In today’s episode, Tom and Tracy Hazzard share their experience creating 3D printed wedding favors for their daughter’s wedding. They talk about how much time it took to create the designs, to test print and iterate, and to do the actual printing. They provide tips that you can apply to your situation if you ever have to 3D print wedding favors or things of that nature for yourself, a friend or relative, or for your business. They also explain how 3D printing has added a very personal touch to the wedding that only 3D printing can provide.
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3D Printed Wedding Favors
We’re going to talk about our daughter’s wedding today in a way that’s relevant that you will definitely want to listen to. Let’s talk about it that you’re the 3D print guy and your daughter comes to you and she says, “Dad, would you create 3D printed wedding favors for me to put at the table?” That sounds like such a cool idea, doesn’t it? It does. At the time, our daughter, who’s 22 and actually got married on July 15th. This has happened already and this is one of the big reasons why we had such a significant hiatus in the recent couple of months. She came to me quite a long time ago that of course at the time I was like, “Sure. I’d love to design some wedding favors for your wedding.”
You have to understand our daughter. Our daughter is a planner, serious planner, major planner. There was a checklist where she put in, “Dad, wedding favors, completed.” It would have been supposed to be a month before the wedding. She’s quite the planner and she had these ideas. She built a whole Pinterest board which was a problem in and of itself because I don’t really frequent Pinterest. I had to eventually say, “Can you printout these photos for me so I can have a reference of the type of thing you’re looking for?” Which she rolled her eyes at o course. Anyway, she did print them out. She got ideas and she wanted to create 3D printed wedding favors for the men attending the wedding and 3D printed wedding favors for the women attending the wedding. She wanted them to be different. At some point we made the decision that they would be great if they were holding the napkins. Whatever it was, it also was functioning as a napkin ring, whether or not you kept it that way or you didn’t was remained to be seen.
Eventually, she decided she wanted a new original design, a 3D printed bowtie for all the men and a bracelet for the women. I was like, “Okay, we can do that. That’s doable.” As evidenced by our hiatus, we’re pretty darn busy people just in normal business and in life. We’ve got an older child, two younger children. I’m not really complaining about it, it’s just the reality. I have my life and I’m happy with my life. It’s busy and active, it’s a wonderful thing. But things get in the way and I wanted to really give the design of these items the attention they deserved and not rush it.
How long do you think the design process took? I think this is a good estimate for other people who say they want to do something like this, whether it’s for a gift or whether it’s for a wedding or a bar mitzvah, it could be anything. You go out there and you think, “I have plenty of time to do this.” This is a statement not just of you and your design scope but it’s a statement of how much you love your daughter. There’s a lot of meaning that gets embedded into designing something personal like this.
It says it’s a Tom Hazzard design too. We have to realize that you have a very distinctive organic style to the designs that you do on 3D printing. They can only be 3D printed, that’s another thing that we do here. You added all sorts of challenges to yourself here. You added functional challenges to yourself.
They needed to be there. Even though I came up with the design of, let’s just take the bowtie because that one took longer than the bracelet. I have done my 3D printed necktie, and while it’s not exactly the same there are definitely some similar characteristics between the two and that made some sense to me. I also learned from what I did in the necktie and applied some of that to the bowtie. I came up with a few iterations of the basics design before I completed it. I would say that probably took me a good 50-60 hours just on the basic design portion. Then came testing, printing it, making sure it would print without needing a support. I needed to make 60 of these bowties. There were 120 people attending the wedding. I made 60 bowties and 72 bracelets. The reason there are more bracelets than bowties is some we gave out as little Thank You gifts to some of the people, like our wedding coordinator. There were other people not just guests of the wedding we gave a few to that were related at this event; quite a lot of them. I was not going to spend time breaking away support material from these things. I don’t have time for that.
All along I kept saying, “Let’s have them printed at a service bureau,” and you were like, “No, we can do this.” That’s also another thing to plan. If you’re going to do it that way, you want to have it absolutely come to you clean.
They print with the raft and I created my own support material that breaks away just like breaking one big thing off. It’s not like I’ve got all these little stuff and I have to use needle-nose pliers to pick it away. I didn’t have to sand anything or file anything when it was done.
