25/04/20141 Comment

3D Printed Custom Pen Holder

Following on from the 3D printed chair model blog post where I printed a chair model I created for a client, this post focuses on a 3D printed pen holder which was designed by myself and printed by 3D Print UK. The main purpose behind creating this model was to create something functional, unique, fun and intricate.




The pens sit neatly behind the angular polygonal front panel. Extruded and embossed text was added to give the panel depth and to also experiment with the tolerances of the 3D printer.


The initial design used hollow cylinders to hold the pens, but the design was quickly modified with unusual geometric circles. One of the advantages of 3D printing is the freedom to create these intricate details without worrying how these parts could be constructed.


The translucent effect from the nylon material always looks good in natural sunshine. It seemed a shame to paint this, however I really wanted to see how well the intricate parts would come out.


Black aerosol spray paint was used first. Several thin coats were applied to avoid any paint runs. The extruded text was then finished with white Humbrol air fix paint.



This 3D printed pen holder has impressed myself with the level of detail achievable. The finishing of print is perhaps the downside as even after numerous layers of spray paint the print layers are still very visible. Perhaps a thick primer would give a smoother finish, however in this instance I didn't want to lose the text detail on the front.

I think this piece really outlines what 3D printing is currently all about, the ability to quickly turn and idea from a basic concept, to a physical item you can use. It might not be a "polished" piece, but as a tool to explain or demonstrate ideas or design quickly, 3D printing is absolutely brilliant!

If you would like to know more about 3D printing or rapid prototyping please feel free to get in touch!


02/04/2014No Comments

2D Photo to 3D Virtual Model to 3D Physical Print

3D model libraries exist to allow digital artists to quickly populate their scenes with appropriate content. Using libraries for 3D models can be a time saver, and as such saves money and costs. But what happens when a specific model cannot be found in any library? This can happen quite often, perhaps an architect would like a particular bench outside their building, or an interior designer would like to see a specific item of furniture in their lounge.

The solution is to build the 3D models manually. Using as much information as possible, the 3D artist can turn drawings, dimensions and other references into 3D models. The accuracy of the 3D models is highly dependant on what information can be found. If the item to be modelled can be physically held, studied and measured, then the model will be more accurate than a model created from a handful of photos.

In a recent project I was asked to model the Dark Cross Dining chair.

Black Cross Dining Chair

From the website, we have the above image, and some basic dimensions, and that's all! However from this one image and the measurements I can re-create the chair in 3D. I also used the image to measure the leg thickness, the proportions of the chair, and overall shape and size of various parts. There are some assumptions I made, such as the seat height is similar to a standard dining chair, the chair is symmetrical and the legs are circular. I had to guess other areas, such as the rear of the chair, the curve of the top bar and the shape of the seat.

3D Dining Chair Wireframe

This image shows how the chair is built in 3D. Keeping models simple, and adding detail where needed is my philosophy, and this is evident in this 3D chair. Techniques can be then applied to the model to turn the faceted geometry into smooth curves.

Generally the 3D model would then have textures and materially applied, and rendered inside a scene. This model was created for a client, who only required the 3D model without materials.

I then decided to take this model and use it as a test for 3D printing. The chair didn't require many changes to make the chair printable, however some models will require more work. When creating 3D models for visualisations, the artist will often not model parts which aren't seen, such as the bottom of the chair as this is deemed as unnecessary and time consuming, however with 3D printing, all areas of the model need to be created. Also when 3D printing models, the model needs to meet a certain specification depending of the type of 3D printer that will be used. Some printers require a minimum part thickness of 1mm, so in the case of this chair, when it was scaled to 1/1o the cross detail was thinner than 1mm, so this had to be made thicker.

Once the 3D model is complete, the 3D chair model is then sent to a 3D printing company. There are several companies, all differing in difference services and price. The one I chose to use this time was 3D Print UK. I chose to use them as their pricing is different to other 3D printing companies, as they price on the overall dimension of the 3D model, rather than volume, and as I wanted to print several items (more blog posts to follow) the overall price was better than printing each model separately.

So the 3D models were sent away, and 2 weeks later a little parcel arrived containing the prints....

