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Using 3D Printed Interlocking Metals Was A Design Challenge

Silver Gimmel Ring - Interlocking Metals

This new ring launched last week but it took a few iterations to get it right. This was my first design using Shapeways’ 3D printed interlocking metals. The Gimmel Ring is a puzzle ring that has three separate bands. There is a heart on the center band. The top and bottom bands each have a hand. They loop together like links in a chain. When you arrange them correctly the two hands clasp the heart.

The Design

Shapeways’ design rule when using 3D printed interlocking metals says that the different parts have to be at least 1mm apart. This posed a challenge with this ring. The parts would have to be closer than 1mm for them to fit together snugly. On the other hand, if the pieces were too close together, they may not fit together at all. So first I designed the three pieces together to make sure the clearances were tight. In this case, I made them only about 0.2 to 0.3mm apart when fit together. The tolerances on these kind of parts are around that range, so I figured it would be close. The plan was if my initial prototype did not fit together, I would at least know what areas were too tight and could redesign them.

After designing the three pieces together, I then separated them in the 3D model. I tried to separate them in a way that they would still go together, but were spaced apart more than 1mm. The first time I did this, I was not smart enough to put my own puzzle together.

The Prototypes

Gimmel Ring with the bands separated

After I got the first prototype, the three pieces would not go together. I did not put one of the puzzle pieces together correctly. I figured out which band looped incorrectly, and I cut it and then put it together correctly. Thankfully, the hands and heart fit together very nicely after looping the bands together correctly. So it was just the one band that I needed to fix in the model. With that error correct, I ordered a second prototype.

The was a problem with the second prototype too, but this one was not my fault. The ring was defective when I got it. One of the bands was warped and bent. It looked like something damaged it after being made. I tried to bend the band back into shape, but it broke. I sent pictures of the defect to Shapeways. They saw the defect and agreed to make a replacement.

The third prototype was a charm. It had no defects and all pieces fit together perfectly. I intended this prototype to be a size 5. I normally design small sizes first. Those are normally the hardest to make. If Shapeways can make a small ring, odds are they can make a larger ring, too. It is common for rings to measure a bit small. Even though I intended this one to be a size 5, it measured only size 4.75. So I took this quarter size into account in the next version. I had selected bronze for these first three prototypes. Now that I had a proven concept, I ordered a size 8 in silver. That one also came out perfect and measured the correct size.

What’s Next?

Now that I have some design experience with these interlocking metals and puzzle rings, I plan to try some other ideas. I would like to do a puzzle ring version of a Claddagh Ring. There are some other ideas I may keep to myself for now. Stay tuned.

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Shapeways Designer Spotlight Is Shining On Me

Shapeways Logo

Shapeways is featuring a short interview with me and some pictures of my designs in their Designer Spotlight this week. I’m extremely flattered and honored they chose me for this feature. I used to see the designers who were featured on that and some of their designs are mind-blowing. I’m still not sure my designs are on the same level as some of the artists on Shapeways, but I think I have come a long ways from when I started. A link to the interview will appear on their front page starting tomorrow. Here is a part of the article:

This week, we are highlighting Dan Foley of D&O Designs! Dan’s shop is full of intricate, beautiful celtic designs. The complex designs pair perfectly with 3D printing, and give Dan a chance to take a break from technical engineering and focus on his artistic side.


Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
I’m a professional engineer and 3D designer located in Davenport, Iowa. I have a beautiful wife and three children. The “O” of D&O Designs is for my son, Owen, who is learning to be a 3D modeler.


What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you?
My focus is on Celtic Knot jewelry. In the past few years I have become a lot more spiritual, and Celtic Knots are a representation of that. I read that some believe the complex knot designs represent “humans’ complex relationship with the natural and the divine.” This sums up my feelings pretty well.


What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
I had known about the idea of 3D printing for a long time, but I had no idea it was so easily accessible. A friend told me to check out Shapeways. I was blown away and I had to try it. Once I received my first Shapeways shipment, I was hooked.

To read the whole article with pictures, click here.

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October News

St. Pat's Logo

There are several things going on this month that you should be aware of.

  • All the prices in my Shapeways shop were updated today. Shapeways reduced the price of their stainless steel materials. Most items went down by about $3 to $5 in those materials. Check it out if you want to see the new prices.
  • We will be selling jewelry at a table that Quad Cities St. Patrick’s Society’s Shamrock ‘n’ Roll Event on Saturday, October 18. It is at the Stern Center, 1713 3rd Avenue, in downtown Rock Island. Doors open at 6PM and there will be bagpipers, Irish dancers and a performance by Wicked Liz and the Bellyswirls. There will be silent auctions, raffles and 50/50. This is the fundraiser to support the Grand Parade, their scholarship program and other charities.
  • We will also be at the Bettendorf Holiday Bazaar on Saturday, November 1st at the Bettendorf Public Library from 9AM to 3PM. This is a fundraiser for Friends of the Bettendorf Public Library.