To our audience that’s listening out there, what I really want you to take away is that design time is only one portion of it. That refinement of really getting it so that it’s easy to make also takes time in and of itself, and the way that it prints and the way that it looks and the way that it looks on the color also needed to be test. We had to test the colors because they needed to match, which is extremely difficult to do mind you, because many brides, if you don’t know this already, are very serious about their color pallets. Coordinating with that with filament color is not the easiest thing to do.
We’re lucky that we have a local filament distributor who’s literally five miles down the road from where we live and work. I was very lucky in that regard that I could walk in and look at all their filament on the rack. We’d take our daughter in. We said, “We like that color. That would work.” Take it back to printing it though, and it doesn’t always look like it does on the spool. That’s something else to consider as well. You really do need to test print it and check it out.
They had this light pearlized pink color and when you have it on the spool because it’s wound and there’s so much depth, several inches of filament there, it actually looked more opaque and darker than actually did when it printed. When it printed you’re looking at thicknesses that are an eight-inch thick, maybe three, four millimeters thick, so it appeared lighter. That was a bit of a surprise too. I would say in test printing and iterations, there had to be another 50-60 hours of certainly print time in there and probably another twelve, fifteen hours of my time refining. I’m talking print time different from my time.
I think you’re way underestimating. I think it was probably at least double that.
Maybe it was. I didn’t actually clock it. There was definitely a lot of iterations of creating it. Here’s what definitely took some time. Figuring out how we’re going to actually attach that bowtie to someone. How are you going to do it? On my necktie, I had this 3D printed chain that went around your neck that’s a one-size-fits-all and it has a hook and an eye. You size it to your neck circumference and break off the rest. That was going to take a lot longer to print. It wasn’t going to look good as a napkin ring.
It would have been fine if your napkins were stiff, but her napkins were satiny and very flimsy in order to get the colors. They were shiny because they were satiny. They look really pretty accenting the table but they didn’t have enough substance to hold up with the chain around them. They would have just flopped down and looked flat. It wouldn’t have looked good. The chain would have looked really messy sitting on the plate, because the napkin was on the plate with the napkin ring. I needed to come up with a different way to do it. I ended up creating a mechanism that attached to the top button of a men’s shirt, where it’s buttoned; your very, very top button around your neck. I was able to figure out pretty quick.
When I first tested it, I was able to attach it and I created this recessed area for the button that would sit there, it goes on a slot and it sat there. The problem was, I couldn’t get it off. Once I got it on, it was really hard to get off. Then it became this process of engineering a mechanism that you could have it clip and hook on to that button but then had a way to release it. It took me a while. I tried several. That is where I did spend some time, a significant amount of time developing it. It’s very cool.
It’s all 3D printed in one print. It’s one piece. That’s something that we always try to do. One of our missions is always to create something that is 3D printable, only 3D printable, you couldn’t injection mold it, you couldn’t make it in another method. We want it to highlight what 3D print does well. We tried to make it all in one piece so that you don’t assemble. In this case, there was a little bit of assembly required. Then the third thing that we tried to do is make it have very little clean up, little to no. That’s why Tom creates his own support so that you can just pop the thing off. This mechanism that you’ve done is very, very cool. Even though it took forever and you were frustrating the heck out of me and your daughter about the amount of time it took, but it turned out very cool.
What I ended up doing is created some moving parts. What ended up being one big static piece became three pieces; two of them move, they pivot. It’s like bi-fold doors or saloon doors, if you would think of an old Western saloon where you walk in and there’s this slight space between them so that the threads that are holding that top button and a little bit of fabric can fit in there. You slide your button in and then it sits back. It really latches, but it finds its seat. The tie stays there even if you’re dancing at a party, you’re at a wedding moving around. There was a lot of dancing. This was an awesome party.
To release it, each side, like a cylinder, you reach your finger behind and you pivot one or both of these little swinging pieces and then it really pushes the button out of its seat and allows you to slide the button out. That took a long time. I had to do a lot of experimenting on my 3D printer for the tolerances and everything and how you actually 3D print pieces that are essentially like a hinge that it prints all in one, so it is stuck together when it comes out the build plate. Then you can rotate these parts and the little bit of plastic that’s attaching them breaks free. It’s designed to do that. Once you break it free, those moving parts are still captured like a hinge, like a pin hinge and they work, they pivot. I have a video where you can see one that came off the printer that hasn’t been rotated yet and how I then rotate it and break it free.
