In our last update we talked you through our process for sketching new products, and how we use it as a quick and messy medium for roughing out the early details. This week we’re going to explore the next step in our design process, where we take the 2D shapes we put on paper and bring them into the virtual 3D world of CAD (Computer Aided Design).
CAD is truly amazing. It’s used in a multitude of industries to manufacture products, create realistic animated movies and games, recreate historical sites, make custom medical implants and much much more. In fact, a lot of the things that we use today may not even have been possible without the innovations brought along by CAD and the simulation tools that come along with it.
The type of CAD that we use (Solidworks) is targeted more towards the design for manufacture end of the scale. We use it to take our rough shapes and ideas and put them into more exact and matter of fact dimensions. This is pretty different to how normal jewellery design works; usually much more traditional methods are used. But hey, we’re not making traditional jewellery, we’re making smart jewellery! Anyway, here we can start to bring in internal components and connectors to see what clearances, wall thicknesses, and overall dimensions a piece will need to have. Often times designs that are thought out in the 2D world don’t naturally transition into a 3D design, which can lead to a bit of a transition period where we quickly play with a few of our 2D sketches in 3D CAD to make sure they’re going to work before piling many hours into refining them. Sometimes here we’ll also make some very quick physical mock ups using card or paper to get a feel for the ‘real’ size and feel of the jewellery.
Once we’ve settled on a shape we liked, (in this case it was the circular pendant style you see in Noti today) we start the long process of iterating through, sometimes very slight, design changes to get to what we feel is the perfect final product. These would range from trialling different attachment methods for chains or the back casing to very small adjustments to improve button feel.
As the designs started to get more complex and complete we would order a round of 3D prints (which we’ll talk about a bit more in our next post) to test the fit, feel, and size of the jewellery. These real world physical objects always bring so much room for improvement to the forefront (and a lot of work to be done). For Noti, we went through four sets of 3D prints and many more variations and changes before moving to the vermeil plated, precision machined final prototypes we have today. All of these changes and iterations were refinements we felt that we had to make in order to bring the highest quality product to life, that would not only look and feel great, but also be reliable and long lasting.