3D Printed Dining Chair

3D Printed Dining Chair

The prints really exceeded my expectations, the level of detail is much better than I had expected, and the strength of the prints are good too. I wasn't sure if the little fixings would be printed, as they are slightly smaller than the minimum specification, but they are still visible.

3D Printed Dining Chair

The finish of the white nylon print is an interesting finish. To touch it feels like an Extra Strong Mint, and visually it does too. The nylon material which the models are printed with is also quite easy to mark, and can also leave little powdery marks on skin and anything else it comes into contact with, although I presume this is left from the printing process, and any loose nylon powder is soon discarded.

I ordered 2 chairs, so I could try painting and finishing a chair.

3D Printed Dining Chair

3D Printed Dining Chair

The finishing of the brown chair was done using Humbrol Airfix paints, but with nylon prints almost any type of finishing can be used. The 3D Print UK site demonstrates using aerosol paints to finish the 3D prints.

Painting and finishing the models is important with nylon prints, not only to add detail, but also to protect the prints from dirt and marks. Even if a white finish is desired, I would still use a clear finish.

3D printing is something I've always been fascinated with, and printing these chairs has only made me more intrigued and more sure that 3D printing will play a huge roll in the very near future. The quality of the prints is very good, perhaps not as detailed as traditional model making processes, but if you consider the lack of tooling needed, and the individuality 3D printing offers then 3D printing is a very viable solution, especially for one-off items, or for rapid prototyping.

The main downside with 3D printing using external companies is the lead time, which in my experience is around 2 weeks. This is still very good, however I see 3D printing as something that could be incredibly useful for rapid prototyping, testing ideas, and playing with concepts.

The other downside is price, £100 doesn't print a lot, and could soon become costly if several iterations of a model were printed. For myself, I see these external print companies useful for finished 3D models, and I plan to purchase a desktop 3D printer for testing and prototyping. Watch this space......

27/03/2014No Comments

Incredible 3D Printed Coasters

3D printing is something I've been keeping a careful eye over the past year or so. I find the technology and possibilities absolutely incredible, and in the very near future I truly believe that 3D printing will be common place in every office, business, and home.

Last year I ordered a sample kit from Shapeways which shows a few of the materials which can be printed. I have this sat on my desk, and every time I show it to someone they generally comment "What? All of this is 3D printed?" which always brings a smile to my face.

But I wanted to create something myself, and as I know how to make things using 3D software, it made the itch even more tempting to scratch. To make things even more tempting, with the Shapeways sample kit comes store credit so the first prints are free.

To create any 3D printed objects, you first need to create the 3D content. In my case I used 3D Studio Max, the same piece of software I use for creating visualisations and animations, but almost any piece of 3D software can create the data needed for printing.

I decided to print 2 coasters for this little test. I chose to create coasters as they would take relatively little time to create in 3D, and I wanted something nice to sit on my desk!

This screen-shot shows the coaster inside the 3D software. If the 3D model were to be used in an image, time would be spent refining the edges and giving them a nice chamfered finish, however with 3D printing we will naturally achieve rounded corners to an extent. If we wanted smoother larger chamfers on the 3D print, then we would need to add this detail in 3D, before printing.


When creating the 3D models it's important the design looks nice, but also there are quite a few design rules to consider and understand, before sending the model to be printed. Shapeways has some great tutorials and explanations on how to create 3D models for printing, but in a nutshell, the models has to be thick enough and strong enough to be printed. Designing the models so they meet Shapways' design rules can be one of the longest parts of the process, but something that can't be skipped by. In the case of the "ard Digital" coaster, the "d" was extented to meet the outer circle, and the two words overlapped to give strength to the designs.

The Peugeot Lion coaster took longer to create in 3D due to its complexity, and after a few revisions, mainly making parts slightly thicker, it was also ready.

For the coaster I chose to print in Strong and Flexible Plastic. The "ard Digital" coaster was printed in white, and the Peugeot coaster was printed in a polished red version. I wanted to see the difference between the two, other than the price.

Anyway, after submitting the 3D models, the arrived back a few days later.....


I must say that I haven't been excited about new technology in such a long time, but this was definitely exciting! Maybe it's because I can see the potential for 3D printing, or perhaps it was because I usually create images, animations and other digital content, which is never a physical thing, unless you count prints, so to be able to hold and play with something I have created is incredible.


This is a close up shot of both coaster. Perhaps the difference in finish isn't too clear, other than the colour, but when you're holding them the polished coaster is noticeably smoother and more refined, and the white coaster is rougher, with a texture similar to that of a strong mint.

So that's my first taste of 3D printing, now my head is whirling with ideas and possibilities, and I'm probably not going to sleep for a week! Overall I'm incredibly impressed with the process, and the end results. They have surpassed my expectations, and I really can't put them down! All I can really say is that this won't be the last you'll hear from me on the subject of 3D printing!


13/02/2014No Comments

Ard Digital is 2 today!

Well that crept up on me! Anyway I'm very proud to say that today Ard Digital turned 2 today!

This past year has been challenging as always, but I like to think I'm perhaps getting to grips with freelancing / running a business. I know I've made mistakes, and made good decisions, so hopefully everything has balanced out just right!

This 2nd year has seen some changes, I moved to an office in Huddersfield, gained a few interesting clients, produced work I am very proud of. Also the Punchard family extended

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once again, with the addition of baby Madison in December!! Needless to say things are just a little busier around the home!

I want to say a big thank you to all those who have supported me over the past 2 years, you know who you are, and your support is always very very welcome!

Over the next year, I want to keep the momentum going, continue to meet new and interesting people, and push into new areas....


Thank you!


16/01/2014No Comments

Inspiration: Small spaces

I think I've always be inspired by small, clever design. I've never been the type of person who thinks bigger is better, I drive a small car, live in a small house, and of course live in the UK, where space is always at a premium.

I find small spaces very inspiring, and this inspiration literally comes in all shapes and sizes. Recently I have found myself being fascinated by incredibly clever and beautiful design that utilises very small spaces. I love the constraints of small spaces, and the challenges they give. Living in a small house perhaps give me a personal connection, and a need to learn and be excited by how others have developed small spaces.

Designing for large spaces where space plentiful is still a great challenge, but when a small space needs to be functional as well as look good, then it becomes very tricky, but very interesting. I love these small spaces and the thought and design that been put into them, from the hidden storage, to the flexible living spaces. Every inch is treasured, and none is wasted.



www.hankboughtabus.com is something I stumbled across a few months ago, and was immediately in awe of. From the outside it looks like a classic America school bus, but when viewing the inside you can the incredible transformation of spaced achieved by Hank. The converted bus is used as a mobile home and a base for a road trip.



Instead of Hank designing a huge building for his final year project, he instead set about creating a design that he could create, build and actually make use of.

One of the reasons I love this space, is the unexpected. From outside you would never expect to see what lies behind the windows. The external metal shell of the bus is still complete, but the inside is where the transformation to modern, warm and homely design happens.  The simple and straight forward design gives a very functional, rather than a design classic feel, however in using simple, but beautiful materials, the design has it's own unique beauty. I personally love the curved ceiling, the way the arch disappears behind the horizontal panel is fantastic, and I love that there are no visible fixings holding the ceiling in place. Perhaps for some, it will be a step too far towards the function over form, but for me it strikes a good balance, and perhaps you can see where a limited budget has left its mark, but in saying that, if Hank had been more elaborate and intricate, then I'm sure a lot of the buses charm would be lost.

The other part of the design I also love is how Hank has made the layout as flexible as possible. The beds, seats and other furniture are all easily manoeuvrable so the spaces can be re-jigged to suit individual needs, and can also be easily transformed for different functions too.


Another source of inspiration for me is "George Clark's Amazing Spaces" TV show.

Again, like Hank's bus, the spaces shown in this TV show are small, in some cases much smaller than the bus, but equally they are beautiful small spaces. The projects range from beach huts to modular pre-fab buildings, like the one shown below.


Throughout the series, many different projects are explored, but the project which connects each TV show is George Clarke's caravan. The series documents the conversion of a tired and dated 1979 static holiday caravan into a desirable, modern holiday home for a family of 5!


