And I got a very good rating 🙂
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman 3D Printing?
In the jewelry-business, it is not so unusual to have female owners and bosses. So I did not face as much resistance like women in some other industries. But it was still hard sometimes to get recognized. When sitting in front of experienced businessmen, you have to be able to stay calm and collected even when there is some tension with negotiating prices, for example.
Also, with new technology, you have to do a bit of convincing that you are actually able to deliver on what you offer. The more experience I gathered, though, the more evidence I could present. This made it easier to be taken seriously.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
I love the fact that it is possible to create seemingly everything, from the most unusual and different kinds of materials. It is such an enabling technology. From chi-charging-stations to candle holders over lamps to keychains, I can let my creativity go crazy.
It is also possible to collaborate worldwide, create something in Germany and send it over to the USA.
Another thing is that it evolves so quickly. New innovations are plopping up like mushrooms. It is an exciting time.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
One of the most fascinating use for me is by the dutch designer Iris Van Herpen. She uses 3D-printing for her outstanding fashion design. One of the most imaginative uses of additive manufacturing I have seen in clothing so far. I am also very excited about the building industry using more and more 3D-printing (Construction 3D Printing), for example for “growing” whole houses made of cement from scratch, and then the plans for creating extraterrestrial bases with it…
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Steel-printing and other techniques that enable the creation of complex machine parts that would otherwise be impossible or much more expensive to manufacture. Creating perfect-fit prosthetics. Building prototypes without the need for big investments. Open-source software, that enables so many people to realize their ideas.
Where do you think the industry will move to in the next 10 years?
I can not speak for all the industries using 3D printing, of course. But my impression is that there is still a very big room for innovation and improving on the status quo. I think in my field especially more and more people will start using 3D printing. It will get cheaper and I expect massive improvement of surface quality, speeding up of the process and making even more materials available. Maybe also hybrid machines that print, cast and polish in one go…
What advice do you have for women looking to get started in 3D Printing?
Learn, learn and learn some more about the technology you are interested in! Don’t give up, and search for role-models – womenin3dprinting is perfect for this 😉 Don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes you will screw up, that is only part of the process. Find people who have your back, friends and family can be a huge source of energy in hard times.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with Additive Manufacturing?
Show the possibilities and the broad range of application of the technology, so women can see for themselves how useful it can be, and share success stories. There are so many industries: construction and engineering in general, medical uses, design and art…so you can choose what fascinates you personally and what you are good at in regards to 3D printing!
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
At the time I only own a filament printer, and otherwise collaborate with manufacturers to bring the ideas to life. I hope this will change in the future, so one of my first priority is to get better equipment, and learn more about the whole casting process to be able to bring more ideas to life. I will probably collaborate with a university this year, to create the medals for a 3D-printing challenge for upcoming 3D-designers. I love teaching, so I also plan on creating work-in-progress videos. And of course: keep creating 🙂 !
August 2020 update: My first Skillshare class went live! In it I am teaching about creating your own 3D-printable jewellery model from a 2D-sketch. It is aimed at the very beginner, so I made it super easy to follow and included a ton of tips and tricks. You are very welcome to check it out. The link will also provide you with two months of Skillshare Premium, so you have the chance to check out all the topics that may interest you
Favorite 3D tool? Blender for modeling and Prusa MK2.5S for printing.
Favorite moment in your day job? When a customer is overjoyed with the results and calls me only to tell me this.
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? Getting a resin printer, casting and molding tools plus I’d absolutely love to have my own metal printer!