The Fashionable Side of Science
Jason Brett posted on December 14, 2016 |

You don't see the science at first. You see a necklace—a unique necklace with simple lines and graceful curves that follow the flowing lines of nature. (Figure 1) It catches your eye and makes you wonder, “Haven't I seen that before?”

It’s only when you inquire that you learn the curves are based upon the flight path of Apollo 11. Lift off, Earth orbit, transit to the Moon, lunar orbit and landing are all subtly embedded in a conversation piece that speaks to the owner’s passion for science. The story behind the necklace, however, is also driven by a passion for science blended with entrepreneurship and powered by the latest in computer-aided design and rapid prototyping technology by SOLIDWORKS.

Figure 1.The 3D-printed Apollo 11 Trajectory Necklace was one of Sci Chic’s first big hits. It convinced founder and mechanical engineer Erin Winick that combining her passion for science, engineering and fashion was a viable business model. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)
Figure 1.The 3D-printed Apollo 11 Trajectory Necklace was one of Sci Chic’s first big hits. It convinced founder and mechanical engineer Erin Winick that combining her passion for science, engineering and fashion was a viable business model. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)

“The Apollo 11 Trajectory Necklace was the first to really catch attention,” said Erin Winick. “People love space exploration, and they haven't seen that visual in jewelery before.” Winickis the founder of Sci Chic, a fashion design company that “shows the fashionable side of science by using advanced technology to make science and engineering-inspired jewelery and accessories.”

When I spoke with Winick in early December, she was busy developing new products for Sci Chic, studying for final exams and writing up her senior design project on solar energy for her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Florida. We discussed some of the influences that led to her being perhaps the only “fashion designer/mechanical engineer” to graduate this year.

Figure 2.The Apollo 11 Trajectory Necklace design in SOLIDWORKS.Sci Chic founder Winick uses SOLIDWORKS to develop her designs.(Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)
Figure 2.The Apollo 11 Trajectory Necklace design in SOLIDWORKS.Sci Chic founder Winick uses SOLIDWORKS to develop her designs.(Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)

It turns out that Winick's passion for science came naturally. Growing up in southern Florida, she was surrounded by the space industry, and family conversations would often touch upon the latest space missions and developments in technology. Her hobbies included sewing, hiking, writing and photography, but when it came to choosing a field of study, she wanted “a degree where I would learn to make stuff,” and engineering became her focus.

In her freshman CAD class at the University of Florida, she was introduced to SOLIDWORKS. It was an eye-opening experience. “I had never touched modeling software before,” she explained, but she quickly left her CAD rookie status behind. She has gone on to work with a variety of CAD packages at companies such as John Deere, Keysight Technologies and Bracken Engineering, but she's found SOLIDWORKS to be the CAD tool of choice for her fashion designs (Figure 2Figure 3). It allows her to generate photorealistic renderings of new product ideas that she can share with customers for preproduction feedback, and she finds it “fun to use CAD for making something other than hardcore tractor parts!”

Figure 3.The “Starfield” design under development. Winick’s first exposure to solid modeling was in her first year of mechanical engineering studies at the University of Florida. She has gone on to use various CAD packages in her career but chooses SOLIDWORKS for running her own business. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)
Figure 3.The “Starfield” design under development. Winick’s first exposure to solid modeling was in her first year of mechanical engineering studies at the University of Florida. She has gone on to use various CAD packages in her career but chooses SOLIDWORKS for running her own business. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)

Her choice for the software is a logical one. While it has always been well-suited for the technical and creative demands of solid modeling, the latest edition includes specific tools to assist designers in visualizing their products before committing to a time- and material-consuming print job. The layer-by-layer growth of a 3D print can affect both the visual and mechanical properties of a print job or require support material for horizontal surfaces. In SOLIDWORKS, designers can visualize and optimize these layers using the Build Analysis tool or analyze the surfaces in need of support material. The software can also help identify efficient ways to arrange a print on the print bed by optimizing the scale and orientation of the print job. SOLIDWORKS hopes to make 3D printing as easy as 2D printing by enhancing the print visualization tools in order to identify small features and gaps that will fail to print correctly.

