3D Printing: A Jeweller’s best friend

Why????

Consumers loyalty to the desire for luxury is timeless and the jewellery industry is amping up this eternal craving with tailored pieces suited to one’s specific sense of style and preference. In this regard, 3D printing presents as the silver bullet, easing the transition of the industry from analogue to digital and now post-digital. As with additive manufacturing, jewellery meets both luxury and sustainability with an added pearl of customization. The statuesque of 3D printing among artisans, designers, manufacturers and the fashion industry as a whole is owing to its very many advantageous traits.


First and foremost being the freedom of design enabled by 3D CAD and 3D printing that allows for mass customization without dependence on order quantity. With uniqueness, intricate attention to detail and shorter processing time, 3D printing is elevating jewellery manufacturing towards personalization of the highest quality. Traditional processes demanded expert hands with know-how on various disciplines such as mould-making, fabrication, casting, electroplating, stone cutting, engraving, smithing and polishing. The scarcity of such expertise has immensely accelerated the adoption of 3D printing in the jewellery business. Moreover, 3D printers possess the ability to produce large batches of jewellery pieces at one go, ultimately shortening the manufacturing process and providing inventory less retail. More important is the capacity to readily test and prototype various designs which is a game-changer. As it provides the end-consumer with realistic renderings. The quality can be verified in prior and allows for any changes to be carried out without laborious rebuild of physical models. Simply, the reduction of turnaround time and involvement of the customer in the designing process are key drivers towards the 3D printing rush.


Where???? It is being applied

In terms of assisting creation, facilitating efficiency, enhancing designer’s productivity, improved and better communication of design ideas and shortened production time CAD/CAM applications are becoming a no-brainer for the jewellery industry. To keep up with growing demands of unusual geometries, computational design principles are resorted to with extensive utilization of 3D printing technologies. The workflow of conventional and computational methods has been outlined (Fig 1).




Fig 1.

Mastermold for mold making

With traditional mass-manufacturing methods, the challenge lies in longer lead-times and costs associated with manufacturing of tools such as moulds. However, using 3D printing to produce customised moulds overcomes such limitations for manufacturers. Firstly, a 3D modelling program is used to create a digital version of the jewellery for instance a ring (Fig 2). The output which is a high-resolution .stl file is then sent to the 3D printer to produce a wax pattern of the ring for investment casting. The wax pattern is then covered in a heat-resistant material, such as plaster, and placed into an oven wherein the wax burns out, leaving behind the hardened plaster mould. Later, the jewellery pieces are cast with metals such as gold or silver to create the final product. 3D printing in this way complements the traditional jewellery making process while saving time and effort associated with hand carving models. Thereby, highly intricate custom jewellery pieces are made with added value of preserving the design and scope for modification; that would hardly be achieved with conventional technologies.


Fig 2.


Innovative family of geometries

In order to create unusual geometries for the jewellery industry whilst also exhibiting a capacity to generate a complete family of geometries that can satisfy even the most demanding customer, 3D printing reflects as a standalone choice. As the technology takes no more time, energy, or material to manufacture a complex shape and zero tooling means printing a variety of designs with no added production costs. To construct complex models with interlocking or internal undercuts and voids were unachievable with traditional methods. Whereas, 3D printing not only allows production of complicated geometry but also offers impressive results in a limited time period.




Fig 3.

Moreover, there are CAD based editing platforms wherein a scanned geometry can be reworked for personalization. Fig 3 illustrates the 3D scanned consumer’s arm with varied versions of the bracelet generated using design algorithms. Further, the characteristic of the proposed methodology is that the used algorithm can enlarge the designs without altering the size of the elementary structural elements as well. The computational design tool thus offers the possibility of executing alternative designs for the same customer’s geometrical data thereby providing perfect fitting and personalization.


Design unimagined freedom

For art and fashion industry, design and creativity are the sum and substance and 3D printing allows designers to experiment their out-of-the-box designs without drawing a line on their creativity. Additive manufacturing has matured over the past decade and possesses the capability to produce complex functional consumer products without the use of tooling. From a design perspective, 3D technology offers designers the freedom to create and print things that were otherwise very difficult to produce using traditional techniques. Any concept can be interpreted and translated to one’s fashion statement. For instance, a piece of a wooden sculpture (Fig 4) being converted into a wearable piece of jewellery such as a bracelet. Such production of conceptual and functional prototypes is now possible for almost anyone.



