A very interesting project came our way when up and coming fashion designer Ilyes Ouali asked us to create a unique belt buckle for an upcoming fashion shoot. As often the case we weren’t given much time to complete the task but we were confident of achieving the desired result with quick actions from our design and engineering team.
Designer Ilyes provided us some basic information for us to quote and to get the project moving quickly once accepted. Then Ilyes provided us some pictures of a clay maquette and a cardboard cutout to give us an idea size/form and orientation for our design to be based upon.
Our designer, Rafa Camacho then created the first 3d design for review by Ilyes, by creating a parametric model in Solidworks, the shape, form and size can be quickly changed making adjustments to the base construction elements such as 2d sketches, boundary curves to ensure the final design iteration is as close to what Ilyes requires. Final detailing can then be added such as corner radii again quickly adjusted via input values as shown in the developed designs below
With the final 3d model saved as an stl our development engineer Greg Hodson has to then make and finish the belt buckle to the specifications outlined by Ilyes. When receiving a new print request we will normally ask questions about it’s use to understand what is most important- for instance dimensions, finish, colour, material, strength, etc.
In this case the the primary parameters were identified as colour and finish. Rich orange (sample colour provided) and glossy. It was decided at this point that printing in ABS would be good choice as this would allow vapour polishing- a process of placing the component into a chamber with acetone so that the vapour smooths the object by melting the surface slightly.
When attempting to achieve the best possible print finish, one normally thinks first about a high resolution. It stands to reason that the higher the resolution the better the finish. However the effect of the layering is heavily affected by geometry; for example a straight sided vertical print will have the least gain in quality when using a higher resolution. On the other hand a curve approaching the horizontal will have noticeable layering even at a high resolution. The following print previews below illustrates this, particularly the image on the right showing 100µm transitioning to 50µm as the geometry tends towards the horizontal.
With a large print like this the print time can become restrictive at high resolutions, so one option is to print with multiple processes, increasing the print resolution only as the model requires. After getting a decent base print it was time to process the part to achieve the desired glossy finish.
3D Print Finishing
So on to vapour polishing; to create a vapour chamber large enough, a pyrex dish was used, however this was not the ideal chamber and some condensation dripped back onto the part, damaging the otherwise very smooth finish. “Adventures in vapour polishing” could easily be another blog post, so for the sake of this post let’s just say I decided to try a different approach.
Left image above showing the vapour polishing process, right image shows the effect when a full seal not achieved and condensation creeps in
XTC-3D is a fantasic polyurethane sealer and coats particularly well on angled/ vertical faces whereas other sealers and resins don’t hang on these surfaces so well often pooling at the base creating more work to finish. Given the 3d form of the belt buckle this was the ideal sealer to use. The image below shows XTC-3D curing after being applied to the show surfaces of the 3d print.
On the right side above we have the bare finished ABS part and on the left the result of XTC-3D sealing and polishing.with fine wet and dry paper and rubbing compound.
To get the ultimate smooth finish required a little elbow grease; sanding and polishing, but the final result was worthwhile.
Finishing touches and the fashion shoot
So the finished finished belt buckle was shipped to Ilyes in London where it was detailed further in spectacular fashion with the front surfaces completely encrusted with jewels and a contrasting black belt applied to finish. Here are some images from the fashion shoot showing the final finished belt buckle in context.
For more of Ilyes Ouali’s impressive work please check out his website and instagram: