For as long as she can remember, fashion designer Kathy Minns has been passionate on the subject of a finely set table and the way in which the right combination and placement of pieces – dishes, silverware, glasses, flowers and other decorative elements – creates a look and atmosphere that is elegant yet also modern and fun. So passionate, in fact, that she eventually launched her own business, iSETT, to share her decorating approaches with others. Lately, she’s also become passionate about another subject – “metalworking,” thanks to the work of 3-Dimensional Services.
Simple, functional and elegant, the iSETT Table Ring, formed of two hollow channels of stamped, laser trimmed and electrostatically painted 0.5 mm carbon steel, was brought from vision to completed, short run part in just two weeks by 3-Dimensional Services.
The 3-Dimensional Services Group of Rochester Hills, MI, is a prototyping firm that specializes in design, engineering and analysis, in-house tool construction, and complete build of first off parts and low to medium volume production runs. Its use of advanced process methods, manufacturing technologies and years of engineering and machining experience
means that prototypes are typically provided up to 70% faster than conventionally equipped shops are able to offer. Impressive… but what does that have to do with décor and entertaining?
The answer to that question begins with the charger, or service plate. Though the name might not ring a bell most of us have seen one, if not at a fancy restaurant or on grandma’s sideboard, then on Antiques Roadshow. They are the large, heavy and frequently ornate plates that are set on the table and removed from the plate settings when the dinner plate arrives.
Minns’ idea was to replace this venerable relic with a metal ring, but not just any metal ring—the patent-pending iSETT Table Ring™. Embodying the sleek elegance of modern industrial design, Minns’ ring would be strong yet extremely lightweight and thus easy to use. It would be composed of two halves, keeping the weight down and making it easy to store – a requisite of modern home design. It would also make use of magnets to allow for additional decorative ideas and specialty celebrations. And finally, it would also be hollow so that when it wasn’t being used to “frame” a dish it could be flipped over and filled with water to hold fresh cut flowers. The iSETT Table Ring would remain on the table and be used as a decorative piece that “frames” the dinner plate and can be used to frame the charger plate.
From vision to reality — rapidly
That’s what Minns saw in her mind; the question was how to turn this vision into reality? That’s where 3-Dimensional Services came in. The fashion designer turned entrepreneur approached the Rochester Hills firm seeking their help in turning her vision into reality.
First came design. Though it was a fairly simple form, like any other industrial or commercial design project it had to be done right. Changes during this phase included increasing the flatness of the top of the table ring in order to ensure that the decorative magnets would remain firmly secured when used. The team at 3-Dimensional worked with Minns on three design reviews before a final, fully functional design, employing 0.5 mm carbon steel, was arrived at.
Next, a model was created using SLA (stereolithography apparatus). SLA is one of four rapid prototyping technologies used by 3-Dimensional Services, depending on project requirements, the others being laminated object manufacturing (LOM), selective laser sintering (SLS) and metal laminating. Each technology produces a solid working model of the design — critical for hands on review of form, fit and function.
While an SLA’s laser beam cures light sensitive polymers into the shape of the part, the LOM’s laser cuts thin layers of paper which are then laminated together to form the part. The SLS hardens powdered materials into part replicas, and metal laminating layers thin sheets of metal into the shape of the part. These rapid modeling capabilities allow 3-Dimensional Services to produce models that range in size up to 32″ x 22″ x 20″
After design approval 3-Dimensional Services swiftly created a stamping tool via CNC machining. The part was then stamped on a 300 ton press, laser trimmed, and electrostatically painted black. A total of 48 pieces were produced, making 24 complete rings.
The entire project took two weeks from start to finish.
This initial run of 24 samples of what is now called the iSETT Table Ring is a trial balloon. If they’re a hit, Minns plans to make them widely available through kitchen specialty stores and high-end retail outlets. “My goal was to create a fresh, fun approach to setting a dining table with style and ease for any entertaining occasion, and 3-Dimensional Services helped me make that happen,” says Minns.
“Working with them was a rewarding experience,” she continues. “They came up with wonderful ideas and creative thinking for the project. I’m certainly not a big player like some of their customers, but 3-Dimensional Services treated my project with the same enthusiasm and professionalism they would have given to larger customers.”