How are we going to make this be a napkin ring? What I ended up doing is creating another part that’s just a C-shape ring of the right size to fit a napkin in it that had a T-shaped connector, that attaches just like your button for your shirt would, except you slide this in and you rotate it 90 degrees and it locks itself in place. It functioned as a napkin ring.
You just pop it off and then you use the tie. That was disposable piece. Really, this was meant only to hold it on the napkin ring until people get to the table, they take it off and they probably never use that little piece again. That was designed in waste part, but it was important for the presentation. It worked and it was neat. Coming up with that piece and designing that to print with no support was pretty darn quick and easy.
Let’s talk about the bracelet. The reference image that our daughter, Alex, gave us was of a flower-looking bracelet. She wanted it to look like every woman had a corsage. That’s the idea that she wanted, to have the prom corsage, like everybody was in the wedding party kind of thing. She wanted to have that feeling. Although I needed to scale it down from a typical corsage size, this really large, heavy 3D printed plastic thing on your wrist, so I scaled it down. I had a vision pretty quick for what I wanted this thing to be. I like doing all these twisty, organic forms anyway. Tracy played a role in this too. There definitely had some of Tracy in it. We refined it and went through a bunch of iterations. This one didn’t take me as long to design the actual decorative part as the other one. I would say 20 to 30 hours probably designing that one. It didn’t have the same functional challenges that the bowtie did. But it had its own when you came to printing it because you really couldn’t print it with the bracelet portion attached to it and not have tons of support and tons of clean-up.
I did separate the design into two different parts. There’s the C-shape. It looked C-shaped I guess, just not a round C, more of an elliptical C. It goes around your wrist with a couple of ball ends on it that’s comfortable. It had this twisting form that I created. I separated it from the decorative, more flower inspired looking part up top. Then created really what is like a left groove, if you’re an engineer, or other people might think of it as a keyhole slot type of way that I was going to print each part separately and slide them so they snap together. It took a little trial and error to get those dimensions right so when they’re both printed, they actually fit together tightly. I was debating whether I was going to glue them together or not. I think if I had more time I might have.
Let’s just say that we had a little bit of the older group who didn’t understand that it wasn’t broken, that it’s just separated. We had a lot of issues with that. We found there was some tolerance between parts. I would say out of the 72 maybe a dozen of them really came apart. There were one or two that were just out of tolerance and really didn’t fit well. It just didn’t make any sense. But I had extra pieces and was able to replace. Everybody got to take home a party favor that worked. They had to be joined together. Otherwise you’re going to build this really tall piece that takes a whole lot more hours to print than needed and had a ton of breakaway support. Whether I designed it or someone else did, it was just going to take way too long and be too difficult.
Honestly, the decorative part didn’t need any support material. That just prints on the bed and it did it. Actually, the bracelet didn’t either. I designed that so that there was no support needed. Once I separated these two parts, there was actually nothing to break away on the bracelet parts. All we had to do when they’re done is join those two pieces together.
In classic Tom Hazzard style, it was the seven days, five days before the wedding. Eight days before the wedding, I finally decided I need to have someone else print the bowtie. But six days before, it’s supposed to be in the hands of the wedding coordinator. Actually I didn’t even know the wedding coordinator needed it on the Thursday before. That was a surprise to me.
If you looked at your To-Do list, you would have known. Alex has a checklist.
Isn’t this typical though? I’m doing all of our professional business and so I’m squeezing this in nights and weekends over the weeks prior to the wedding. I had no time to prep.
The Friday before I looked at you and I was like, “You have to have this printed. You cannot print these yourself.” He was still thinking he could do it. That’s just classic you.
I first thought that I would get the bowtie printed outside and I would print the bracelets myself. I thought I had enough time to print the bracelets. Let me get the bowtie out. I was actually worried at that point, eight days before the wedding, that I wouldn’t get a service bureau that would be able to turn it around fast enough. Thank goodness for Voodoo Manufacturing. I did not realize how fast they are.
Things have changed because I’ve had them print some things before for me and for some other family members who wanted something printed in large volumes, large for us, like 100 or 200 volume. We know one of the owners of the company, Patrick Deem. We just email him a file and he’d email me back a price and say, “We can ship it by this date.” I thought that’s how it worked. I just emailed him on that Thursday and I didn’t hear back from him. Come Saturday or Sunday, I pinged him again. He was like, “I missed this email.” I’ve lost a couple of days. He’s like, “It’s all automated. You just upload it on our website.” “But I may need overnight shipping.” “That’s okay. It’s all built in.” I hadn’t used their website ever. It had changed. It was revamped. I’ve even seen news reports of them on YouTube and stuff that they were getting to be a serious operation. I didn’t realize how serious until I went through this process.
