Have you ever ventured into the jewellery store to find that perfect piece for you or someone you love? The sheer amount of choices these days is enough to make the average person’s head spin, but for the most unique people with the most unique tastes, it can be impossible to find the exact piece of jewellery. Manufacturers introduce new pieces all the time, but they remain mass produced for the most part. Only the most genuine and expensive pieces are hand made to be truly unique. However, with today’s technology, the average person can have their perfectly designed piece in any size and in any style they desire, if they use 3D Printing to achieve that goal.
One of the largest hurdles to overcome with making your own jewellery or manufacturing 3D Printed jewellery as a business, is proper sizing. Where it is relatively easy to size bracelets and necklaces simply on the general size of a neck or arm, it becomes a little more complicated when you are designing something as particular and tightly sized as a ring. Ring sizing is based on the width of the finger the ring is to be worn on and is generally denoted in millimeters. However, sizing your ring yourself is not as simple as just holding your finger up to a ruler and hoping for the best.
For those that intend on 3D Printing rings for themselves, most people know what ring size they are or at least close to the size. Jewelers can give you that information from trying on rings in their store, but for those that want to 3D Print rings for sale, investing in a ring sizing kit is ideal. This will allow your customers to come in and be properly sized before design begins. You do not want to design a lot of rings in odd sizes hoping for the best. 3D Printers have come a long way in the machine’s ability to produce products quickly, so 3D printing a ring for an order, depending on how complicated the design is, should not take more than a few hours. With multiple 3D Printers available, you can provide even more fast productions for your clientele.
Like all forms of 3D Printing software used is important. This is where your original model takes shape and becomes the unique ring, bracelet, pendant, or any other form of jewellery. Programs such as Sketchup tend to be the go to for most 3D Printing artists, but for something as fine tuned as jewellery, Zbrushcore tends to be the industry standard. Here are some other software options for those of you interested in pursuing 3D Printed jewellery designs.
TinkerCAD – Free online service featuring solid modeling and polygon modeling as well.
Blender – Free open source for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux software program capable of digital sculpting and polygon modeling.
Rhinoceros – If you are looking to up your design game, Rhinoceros is a commercial grade design software, so it will cost you, but they do offer a 90 day trial to allow you to try them out for a bit. Curve modeling is Rhinoceros’s specialty, so it is perfect for intricately designing unique pieces of 3D Printed jewellery. It works with Windows and Mac OS X.
Moment of Inspiration – For those who wish to save a little money, but still want to enjoy the rich success of commercially producing 3D Printed jewellery, Moment of Inspiration can help. Again, this software offers curved modeling, a free 30 day trial, and costs less than half of Rhinoceros. Windows and Mac OS X compatible.
One of the largest draws to 3D Printing jewellery is the ability to make complex patterns with the touch of a few buttons, and a good eye for design. With the help of software such as Zbrushcore, paired with a high quality 3D Printer, complex geometries and intricate patterns can be made without having to cut away materials or cast gold pieces by hand. This enables modern jewellery designers to vastly vary their designs and offer something new and different to a customer. The artisan, essentially, can take their hands away from the piece and allow technology to take over producing even the most intricately designed pieces in a fraction of the time that traditional jewellery making takes up.
Investment ‘Lost Wax’ Casting
With every form of 3D Printing available, there will be various techniques artists deploy to generate a variety of different results. In 3D Printing jewellery, one of the more popular adaptations is known as invested casting. Although the process involves 8 general steps, artists have found that this method produces strikingly beautiful results. Here are the steps involves with invested casting.
- Pattern Formation – A wax pattern is 3D Printed directly instead of the traditional wax cast molds used by traditional jewelers. A castable resin may be deployed for this process depending on the needs of the artist and design.
- Mold Assembly – The second part of the process involves assembling your mold onto a casting tree. With the tree configuration, multiple casts can be made at once making the process much more cost effective.
- Shell Building – Like building up wax layers on a candle, the shell building step in 3D Printing jewellery is a process in which the mold assembly is dipped repeatedly in a ceramic slurry to build up a coating on the outer layer. Between dips, the layers are left to dry and harden.
- Burnout – It is during this part of the process in which the original wax model is melted away. When the ceramic coated piece is placed into a furnace, the heat melts the wax and allows it to drip out of the piece.
- Pouring – Once the wax has drained from the piece, pouring of the casting material can begin. Brass can be used for pouring with more precious metals utilised as an outer coating for fine jewellery pieces at the final stages.
- Knock Off – This part of the process is essentially, exactly what you think it is. The piece is vibrated to knock off the ceramic outer coating and reveal the intricate casted design beneath.
- Cut Off – Upon releasing the final mold from the outer ceramic shell, the next step is to cut it from the mold tree.
- Finishing – Traditional jewellery finishing techniques can be deployed at this juncture such as polishing, adding precious metals, and generally giving your piece of jewellery its luster.
What is Required for Invested Casting 3D Printing?
3D Printers have proved highly instrumental in casting 3D Printing jewellery as they are able to melt wax based filament and form them into very intricate pieces for casting purposes. A highly intuitive machine and software are required to perform this very important task as jewellery pieces can be remarkably small and even the smallest design variation can change the entire look of the piece.
Apart from a high quality 3D Printer, the piece must be designed in a way that allows for the wax mold to be melted and removed from the interior of the mold. Even a small bit of wax left behind will alter the final piece, so design all pieces in a way that the burnout process will be a success.
Additionally, the artist must construct and first 3D Print a high quality, very durable casting tree to enable the whole process to take place. We have included a picture of a casting tree to show those who are new to the process exactly what we are talking about.
Direct 3D Printing
3D Printing jewellery is not like other 3D Printed items you may have encountered before. Loading a completely gold, platinum, or silver filament into your typical 3D Printer is remarkably expensive and very impractical as these metals must be heated to an excessively high heat in order to extrude properly, however, there is another method that allows for precious metals to be used, but the process is much less popular among jewelers worldwide.
Instead of a long strand of filament, as with other 3D Printed models, a specialised metal powder combined with precious metal powder are used to construct a piece of 3D Printed jewellery layer by layer until the form comes to life. The main reason this process is ill used across the industry is the simple fact of money. It is remarkably expensive to maintain a supply of the raw. However, some jewelers and 3D Print enthusiasts employ this method of powder bed fusion as is used in many other metal parts manufacturing facilities.
Another downside to this form of 3D Printing is the high level of stressed placed on the materials making them difficult to form and often produced warped and potentially unattractive results. Additionally, when the piece is completed, the artisan must spend a lot of time shaping, polishing, and managing the piece to get the glimmer and shine expected of a high quality piece of jewellery.
There is one significant plus to direct 3D Printing jewellery. Basically, the time from conception to final product is drastically shortened. However, this method does require more intense finishing of the piece, but does not require molding, firing, drying, and burnout as with invested casting.
Jewellery production has always been a lucrative career choice. People want to look their best and a little adornment can go a long way to help them achieve that goal. There will always be a need for high quality jewellery designers and with our technology based world and the fact that people want unique pieces as fast as possible means 3D Printed jewellery is only going to grow more popular.