There is a reason why organic forms appeal to many consumers. However, not anyone can easily create them. Tom and Tracy Hazzard let you in on their process for designing organic forms. A warning, they do it the hard way. Their award-winning 3D Printed Twist Tie was not a 3D print math algorithm. It is a product borne from a design process that is carefully sketched, modeled, and planned. Learn the ins and outs and the principles in how they create their organic forms in this interesting conversation.
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Creating Organic Forms
This is the Ask Us Anything segment. Anything that I’m excited about because it’s finally one that’s not dry and boring. It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. The question is, how do we create those organic forms?
Thanks for asking that one. We should talk a little bit about our principles of design especially as it relates to 3D printing.
We’ve been asked this before by various members of the press and other things like that, but you may not have known it. We thought we’d share that with our audience. We have some design principles that we adhere to when we create a design that we’re willing to post. Not that we don’t create some designs that we use for our own purposes. Tom created a handle to replace our light switch on our oven.
I created some mounts for the microphone booms. Those were more utilitarian items purely functional that don’t have a lot of design to them.
We don’t post those. You won’t see them on Instagram. The stuff that we agree to post adheres to a series of design principles. It’s not huge. There are always three things. The first of the three things is that it cannot be replicable in traditional manufacturing, that whatever we design is difficult to replicate.
Not to say that it couldn’t be, but it couldn’t be done as easily or certainly not in one piece.
Not cost-effectively. It makes more sense to 3D print it. That’s our number one goal because we want to highlight what 3D printing can do best.
You take one of our objects and say, “I could make that injection molding.” You maybe would need four different molds and make several different pieces that have to be either snapped or glued together. Assembled in some way to make the final piece where we’re designing it to be 3D printed in one piece comes off of the build plate ready to go.
Number two is that it comes off the build plate, essentially ready to go. We do break off rafts and some minor supports. Unfortunately, the way that filament is, there’s always these little hairs you have to clean up and break off. What we don’t want to do is you have to soak it overnight in stuff and let it remove support material. We don’t want to have to use a two-material printer if we don’t have to.
Most of the time we’re designing these things so that they don’t need support material. One exception would be our 3D twist tie that it would have such a small amount of surface air contact with the build plate everywhere. It needed a little more structure so that the thing didn’t fall over before it got too tall. I created it manually.
Tom designed it so that it snaps off in seconds and the thing is done. We design our own in that case. The reality of it is that our goal in that number two item of coming right off the build as close to ready to go as we can. If someone were 3D printing it in a shop somewhere, you had a shop and you wanted 3D printer items and contract them from us, you would be able to print it there while somebody could come to arrive as it’s finishing. You could take it right off, clean it up a little bit, and hand it to them. We want it to be interactive, fun and interesting. We don’t want somebody to look and go, “What is that object hidden under all that support material, all that other PVA?” Our number three item is that we want it to build from a design principle standpoint. We want our design to build organically. We want it to grow from the bottom up like it’s printed. Our organic form is meld to how 3D printing is producing.
When we do these time-lapse videos of our things printing, they do look like they’re growing. They don’t have to be fluid curved shapes even to appear like that. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched some time-lapse videos of crystalline structures forming and growing. It can be rigid geometric-looking things too. Certainly, the process is done layer by layer. We think of it as growing our design. In terms of the organic forms themselves, we do not use straight math algorithms.
We didn’t create an algorithmic program to produce our form. That’s cheating. Somebody can do that, but that’s not designed, we practice it.
I don’t know that I would say it’s cheating. If your intent is to design something and you’re using a mathematic formula to create geometry from different values you enter, that’s a perfectly legitimate way to create a model to print, but you’re not designing something. You’re experimenting and using someone else’s program that exists and seeing what happens when you put different values in it.
Go, “Let’s make it earrings,” or “Let’s make it this.” To me, that’s not the way we practice design. We have an object in mind. We have a design idea in mind of what we want to create, like a tie, an angel or a purse. The function and the form are not divorced from each other. It’s not like we’re going, “I want to create a purse that looks like a Kate Spade.” We don’t think like that either. We let it create its own form.
We could never do an episode on why we design the way we do. We went to design school for a full college education and we’ve spent many years practicing it. There are a lot of layers and depth to what goes into our design process of how we design what we’re going to go in 3D print. Suffice it to say, we have a concept in mind when we set out to build it in CAD on the computer then.
That’s also a good point because we’ve been doing it so long and we have a system. We also have a back and forth system. I’m critical and when I go, “I don’t love it,” then Tom has to go back to the drawing board. We have a system of how we go back and forth. It makes it a better product.