I go to their website and it’s really simple. Anything under 1,000 they consider to be not high volume. I just needed 60 of this bowtie. I upload the file. As soon as it uploads, within a minute or two, I have a price, entered in my address and it gives me the shipping options and literally, it was going to be able to be printed on the Monday following this weekend, shipped on that Monday by the end of the day and I could have it by Tuesday. It was wild. The thing was $6 and change per bowtie. It wasn’t too bad for the size that it was. Then the shipping was maybe $60, $70 overnight. I could get all those bowties in a couple of days prior and that’s good because I did print here all of the napkin ring portions for the bowties. They’re small, functional. I could put two dozen of them on my build plate at once and then seven hours or so. We ran it overnight. I had to do that two and a half times that print over a couple of days, I made all those parts myself. I’d leave time to put them together here to deliver them to the wedding coordinating company.
We’re about to leave the next morning. Alex and I are about to leave early for the wedding on Thursday and we left on Thursday, and Tom on Wednesday night is still assembling these pieces. Not to stress us out or anything.
I got it done. It wasn’t even like a 3 AM type of thing. I think I got it done before midnight, so not bad. I finished the design of the bracelet over that weekend and I was intending to print it myself. Then I quickly started doing the math of how long the print takes and I’m like, “This isn’t happening. I’ve got to see if Voodoo can do it.” On Monday, I upload the bracelet files, both of them to Voodoo. I didn’t print either of the two parts, which was a really good thing because of the tolerance difference.
We encountered something. This is a lesson for anybody doing something like this. There’s a deeper story here. Sunday night I uploaded it so they’d have it early Monday morning. They’re in Brooklyn, New York, we’re in California. I didn’t want them to not get it until our Monday morning because it would be lunch time already. I bring it in, I uploaded it and the price was less. Even with the two parts, this was $4.5 or $5 a piece of these bracelets. It’s a reasonable price. I’m making 72 of them. The whole thing probably cost me $1200 or $1300 total with shipping and everything for both of these party favors. For a wedding event, I was willing to pay that much. It was worth it to me. Time worth it to you. There’s a big difference. It’s not just the dollar amount. It’s the time it would have taken you to be managing that as well. I didn’t have that much time. I had to pay the consequence of that and pay someone else to do it. They need to make a profit on it and that’s acceptable.
I got an email Monday mid-morning here in California where they’ve been through it all, they printed some and they said, “What printer did you print these on?” I was like, “I used the MakerBot Replicator+.” “We’re using Replicator 2s now.” Voodoo Manufacturing must have hundreds of those Replicator 2s in their manufacturing facility. I knew that, for instance, the bowtie took me six hours to print. They printed 60 of them overnight. They had to be putting one on each machine doing it overnight. They had to have hundreds of machines. We had to follow-up with them because it was impressive.
I thought I remember Patrick mentioning that a part of their specialty of what they do is the way that they use their software that they’ve actually sped up some of the printing. They definitely are experts in printing.
For the bracelet parts, when they printed them and put them together, they were way too loose. They weren’t even sticking together. Here’s the lesson in this: When you print something on your own desktop 3D printer in your home or office and you’re going to have something done at a service bureau, if you’re having parts that mechanically get fit together and there’s a tight tolerance because it needs to really have a certain friction and snap together, you have to have that service bureau print out a single test and try it there because your machine may over extrude compared to theirs. Theirs may under extrude compared to yours, or vice versa. You could have parts that either are too loose or don’t fit together. They need to test that before they do the whole run.
Voodoo is pretty experienced and they saw these parts fit together and they knew they needed to test it, so they did. When they tested it, these parts wouldn’t stay together. They were falling apart. I said, “What you can do is scale up the bracelet part in two dimensions only, not all three dimensions.” The C-shaped part, I’d wanted to still be the same size fitting around a woman’s risk because that was hard to dial in what the optimum size was for most people, for a variety of wrists. We also had a kid size too. We had two different sizes because we had a lot of kids attending the wedding.
