What happens in this Davenport basement does not necessarily stay in this basement.

In 2012, Deere & Co. engineer Dan Foley began tinkering with computer-aided design software in his home-based workshop with the goal of crafting something tangible.

At the time, Foley knew a little about 3D printers since Deere worked with the machines, but he never explored other business opportunities the technology could provide. 

After conducting a bit of market research, the married father of three noticed a demand for 3D-printed jewelry, and went to work.

Foley began sending digital models to Shapeways, a New York City-based company that offers 3D printing services. While many of his first attempts were rejected, the techie kept at it, shifting his designs to comply with 3D printing standards.

"I wanted to understand it," said Foley, who at first assumed Shapeways solely used and manufactured plastics. "But they also offer metals, and that’s what blew my mind."

The custom 3D printing site first produces a wax model of Foley's design and then casts whatever material, depending on the piece of jewelry, into the mold.

Although he does not consider himself an artist, Foley said the advancements in 3D printing technology make him feel like one at times, and let him feed his creative side.  

"To make a mold manually takes a ton of skill," he said. "It allows somebody who isn't a sculptor to make something that has that level of quality."

And now that he's practiced his newfound trade for almost five years, the process is fast and efficient.

"There is not a more lean process than 3D printing," he said. "You go straight from raw material to finished product in one step.

"I can design something in a few hours, and I can have it in my hand in two weeks or so."

Foley, an Irish man, specializes in knotted Celtic-themed jewelry, which appear 3D in nature. He primarily markets bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings, which he sells for $30-$150. 

He peddles his products online under the business, coined D&O Designs, and has developed a following on Instagram and other social media platforms. 

The added income helps pay for the family's extracurricular activities, including baseball for their 12-year-old son, Owen, for example.

"It's allowed us to have some freedom," Foley's wife, Kerri, who runs an at-home daycare service, said. "We don't have to worry about bills, and it's fun watching him create." 

Foley also uses his hobby to teach his older son about running a small business. The “O” in D&O Designs stands for Owen, by the way.

“It’s cool to have a lot of ideas, but to run a business, it needs to be an idea that someone is willing to buy,” he said. "If it ever stopped growing or I stopped learning or I got bored with it, I would just stop, but I haven't ever gotten to that point yet. There's always some new thing to learn." 

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Editor's note: Look for reporter Jack Cullen's Notes @ Noon Tuesday, Thursday and Friday online at noon. He captures various sides of life in the Quad-Cities. Contact him at jcullen@qctimes.com or 563-383-2363.


Jack Cullen covers health and the outdoors for the Quad-City Times.