Michael is one of the earliest users of Shapr3D. His first activity is dating back to the summer of 2016. He has built a successful Kickstarter campaign since, and now working on his own automatic watch movements, so that he doesn’t have to outsource and import it. This is his story.
Michael is a self-educated jewelry and watch designer, with some early exposures of design during his student years at Baltimore fine arts high school, and from his father, who has taught him a “great deal”, as he was a fine arts professor at the University of Maryland.
He had no formal training in CAD design, so naturally, he started off making engagement rings and watches by hand. After the initial sketches, he partially carved them in wax and cast them. This turned out to be enough only for a short period of time, and he started to experiment with hiring professional CAD artists to make his ideas a reality.
This turned out to be a dead-end, as the CAD artists were both expensive and hardly ever came up with something Michael envisioned. These freelancers worked with Michael’s sketches, so they needed constant input about the precise dimensions and the envisioned looks. This workflow ended up to be too expensive, as a simple adjustment on a dimension required a new round with the CAD artists.
“There’s nothing like throwing it yourself. You know exactly what you want and you know what changes to make.”
So, he tried CAD again and used Matrix, a CAD system developed solely for jewelry design. But it never got to the point, where he ended up with a final design, only a few cuts. The way the system worked was just counter-intuitive and the learning curve was so steep. He would have ended up in thousands of dollars in investments just to get a proto-product and would have spent another 2-3 months to master it. On top of this, he just hated using the mouse, after an hour of work he had to have 30-40 minute breaks just to start working again.
He then turned to his iPad Pro and set out to make it his sole workstation.
After a brief stint with uMake he stumbled upon Shapr3D in the App Store. He was impressed by the promo video and the idea to work with the pencil, so he downloaded it. A week later, with the help of the in-app tutorials, he managed to learn the app and simply said that Shapr just worked so well for him. So much so, that with our latest, 3.0 release he will only use Shapr3D to create his designs:
“Specifically thanks to the new update, Shapr3D is going to be my primary software for creating my watches and engagement rings. I was planning to buy Rhino and Solidworks along with a Mac, but I definitely no longer need them.”
Before we say anything, Michael’s credo and his design philosophy should speak for itself:
“Love plus skill equals masterpiece. My desire is to make beautiful things that cause a viewer to fill an emotional void.”
As every designer, he first needs to understand the problem, then he needs to get inspired. Here is how he does it:
“Many of my best designs come from just walking around the city or walking through a jewelry tool supply shop. I get inspired by nature and from my dreams. If I drink a few cups of coffee the design visions come racing in. Complete works. I quickly sketch them out.”
He uses Sketchbook or Procreate to sketch ideas out, then after he is ready, he switches to Shapr3D to model them.
He sits down at home, in his favorite chair, and he starts experimenting with different dimensions and ideas until he gets to the desired outcome. Usually, it takes 5-12 hours to come up with the final design.
After finalizing the model in Shapr3D, he goes to Shapeways to have it 3D printed, just to get a general look/feel. With the prototype printed, he can consult with customers and colleagues, to see what they think or if they have any input. At this stage, there is still time to make adjustments.
When it comes to watches, the file goes to CNC milling company he is partnering with, and they take over manufacturing.
In case of jewelry, he sends it to the caster to make a cast. After casting and molding, it goes to the workbench for the final polishing and benching.
After the product and prototype are ready, there comes marketing. He does a photo shoot to create the products look impressive in a real-life environment for marketing materials.
With the watch he went further, he launched a Kickstarter campaign – his first – to see if there is any demand for it. He prepared for the launch the same way anyone would’ve done it:
It turns out there was indeed a demand for the watch, and he doubled the goal he set out to achieve, earning $6,000 on the first day of the launch. This success meant he has to say goodbye to his one-man band enterprise and start to build a small company, just to meet the demand.
“hands-down the best purchase I have ever made.”
He started using iPad Pro in 2015.
“Once I saw its capabilities I wanted to see if I could make it my exclusive machine, so far so good. I have two laptops in storage that I have not even touched for several years now.”
He uses his iPad Pro for both work and fun. It’s part of every aspect of his workflow we have covered above
He also uses it for his hobby, music production. He has dozens of music apps downloaded and a Cubase for putting his music together.
His advice for early-career designers is simply to buy an iPad Pro:
“iPad Pro is the best investment you can make, because it puts hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of software at your fingertips for a minute fraction of the price. If you invest in an iPad you literally have everything that you need to get off of the ground. My advice is to be persistent, be hungry, trust your creative instincts and work your butt off.”
“I am launching my own watch company which will feature our own in-house movements rather than purchasing the movements from overseas. Currently, I’m in the process of drawing my own automatic movement directly in Shapr3D which is debuting this Spring.”
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Kaarle Vanamo is an inventor and founder of ClimbStation