Fig 4.


Recreation and inspiration

The parallel of 3D scanning with 3D printing brings forth a new paradigm to the art world, in that artists and students can reproduce the work of past masters and create exact replicas of ancient (and more recent) sculptures for closer study. Presently, there are numerous artists that have now carved a name for themselves by working specifically with 3D modelling, 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies like Joshua Harker, Jessica Rosenkrantz at Nervous System, Pia Hinze, Lionel Dean and many others. Additionally, taking inspiration from nature 3D models can be generated to print jewellery as well (Fig 5).



Fig 5.


What???? To keep in mind

There exists direct as well as indirect additive manufacturing methods. Direct metal AM processes, selectively melt the metal powder bed using an energy source, such as a laser or electron beam, and fabricate the metal parts directly. Namely, Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM) are direct metal 3D printing technologies useful to jewellery manufacturing. On the other hand, indirect 3D printing (Stereolithography (SLA), Binder/Material Jetting, Digital Light Processing (DLP)) does not yield final parts directly. Here, the master patterns are produced which are then used for investment casting for final products or to produce the moulds for casting. Indirect 3D printing has the advantage of producing parts at a competitive pricing, especially at a larger production quantity and is widely preferred by the jewellery industry. As the direct method requires extremely high investment for the system and metal powder used; with added distortion of products because of high temperatures and significant wastage during post-processing.


Technology and features

Vat polymerization works by solidifying resin into a part, layer-by-layer and thus stands out from the Fused Deposition modelling (FDM/FFF) not only by use of resin but also in terms of incredible resolution it enables. Three common forms of vat polymerization are stereolithography (SLA), digital light processing (DLP), and masked stereolithography (MSLA or LCD) with the fundamental difference between them being the light source (Fig 6).



Fig 6.


Rising preference towards resin-based printers than FDM printers is mainly due to their ability to pick up details without noticeable print lines. Moreover, all these technologies are not constrained by limitations of conventional subtractive manufacturing and drafts whole new page in the grammar of jewellery design. Wall thicknesses as low as 0.2 mm can be achieved with SLA/DLP printers. Hollow and lightweight parts are also easy to produce via 3D printing in comparison to CNC or casting.

Specifically, DLP and LCD technologies tend to be faster than SLA, because they project one full layer at the time. Regardless of the size or complexity of the print object, only its height and selected Z resolutions, will affect the working time. MSLA or more commonly known as LCD 3D printer resolution on XY axis depends on the LCD screen pixels size. Higher screen resolutions mean higher XY resolution of the 3D printed object. Phrozen Sonic 8K mini, is a resin-based LCD printer with the highest resolution ever seen on a commercially available machine. With a printing area of 7.1in and 3.5-inch touch display panel, the Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K is the perfect choice for creating extremely intricate jewellery pieces such as rings, brooches and pendants with 8K resolution. As the name suggests, this printer's 8K resolution can achieve crisp details at even the smallest sizes, with an XY resolution of 1152 ppi (or 22 µm), making it ideal for tabletop miniatures and prototyping products like jewellery. With higher printing speed of 80 mm/hour, it also boasts of most detailed accurate prints owing to its novel linear projection LED module that enhances light uniformity. Sonic Mini 8K is also capable of printing out a full plate of intricate jewellery designs in just one print session. As it comes with a frosted laser cut building plate and dual linear rail it allows your jewellery pieces to be attached more firmly onto the building plate with extra stability; ultimately increasing the success rate of printing.

On the other hand, Sonic Mighty 8K from Phrozen offers maximized productivity and detailing when printing humongous models. Sonic Mighty 8K’s intuitive design and incredible 28 µm resolution enables production of crisp and sharp pieces of gold and diamond jewellery effortlessly. The unit’s 10” LCD paired with 23.5 cm dual linear rails greats boosts work efficiency. Moreover, its compact design makes it easy to store virtually anywhere. Similar to Mini 8K it provides enhanced success rates with its frosted laser cut building plate and novel linear projection along with durability of its Mono-LCD.

