Design Bundles is such a versatile resource for all sorts of crafting projects. But how many of you have tried taking the files and using them in a 3D project? It’s definitely not as complicated as it first sounds and this simple tutorial will guide you through how to make a dazzling pair of earrings using an SVG file from Design Bundles.
A Crafter’s Guide to 3D Printing
By definition, a 3D printer is “a machine allowing the creation of a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession”. Although that sounds like a (terrifying) amount of jargon, it’s nothing to be scared of. Just like you would use a .SVG or picture file to cut vinyl on a Cricut, you use a “3D model” file to create a model on a 3D printer.
There are 2 main types of 3D printer in common domestic usage; the PLA printer, and the resin printer. Both of these options are becoming super affordable, with entry-level models coming in at less than £200. There are several differences however between PLA and resin printers.
PLA printers are the cheapest route into printing. Instead of ink cartridges like a standard home printer, they take reels of filament - basically wheels filled with a plastic string. The printer has a hot nozzle tip, which melts the filament. The nozzle moves around placing the melted plastic.
Resin printers are slightly more expensive, but due to how they work, they are able to make models with a higher level of detail, leading to some truly impressive prints. To make the model, a metal plate is suspended above a vat of UV resin. The build plate is dunked into the resin, and a UV light shone underneath in the shape needed. The model is built up layer by layer, upside down. Once the print is finished, you simply rinse the model in IPA (alcohol) to remove the residue and cure it under a UV light (sticking in the sun for an hour will also do the job).
Which printer you purchase depends on what you want to make the most; PLA allows for bigger models, but resin printers allow for very detailed prints. For this tutorial, we will be using a resin printer to make a pair of intricate earrings using files from Design Bundles.
How To Make Earrings Using a 3D Printer
What you need:
3D Printer (we are using the Elegoo Mars resin printer)
If you only have the .SVG, you can export a JPEG or PNG copy using Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator or other graphics software.
Step 2 - Import the File into Windows 3D builder
If you haven’t already, make sure you have installed Windows 3D builder. It is free and very easy to use. This is the software that is going to turn your 2D picture file into a 3D model for printing.
Click on New, then on the top bar press add. Press the load image button, then select your picture file from Step 1.
Step 3 - Use the “Stamp” option to turn your design into a 3D model
You can toggle the detail and smoothness of the model using the dials. You may need to inverse as well if when you load the image looks the opposite to what you were expecting. Don’t panic if there is an extra “shape” behind your earring design; we will remove that in the next step.
Step 4 - Use the “Slice” tool to remove any unwanted parts
In our imported model above, you can see we have an extra “rectangle” behind the beautiful mandala earring which we don’t want in our final design. The slice tool in 3D builder is what you want to use to remove the excess. The tool will specify where you want to make a slice (picture it as where you’re cutting into it, like if you're cutting through a fruit). It will then ask you which “bit” you would like to keep once sliced. In our case, we just want to keep the top section.
Step 5 - Export the model file
The hard parts all over now - you’re ready to export your model. Press the save icon in the top right. Pick a location to save your model to, and make sure you pick the right file format for your 3D printer software. As we’re using the Elegoon Mars’ software, we need to save our model as a “.STL” file.
Step 6 - Import your model to your 3D print software
The recommended software for the Mars Printer is CHITUBOX. Open the model in the software. The rectangle grid area is the print area of the printer. What we are going to do is size the earring to the final size we want, and fit as many as possible onto the print surface. Because we are using a resin printer, it takes the same amount of time to print 6 as it does to print 1, so we might as well fit as many in as possible.
If you “unlock” the ratio button on the scale tab, we can adjust the z value in mm (the thickness), without affecting the width and height of the earring. This will make the earring thicker, therefore sturdier, without distorting the overall appearance. If you rotate the whole machine bed, you can see from underneath if the models are in the print area (green), or outside of it (red, i.e. you need to move the model else you’ll lose a large amount of it).
Step 7 - Turn into a 3D print file
Once you’re happy with the layout of your models, press the slice button. This slice button is what makes the whole 3D print process work, and is different to the slice button from the 3D builder software (confusing hey). This time, slice takes your model and splits it into horizontal slices. Each slice is a layer the printer will print.
Once sliced, save your model to a USB drive, ready to be processed on your printer. The next step will vary depending on what printer you have; these instructions are based on a resin printer.
Step 8 - Print your earrings
For the next steps, ensure you follow the safety guidelines of both the machine and your resin. Always wear gloves, and a facemask when handling uncured (liquid) resin. On your printer, load the file from the USB stick.
Make sure the VAT is full of resin (if the resin has been sat for a while, give it a stir). Ensure the lid is on, and press “Go”. The screen will give you info on how long the print has left to go, how many layers it’s printing, and what each layer looks like. Leave the printer to it (this file took about 15 mins, but time will vary depending on what resin you use, what settings you have set etc).
Step 9 - Remove from the printer and clean
Once printed, leave the plate for a few mins in the printer so that a majority of the excess resin drips off the plate and back into the vat. The resin prints at this point are still going to be soft, so be careful in handling them so as not to break or damage them.
In our machine, we have a flexible build plate which makes it super easy to remove the flat earrings from the plate (simply remove the plate and bend it for the resin pieces to pop off). If you don’t have a flexible build plate, a really sharp spatula knife is a great tool. Pop the earrings into the cleaning solution required for your brand of resin.
Most of these require the use of alcohol IPA, but some are water washable. I like to use a silicone cake tin to do this in as the resin won’t stick, making for easy cleanup. Gently agitate the models in the solution to remove all traces of excess resin. Make sure to get into all the little nooks and details with a cocktail stick or old toothbrush.
Once clean, make sure to thoroughly dry the earrings before proceeding to the next step (if any resin or solution is still hanging around, you will end up with blemishes in the finished earring).
Step 10 - Cure (harden) the resin
Resin prints are fully hardened using UV light. A nail lamp works perfectly for this or a UV torch. You can even leave out in the sun for an hour if you don’t want to fork out for more equipment. Because I use UV resin a lot, I have invested in a large UV light on a moveable stand, which cures the models within minutes
Step 11 - Finish off the earrings!
The fun part now, the finishing! If you find any holes originally in your design have partially filled in with resin during curing, a Dremel and small drill piece will clean it out lovely (just be sure to wear a mask and goggles).
To complete our earrings, I applied a couple of thin layers of spray paint, fitted a jump ring, and attached ear hook findings.