If they did it in the two dimensions, I think it was Z and X dimensions. If they scaled it up then it would increase the size of this piece that went in the keyhole slot of the decorative part. They should be able to dial it in within a couple of prints to get it to fit this together, which they eventually did. They tried 2% higher and eventually settled and found 5% larger in those two dimensions worked perfectly. I had to trust them on that. They didn’t have time to send me one and had me review it. I had to trust them that they were going to get it right. On Wednesday, I received those prints back and had to assemble the bracelets to the decorative part. This turnaround time was incredible.
Not just that, they came out cleaner than I print. That was a shocking surprise to me. Usually I expected that my quality and my care of how I’m doing it and orienting it on my 3D printer and the layer of thickness I choose, I expected for them to be able to do it in time and do it quickly. They might have to sacrifice some layer thickness or some quality, maybe it wouldn’t come out as good as I put it. These came back better. They did thinner layers than I did. I was printing it 200 micron layers. They did it at 100 micron layers. I didn’t even ask them to. The surface quality, everything about it was cleaner and better than I’ve done myself. It was done in a day or overnight. It was amazing. They did a fantastic job and we highly recommend them. The speed alone was worth it. If you’re in need of something printed with the FFF process, definitely think you should look Voodoo up and give them a shot of it. Honestly, it was perfect.
This is a really good lesson because I do see this really in test printing. You really should do a test print. You really should make sure. If you’re doing this for a client, if you’re doing this for a gift, you need to leave time to do a test print and have it done, because a lot of the service bureaus will print exactly what you give them. It may not print as well on their printer. It may not look as good. This is a classic 3D Hubs, UPS Store, all of those problems. It is what you send them, in their minds, so they don’t do any thinking. Voodoo obviously does and that makes a difference here but you have to be clear about that. That’s one reason why you must test and have it sent back to you and take that time.
Especially if you have parts that need to fit together. I’ve been doing some 3D prints recently in our business for our client where I’m making an electronic product. I had 3D printing housings for motors and batteries, the actual physical product and switches, all the stuff that you see and touch on the outside of design and made these parts. All these parts had really important things that had to fit in them and fit properly. Even from what I measure on the parts to fit in and I create the CAD file and 3D print it, a lot of times there’s just a difference in the scale. You have to adjust it and print a few iterations before you get it right even on your own 3D printer.
It was a big project but I’m glad that we did it. Everybody loved it. It was something nobody had seen at a wedding before. I think probably nobody has ever seen the father of the bride stand up and give a toast that involves, “Here’s how you take apart your 3D print favor and put it on your neck.” I think that’s probably an unusual and very you kind of thing that have happened too.
I didn’t have time to print instructions and where you’re going to put those. I didn’t expect our daughter to actually want me to do this because her wedding day is about her, it’s not about me. This wasn’t me, the 3D print geek insisting on doing something for the wedding. Our daughter actually requested it and wanted to do it. Actually, our daughter and son-in-law because Jonathan loves the stuff too, so it was both of them.
At the end of the day I can look back on the wedding and it was beautiful and she was absolutely gorgeous and Jonathan was very handsome. It was quite a party and everything went wonderfully. We had the best wedding planners ever. Shout out to my sister-in-law, Laura hazard and her boss, Dana Bresin, of DB Creativity in LA. They did an amazing job of making this actually very low stress on me as a mom, which was just amazing. The reality was that there were so many personal touches that Jonathan and Alex added to everything. This was one of them. 3D printing can do it.
I think the eyes of DB Creativity also were opened to the potential of 3D printed wedding favors that they could sell to other future brides as a way to make their event a little more personal, a little more special. We’ve also thought that that was a right market for on-demand 3D printing. It will be interesting to see if that catches a little fire here in greater LA.
We just really appreciate you being patient while we get back to the podcast here and get back into the swing of things after this big wedding, but you can see why. Anyway, @3dStartPoint on social media and 3DStartPoint.com.
I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as we did. Stay tuned for tomorrow because we have another episode, which is also wedding related but it’s not about our wedding and our daughter. It’s another company and they do scans and high quality 3D prints of brides and grooms or really of anybody for any reason, animals, everything. They do a lot of wedding stuff though. They do it differently than we’ve seen anybody else do it. The quality is better, very impressive. If you’re interested especially in 3D scanning or 3D printing of figurines, how that process is done or different ways that others are doing it, if you want to learn from that, there’s a lot to learn in that episode tomorrow.
Thanks again for listening. This is Tracy and Tom on the WTFFF 3D Printing podcast.
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