Jewellery industry is much evolved when it comes to 3D printing. The technology is not new in this sector and all big jewellery houses are using 3D printing in their processes. But how exactly are they using it? Well, to begin with, they are definitely not 3D printing the end product! But what they are doing is that, they are 3D printing a pattern that can be casted into any metal like copper/silver/gold etc. Unfortunately, when you aim to cast a design, it becomes highly imperative that design is not very complex or in other words, it should be “manufacturable” otherwise it becomes highly difficult, if not impossible, to fabricate it. Jewellery industry so far has exploited 3D printing for making quick patterns but have not yet leveraged its capability to create complex designs and structures which are otherwise deemed impossible to manufacture.
Directly 3D printing gold is possible but it is not very accessible and economic. Hence not a recommended way.
It wouldn’t be completely wrong to say that, 3D printing is used in the manufacturing cycle of any jewelry piece that you buy today. And to testify this, you can try going to an established jewelry house and experience it first-hand. You will see that, most of the demo pieces laid out in front of you are not really made out of precious metal but HD resins. To place an order, you’ll need to select a basic design, then you’ll ask for some standard modifications, and the jewelry manufacturer will manufacture it within a week’s time and deliver it to you. Guess what, that is how all jewelry you buy online is manufactured.
Today, we will cover three different aspects of how to manufacture a jewellery using 3D printing:3D Printed Acrylic / Resin patterns
Majority of today’s jewellery is manufactured using resin patterns. Acrylic patterns are used as master patterns to create a silicon mold. The silicon mold is then used to create multiple wax patterns. These wax patterns are then used to create an investment casting tree, so that they can later be cast into metal. Acrylic patterns are primarily manufactured using MJM technology which allows you to print very fine features – as small as 0.3mm. But due to rapid development in this industry, the same patterns can now be manufactured by DLP technology. The output of both the technologies differs in quality and hence, a choice should be made wisely.
3D printed wax patterns
The limitation of resin patterns is that, the geometry cannot be too complex, as it has to be silicon molded, later. Hence with 3D printing wax patterns, jewellers now have the option of skipping “step 1” of making a silicon mold by directly 3D printing wax patterns which can later be mounted on an investment casting tree. The advantage of wax pattern is that, it can be manufactured very quickly and it can create highly complex geometries.
Direct Metal Sintering Gold
Lately, too many questions have been lurking around about 3D printing gold, directly. Truth is, gold can be 3D printed! Cooksongold Precious Metals, an additive manufacturing studio operating out of UK and America, has an in-house capability to directly 3D print precious gold. The facility is operated in association with EOS with the state-of-the-art M-080 machine. The machine comes with a circular bed size of 80 mm, and 90 mm in height. Not much information is available yet on raw material (which of course is gold) for this machine and hence it is difficult to understand its value in comparison to our standard gold. This development is done with a holistic vision to target the Jewellery and Watch-making industry.
|Gold Casting||Option 1||Option 2|
Used for making multiple wax patterns out of silicon mold
Used for direct lost wax casting
|Technology & Machines||MJM – 3D systems 3500HDMAx
DLP – Desktop Printer range
|MJM – 3D Systems CPX
Micro SLA – Formlabs Castable resin
As of now, we are unable to justify, whether 3D printing gold directly is the most viable option or not. And hence, we would like to throw this topic open for discussion. So dear readers, what do you have to say about this? Kindly voice your opinions in the comment section below.