Although the latest tools for the software were not available when Winick was learning CAD, she quickly mastered the software and grasped the potential of 3D printing. “CAD really struck a chord with me,” she explained, “but it was the Design Manufacturing Lab that exposed me to 3D printing.” The combination of the two tools appealed to her desire to build, and as president of the University of Florida Society of Women Engineers, she organized outreach activities to share that enthusiasm with school kids.

“When kids create a model in the computer and then see it printed, it has a big impact,” she said. Looking for ways to share creativity and 3D printing with more people led her to create Sci Chic. With the help of the University of Florida's “The Selling Factory,” a coworking space designed to support entrepreneurs, she has found a way to incorporate fashion, science, CAD, 3D printing and educational outreach into an entrepreneurial startup.

Figure 4.Winick creates her designs using SOLIDWORKS and produces them in a variety of materials using 3D printers. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)
Figure 4.Winick creates her designs using SOLIDWORKS and produces them in a variety of materials using 3D printers. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)

Working from shared space at The Selling Factory, Winick prints some of her designs herself on her LulzBot Mini and FlashForge Creator Pro printers (Figure 4), but she has also partnered with online 3D printing powerhouse Shapeways to produce her creations in a wider variety of materials.This allows her to address a range of customers and price points while keeping overhead costs low. It also creates a scalable business model that will allow her to maximize the return on her designs. The “scalable” part of the business model is going to be important to the future of Sci Chic, as Winick has a well-defined growth plan focused on fashion and education.

Figure 5.Sci Chic is launching a monthly subscription package for science enthusiasts aged 7 to 14. Each month, they will receive clothing, fashion and accessories arranged around a scientific concept as well as educational materials to explain the significance of each design. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)
Figure 5.Sci Chic is launching a monthly subscription package for science enthusiasts aged 7 to 14. Each month, they will receive clothing, fashion and accessories arranged around a scientific concept as well as educational materials to explain the significance of each design. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)

On the fashion side of the business, she is launching a series of pieces designed in collaboration with prominent Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The first line, “Startorialist,” is a collaboration with astrophysicists and science communicators Summer Ash and Emily Rice. It features designs based on the Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope and the Kepler probe. In January, Sci Chic will launch a new subscription-based product intended for kids aged 7 to 14(Figure 5).

Each month, Sci Chic will ship a package of jewelry, clothing and accessories based on science concepts, combined with educational materials and activities supporting and explaining the concepts expressed by the fashion items. Each month will have a different focus: “Technology” will launch the line in January, followed by “Space,” “Chemistry” and “Engineering.” The kids' line will be matched by a subscription package for adult science fans featuring metal jewelery and custom designs not available on the website.

Figure 6.Winick crosses the boundaries between high fashion and high technology. A recent mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Florida, she packages her passion for science and engineering into unique jewelery designs and educational offerings. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)
Figure 6.Winick crosses the boundaries between high fashion and high technology. A recent mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Florida, she packages her passion for science and engineering into unique jewelery designs and educational offerings. (Image courtesy of Sci Chic.)

While I admire the entrepreneurial and educational sprit of Sci Chic, and appreciate the technical skills that go into designing and producing 3D-printed artifacts, my sense of style tends more towards the functional than the fashionable. Seeking a second opinion on the fashion aspect of Sci Chic's designs, I shared this article with my wife. She not only claims the “fashionable” title in our home, but as a patent agent with a PhD in biotechnology, she claims the “scientist” title too. She has favorite pieces of science-inspired jewelery that have helped her strike up conversations with everyone from border guards to venture capitalists and views a unique necklace or pair of earrings as a business investment. Her second opinion was enthusiastically supportive—we've got an Apollo 11 Trajectory Necklace on order!

To learn more about SOLIDWORKS education programs, follow this link. If you are a researcher looking for access to SOLIDWORKS, click here.

SOLIDWORKS has sponsored this post. It has provided no editorial input. For more information, go to www.solidworks.com

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