This is something that we do believe. We are a design team. It is not just one person’s idea and the other one is executing it. It’s truly a cooperative process. There is back and forth, give and take. Unfortunately, we are both designers. A lot of that back and forth happens verbally. It happens between sketches back and forth. On the computer, that’s where it’s mostly we building it. She doesn’t do CAD as much, although she’s trying to learn, which is good. I use a CAD program that gives me a lot of creative, free-flowing form opportunities and that’s Rhinoceros. There are others out there that do it and I have no problem with other CAD programs. There’s a lot of great ones out there, but for what we do and also the experience that we have in CAD, which is my CAD experience goes back many years before even becoming an industrial designer with two dimensional CAD. In any case, the point is Rhino allows you to model surfaces in addition to solids and allows you to create surfaces using non-uniform rational B-spines or nerves, which is the term, that doesn’t matter. The thing is you have the ability to create any kind of form that comes into your head. I see it in my head. You see it in your head before we do it.
That’s what I was trying to say before, which is that this organic form structure, this fractally based structure is something we’ve been practicing for many years. I first co-wrote a paper with Dr. James Wise about Bionomic design, which is a life-loving design. It’s not an imitation of nature, but an emulation of nature. A lot of people call it biophilia and there are a bunch of things out there, but we’ve been practicing this way a long time in both the surface materials and the textiles that I designed and in all the products that we do. It’s a layering of design. 3D printing has enabled us to do it in a way that we were never able to before. Because of the process of growing a design on your build plate, it’s allowed us to do the forms that we’d been limited to or compromising on to create.
We’ve been designing products that are injection molded for many years, but injection molding has specific limitations of things you can and cannot do. Even a complicated, expensive injection mold still has limitations.
We know that we never get to work in anything expensive.
We do things at the mass market. That’s another thing. We believe in bringing great design to the masses. When you do that, you have a price limitation. That’s a reality. Injection molding has real limitations. 3D printing does not have it. To us, 3D printing was an opportunity to have a new manufacturing medium, a new tool to be able to build the designs we create. It is different from anything that has existed before. While most people use it for prototyping to try to save money, that’s true and it has a great value at doing that, but that’s not our interest as much. Our interests as designers as, “I can create a whole series of different interlocking parts that are built at once.” It doesn’t have to be assembled, and then create this beautiful dynamic form that also has a function as if fashion accessory or whatever it might be too many. It’s limitless that that’s where we’re doing it. We’ve wanted to be creating more organic forms for manufactured products for years and we have the great ability to do it.
Don’t be fooled. Creating organic forms this way, that’s why people use those algorithms because that’s faster. This is hard. It takes us a couple of hundred hours easy to do any one of our designs. It’s not fast to print, so it’s not 100% cost-effective either. In terms of what you think, some of those other designs out there, they may be printing a couple of hours and that’s fine. You can make some money printing that day after day. Our tie takes nineteen hours. It’s cost you a lot of money. It’s tied up a lot of machine hype but it’s worth it. We see it’s worth it and we believe that the printers are going to catch up, that they’re going to get faster.
If you want to create more organic forms, you need to have a concept for what that is and then you need to have the ability in CAD to go and build that. A lot of CAD programs, you can build a lot of different things with, some are better than others from organic forms. Something that has a lot of flexibility just in free form flow creation. It is going to take you if you’re new at this months and months if not years to get good at doing it. You can do a lot of experimenting and times have more successes than others. It depends on what you’re doing. It’s not easy.
We thank you for asking this about our creative process and we hope we haven’t bored you with our design ideas. We think that everyone should have a mission that they want to accomplish, whether your mission is to create functional knobs and objects for whatever it is or a replacement parts for antique cars. I love that idea. It doesn’t matter what it is. This happens to be our mission. Our mission is to highlight what 3D print can do best and at the same time, serve the design process. We’ve been trying to work for our entire career.
No question. There are many ways to use it.
If any of you have other questions about our design process, 3D printing in general or equipment. It can be technical, but it also can be conceptual and business-oriented as well. We’re going to have a lot of business episodes coming up because we announced our finalist to our Build A Business Mentorship contest. We’re going to have a lot of that because as we talk with them, we’re going to share that with all of you as to some of their problems and some of the issues that they’re facing at any given time.
Hopefully, you can learn from that and help your own efforts.
You can go to our website and on every page, there’s a send voicemail button. You can ask us a question or send us an email.
That’s HazzDesign.com. Thanks for reading and we’ll talk to you next time.
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