The caravan features some very clever design, such as the way the outside wall of the caravan folds down to create an external decked area, but perhaps the most inspiring use of space in my opinion comes from the way the the sleeping space has been designed. In a space barely large enough for a double bed, a total of 4 beds (1 double, 3 singles) have been squeezed and manipulated into the tiny space. To see how this is possible, you should check out Episode 6 on 4OD.

When working with CG projects, it's very easy to lose all sense of scale. The digital worlds in which I work can be infinitely large, which can literally means any thing is possible. Sometimes it's good to take a step back and give yourself some constraints, and by doing so it means you think more intelligently about the space or design, and you often find this makes projects more interesting and beautiful. This is especially true with interior visualisations, sometimes the easiest option is to create a room so large we can literally fit anything in we want, but this just doesn't happen in the real world, and views of the image or animation will notice this and won't connect with the images. Instead, using a realistic scaled room, beautifully designed and well planned, will engage and draw viewers in.

I could be talking nonsense, but that's my theory anyway!


16/01/2014No Comments

Sorry (again) for the lack of website updates and blog posts!


I haven't intended to neglect the website or blog posts, but life has been a little hectic recently, mostly with the latest addition to the Punchard family, baby Madison! She arrived on the 16th December, and she really was the most perfect early Christmas present I could have asked for! I apologise for not sending Christmas cards this year, I haven't forgotten you! Next year I'll make Christmas cards, I promise!!

As well as little Madison coming along, I also moved office. No longer am I a lonely freelancer working in the spare room, but rather I now work in Huddersfield in a shared office in the Bates Mill. I felt it was time to move out of the house, and actually commute for the first time in nearly 2 years! The space is perfect for me, and the guys I share with are brilliant, with their skills ranging from video production, to marketing, to illustration, and plus the office has a table tennis table, so if you fancy a game, be sure to let me know!!

Anyway, I do intend on up dating the portfolio ASAP, and also to continue to blog and write. I don't really know what to blog about a lot of the time, so if there's anything anyone wants to know, just ask away!



09/04/2013No Comments

Website updates!

Just a quick post to say that some changes have been happening with the website, most of them "behind the scenes", so if anything looks amiss please perform a hard refresh (try holding ctrl and clicking the refresh button), and hopefully everything should look as it should!



13/02/2013No Comments

Ard Digital Is One Today!

Today is a special day for me, as a year ago I moved from employee to freelancing and starting up Ard Digital!

Taking the leap to freelancing has been one of those big moments in life for me. I wouldn't say I was un-prepared because I had spent many months before-hand doing everything possible from speaking to potential clients, to reading numerous business start-up books, however I believe that the only real way to learn about being a freelancer and running your own business is to take the plunge! There's so much you can learn from books, but there's much more to be learnt from getting your hands dirty! Over the year I have made some mistakes, luckily nothing major or that couldn't be rectified.

The phrase "You learn something new everyday" has never been more true. I find myself learning and absorbing so much, and experiencing new things.

As a freelancer, the past year has seen some amazing highs and some very challenging times too. The biggest challenge for me personally has been adjusting to a more sporadic schedule. Gone are the days of 9-5, but being flexible and working the late hours when needed are all par for the course, and something that I have embraced and made work to my advantage at times. Hard work does pay off!

But as well as working on numerous interesting and challenging projects for many fantastic clients, the year has also brought my son's 1st birthday, a house move, and all the renovation and decorating that brings along too.

I think first I should thank my family for the support over the last year, especially to my wife who has always believed in me, and is always there to offer support. I would also like to thank my clients this year, without you I wouldn't be here, so a massive thanks for believing in the work I can produce! There are numerous others who have helped out with advice, contacts and support, so thanks to everyone else, I hope to re-pay the favours one day!


So that's it, Ard Digital is 1! Bring on another fantastic year!!



12/01/2013No Comments

Using photographic references is the key in CG!

It's no great secret that the key to creating beautiful images and animations lies with using great reference material. References come in all forms; drawings, sketches, videos, but the one area which is always very important is photography.

