A word that phonetically resembles or suggests the sound it is meant to describe is termed an “onomatopoeic.” For instance, “moo,” “oink,” and “tick tock” are linguistic imitations of aural phenomena. A clever, young designer from San Francisco who goes by the screen name, “10DotMatrix,” has developed a method for creating 3D onomatopoeic forms for jewelry. She uses easily accessible open source software, tools and materials to create jewelry that, in a clever reversal, looks like it sounds. That is, “earring,” for instance, is translated into 3D form based on the waveforms generated by speaking into a digital audio editor.
She’s shared detailed, step-by-step instructions, including a video and helpful screen shots on the maker website, Instructables. It’s a pretty simple process. This resourceful designer used Audacity, a free open source digital audio editor to record the words she planned to convert to 3D forms. Audacity runs on any operating system. In her instructions, she notes that you’ll also need to download the LAME mp3 encoder, which will allow you to generate mp3 files when you’re using Audacity. She records her voice, experimenting with different accents and inflections until she gets waveforms that appeal to her, saving several different ones from which she can choose when she moves to the next step in her process.
Her project was inspired by a similar one by designer Thiago Hersan, also available on instructables. Hersan created “Spoken Word Chess Pieces” by converting the shape of the sound he made when naming each chess piece. He created a set for himself but left the creation of the second set for his opponent. The San Francisco 3D maker uses Hersan’s basic processing script to convert the waveforms to images and even provides a link for downloading this script.
Sound becomes sight and then form in the next few steps in her process. She takes advantage of two additional open source software downloads–GIMP for photo retouching and 3D CAD/CAM tool, Fusion 360–to take the still-abstract waveforms and create her 3D models. The clever young designer uses an Afinia 3D Printer, which retails in the U.S. for about $1,399.00, to print the forms, which she refines using the 3D modeling program. Her step-by-step instructions include very specific measures particular to the printer and also the desired durability of the jewelry. She accomplishes this by using the Afinia 1.75 mm ABS Filament (700g), which ranges in price from $29.99 to $49.99 (USD) depending on the color you desire.
The final steps–nine and ten–take the making process back to low tech. A trip to a jewelry supply store for earring hooks and an excursion to the garage for wire cutters, pliers, a putty knife, and masking tape complete the designer’s low-tech/high-tech tool kit. The San Francisco 3D designer also shares the process for making a necklace but, it probably goes without saying, that the possibilities are basically limitless. Imagine an engagement ring that looks like “love” sounds or a string of “pearls” in place of the real things. A patient maker could take a favorite pop song or an Italian aria and create a magical, wearable, visual transcription in 3D. What do you think about this idea for jewelry design? Discuss this story in the 3D printed waveform jewelry forum thread on 3DPB.com.