Cursors necklace (Photo: HIJewellery.nz)

Click, scroll, zoom: making 3D printed jewellery with a tech-inspired touch

Every week on The Primer we ask a local business or product to introduce themselves in eight simple takes. This week we talk to Human Interface Jewellery founder Amelia Diggle who’s melding fashion and technology together to create a new form of ‘wearable tech’.

ONE: How did Human Interface Jewellery (HIJ) start and what was the inspiration behind it?

HIJ came about when I brought three of my passions together: User interface (UI), jewellery design, and 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD). One night, when I was in a metalsmith course attempting to design kinetic jewellery pieces after spending the day pushing pixels around in user interface designs, the penny dropped. That moment of realisation resulted in HIJ’s first range.

I launched the online shop in March this year and I’ve been releasing new pieces each month. I have a backlog of designs to choose from using the design thinking model, with each design concept undergoing a sketch-and-test phase before prototyping and production.

TWO: Did you have any interest/experience in business or entrepreneurship prior to starting Human Interface Jewellery?

My day job is in designing customer experiences. I’ve just started working at Verizon Connect in Christchurch. Before that, I was at Ambit AI designing chatbots using artificial intelligence and before that, I was at Spark NZ.

Customer experience and service design require understanding how a business works, how it offers its products, and how it services its customers. It involves prototyping new ideas and testing them with customers to continuously improve the experience. The skills required to do this job are very similar to entrepreneurs – coming up with new ways to solve problems and constantly staying up to date with the latest technology and trends.

Right: HIJ founder Amelia Diggle / Right: Toggle Ring (Photos: hijewellery.nz)

THREE: What inspires your jewellery designs and the kinetic quality that many of them have?

The designs are inspired by software and interfaces, melding fashion and technology to create a new style of ‘wearable tech’. It’s also a way for people that aren’t so familiar with new technology to connect with it. So leaving the texture of the 3D printed metal is a deliberate decision. It’s so people can touch and feel what this new technology is like.

Women in tech is also a big inspiration. According to ISACA (an international professional association focused on IT governance), women make up just a fifth of the IT industry’s population, and HI Jewellery gives these women something to wear that’s both feminine and tech-forward.

FOUR: What are some of the challenges and benefits of 3D printing jewellery? What sort of materials do you use to 3D print your designs?

User-centred design and 3D modelling go so well together. You can easily adjust, tweak and customise designs for each individual.  The kinetic jewellery designs work perfectly for powder bed fusion – or Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) so that they can be printed as interlocking parts as one print, like our toggle ring, based on the on/off toggle switch we see in our mobile phone settings.

Choosing the appropriate type of 3D printing for each design has been a real challenge in terms of balancing cost, quality and turnaround time. The cost of [powder bed fusion] 3D printing with precious metal is also still very high due to its infancy, which is why HIJ has been using two types of 3D printing: 3D printed wax via material jetting that’s then cast in silver or gold to give it a smooth finish, and along with the powder bed fusion/direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) which gives it a textured finish.

Another challenge I found is that most commercial 3D printers aren’t set up to print consumer goods. This resulted in issues like having HIJ designs turned away because they weren’t car parts or seen as products that were technical or engineered.

Materials we currently have in usage are silver (via both types of 3D printing), gold (cast only) and titanium (DMLS only)

Scroll bar necklace in four different options (Photo: Facebook/HI Jewellery)

FIVE:  What’s your best-selling design and what’s your favourite design personally?

Best-seller is the cursor earrings. People love the wee computer pointer and it’s a subtle way to add some tech-inspired bling to your outfit.

My personal favourite is the scroll bar. I wear one every day and it’s like wearing a fidget spinner. I can play with it all day and in meetings, and the minimal design is also quite subtle. People get excited when they recognise what it is.

SIX: What do you see as the future of 3D printing? Do you see it being used more in the fashion/accessories industry like HIJ, as well as other less conventional sectors?

3D printed consumable products are right at the beginning of the innovation curve, so it’s going to go through some ups and downs as we figure out the best ways to use it. I think the main benefit of 3D printing is it’ll give local designers and brands the ability to be global. By simply sending 3D files via email, cloud, internet etc to anywhere in the world with a 3D printer, it opens up new markets to share designs to a wider audience. This will create new challenging brands and I think customers will expect more customisations as they become more aware of how incredibly easy and fast it is to change a design with 3D printing.

Hopefully, this will counteract the fast fashion culture we’ve created, this throwaway culture that’s created massive waste problems and has ruined our environment. If people are able to customise a product then they might treasure it more and not throw it away.

[There’s also] virtual reality, which is a way for people to see what the form and shape of a product feels like. You can play with the design in VR before buying it which could be a potential future business model. In the future, we might be trying on jewellery and clothes in VR and AR before we buying them. HI Jewellery has a Virtual Reality Gallery where you can play with the designs.

We do need to remember that technology is a tool, and unless we have real problems and needs to solve and meet them, it may or may not disrupt/drastically change an industry.

(Source: HIJewellery.nz)

SEVEN: Do you have any other plans to scale/grow further and if so, what are they?

Yes! I have two ideas of where HI Jewellery could go: incorporating precious stones into designs or creating jewellery that can be connected to the Internet of Things and sense other pieces around it.

EIGHT: Lastly, tell us about a New Zealand start-up or business that you really admire right now.

Backyard weddings. It’s an ingenious idea to help budget conscious brides and grooms rent out a beautiful backyard for their special day. It’s like Airbnb for wedding venues, and all they’ve done is create a platform connecting people with stunning houses and backyards to engaged couples wanting cheaper or better options for their wedding location. They’ve also just infiltrated Australia.


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