We all need direction, and it's often little use just relying on our own perception of something, or even using our memories. We are by nature, biased, and our memories can be hazy at best, and as such can't really be relied upon. So how can we be sure that what we are creating is correct if we only use our brain? Well to put it simply, we can't! This isn't to say that it's wrong to use your head and imagination, sometimes accuracy isn't important and we can create beautiful things without directly using reference materials at all.

However, as with many visualisations, including architecture and product based projects, accuracy is very important, and without accuracy often we find ourselves questioning each other as to what exactly is "right". One person's right might be another person's wrong, and all this leads to confusion, compromise and often wasting time. So this is where references are important.

Photographic references can be used for just about every part of a visualisation project, from how something should look in, to how a visualisation feels, is lit and graded. CAD drawings and sketches are great for accuracy, but sometimes can be very clinical, or perhaps missing the finer details, so using photographic references along side other material will generally result in a much nicer and more accurate finish.

When lighting, grading and trying to achieve a certain "feel" to a visualisation, photo references are still just as important. Traditional photography can be very straight-laced, or very creative and experimental. These varying styles used in traditional photography filter down to the CG industries and artists, and using these photo references for all styles of visualisations is important, not only for the creative, moody visualisations, but also the typical day-time shots too. Again it's all about seeing the finer details, as well as the whole picture, and not relying on memories and experiences to direct us.

I would say however, that photographic references are probably most important when it comes to working with other professions. Using references through-out a job can give clear direction to both clients and professionals. Both sides know what to expect and what to aim for. More often than not, the desired out-come will be achieved quicker and to a much better standard.

So what really prompted me to write this post? Well I initially thought I would share some references I recently found useful, and also possibly go through the best places to start looking for them for future projects, but then I thought that just showing others what I've found isn't overly useful, unless you understand where I'm coming from, and you might think I'm a bit strange posting links to random photos!

I came across this set of photo references of metal cladding when looking for references for an architectural project. These images are absolutely perfect for reference images, and well worth bookmarking, but why? When I'm looking for references, I want to see how the thing looks close-up, far away, in context, in different lighting situations, variations, and pretty much anything else that gives me a better understanding on how to recreate things in 3D. The resolution of the photographs isn't always that important, if you are using a reference for lighting or mood, then low resolution images are fine, but if you want to see every detail of something, then obviously the higher the resolution the better.


Flickr is great for reference images, the content is great, and often the photographs are of high resolution. Also Flickr supports the Creative Commons licencing, and user can choose to opt in if the wish, allowing their images to be used in commercial projects if the licence allows. Flickr is usually the first place I look and often does the trick.

Googling for photographs can also bring nice results, although it is very hit and miss, and often the images are of low resolution as these images are usually from webpages where they have been re-sized. Also anything gathered from Google will generally be under copyright, so you wont be able to use the images other than to look at.

Various other blogs exist that are useful for references. Just Google search for a blog, and one will surely come up, but here are a few I check regularly. Architecture Paste Book is almost like a digest of other blogs and websites, and provides you with a mix of subjects and styles. Although it isn't too useful if you have something specific you need to find, it can be great if you are looking for inspiration or new ideas. Design Boom is a mixed genre blog which I find inspiring to view. It can often lead you astray with interesting articles and fascinating designs, but that's half the fun with this blog, you are never sure what it'll take you too! Finally in this short list is Architonic. It nicely describes it's self as "The Independent Resource For Architecture And Design", and like Design Boom has a mixture of architecture and design, but Archit0nic is more structured and designed to be an aid to professionals, making it easy to search by manufacturer, designer, material to name a few.

I hope that gives an insight into why I think using photographic references in CG is so important, some of the on-line reference I find useful, and just a general overview too. This post has focused on what the web can bring to using photographic references, mainly because the web is so easy to use and will often give brilliant results, but don't also forget to surround your self with books and magazines and also pick up your camera and taking some pictures yourself!


19/12/2012No Comments

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Here is a little image I knocked up which is printed onto the Christmas cards. I wanted to produce something a little geeky, but also something that represents Christmas, so I ended up with a 3D pixelated Rudolph! I'm not too sure if he's a cute or just a little creepy, I'll let you decide!


Here's to a fantastic Christmas and a brilliant New Year!





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