Of shoes, and lights and all things nice

Joburg designer/engineer Michaella Janse van Vuuren is at the forefront of 3D printing in South Africa and has been producing a range of beautiful items by exploiting this cutting-edge technology.

With a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town, Michaella has been making a name for herself in the realm of design over the past number of years. Her Chrysanthemum Centrepiece was voted the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa at the Design Indaba 2009 and she recently unveiled a new application of her 3D printing design talents to the fashion industry in New York. The Design Indaba newsletter reveals that Micaella exhibited a new collection of shoes, jewellery and clothing at the “Inspire” fashion show at the 3D Printshow, the foremost event showcasing the latest developments in the industry.

Where did it all start? In her final year of undergraduate studies towards a BSc in Electrical Engineering, Michaella embarked on a research project where she developed a software programme for human eye detection and tracking in video footage. This interest encouraged her to enrol for a master’s degree, focussing on the development of a system for automatic human pose and action recognition in video sequences.

It was at Bloemfontein in 2007, during a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Central University of Technology, that Michaella’s long suppressed artistic talents – which so delighted her at the Pro Arte High School for Art, Music Ballet and Drama in Pretoria - emerged again. The research focused on the development of custom implants using computer-aided (CAD), and computer-aided manufacture (CAM) methods using CT and MR-scan data as reference. She recognised the amazing opportunities that the 3D printers offered and embarked on developing a range of imaginative projects.

Micaella showcases her work through her company Nomili, a vehicle for promoting 3D engineering, fine art and design work. Nomili specialises in the design of unique and customised products that are digitally manufactured. The objects are designed on computer and realised using rapid manufacturing or 3D printing methods. The products and services range from lighting, interior products, jewellery, sculpture, 3D limited editions and one-off pieces.