Above all, the most daring and valorous Sonic Mega 8K by Phrozen is finally in the market that breaks every single limitation for commercial 3D printers. It covers a wide spectrum of gold and silver castings from miniatures to even large statues or God idols with largest XY printing area (print volume of L33 x W18.5 x H40 cm) and stunning 8K resolution. Undoubtedly, it surpasses all other 3D printers on the market by leaps and bounds showcasing striking details at 43 µm and producing 3D models that are almost twice as detailed as other large-scale 3D printers. Crucially, it has the largest Mono-LCD printing area on the market with 15.” when compared to previous printing of only 13.3.”

Furthermore, the Phrozen Sonic Mega 8K presents a full metal exterior making it more sustainable and stronger for long-term use. It features a linear rail & ball screw design to print heavy objects devoid of wobbling. Additionally, it comes with a pre-calibrated building plate set for immediate printing.


Software tools

There arises a need for dedicated software tools and workflow practices for the mass customization business model with 3D printing, right from design to file preparation and post-processing (Fig 7). Numerous software such as Matrix 3D, Jewel CAD, Rhinoceros 3D, Blender, ArtCAM, Jewel Smith, and Jewel Space are available to create a design and produce CAD models.



Fig 7.


These software’s are a good investment as they offer a lot in terms of faster crafting of complex designs. In particular for complex design of detailed jewellery pieces and building models from scratch, RhinoGold and RhinoJewel are most popular. However, Matrix, a complex tool is more suited for professionals. On a simpler scale, 3Design is extremely user-friendly and JewelCAD provides flexibility with lot of freedom in creating stylish designs; both being easy to master. All things said, it is advised to use tools that is most familiar rather than exploring a whole bunch of intensive software solutions. It is also critical that 3D printers chosen need to have open compatibility with the top current and free software such as Lychee and ChiTuBox Basic to provide flexibility in printing. All of the Sonic 8K series of 3D printers from Phrozen are compatible with slicer software such as CHITUBOX V1.9.0 or above.


Materials

Resin is one of the most used materials in 3D printing mainly in technologies such as SLA, DLP, Multijet or CLIP and allows expression of individuality while also producing items in bulk. There exist various types of resins that can be used in 3D printing such as castable resins, tough resins, flexible resins, etc. Breakthroughs in castable resins are setting new standards for the quality available through affordable desktop 3D printers. Using resin 3D printers, jewellers can now create extremely fine patterns of jewellery that would otherwise not be possible with traditional methods.

Using Phrozen Wax-Like Castable Resin with Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K 3D printer, large quantities can be printed with extreme detailing.Besides, with Phrozen’s new 8K Resin, some of the most detailed and visually astonishing prints are achieved with MSLA printers. With wax-like qualities, Phrozen Wax-Like Castable Jewelry Violet resin specifically made for jeweller’s, creates delicate pieces of jewellery such as rings and pendants. It burns out cleanly and provides reliable casting for all types of jewellery designs with high resolution. Vitally, its low shrinkage rate allows printed jewellery models to stay intact and not change in shape after the printing process is complete. Whereas, Phrozen TR300 Resin with its heat-resistant qualities and toughness, is capable of producing detailed models, best suited for jewellery rubber moulds. It eases printing of highly intricate jewellery designs such as brooches, bracelets, necklaces, etc. and aids recreation of the designs with the help of vulcanized rubber moulding.

In general, resins can be used in many applications and has low shrinkage. Moreover, resin materials have high chemical resistance with duality of being rigid and delicate. It is however important to store the resin securely due to its high photo-reactivity that when exposed to heat can cause premature polymerization.


Post-processing

Though 3D printed fashion products can be produced using various types of material and the resolution of many 3D printers has vastly improved, the visual quality of the majority of the printed products is not achieved readily. With post-processing any staircase effects or obvious print lines can be rectified. The immediate post-processing steps involved are cleaning (Fig 8) and curing (Fig 9) of the jewellery 3D prints.




Fig 8.





Fig 9.

Further, grinding, sanding and polishing are common finishing techniques to achieve an aesthetic appeal and texture for metal and polymer parts. Electroplating can produce the look and feel of the coating metal on the surface of the polymer while also improving wear resistance. Flocking is an electrostatic process that provides a soft texture to the 3D printed products to enhance the comfort level of the 3D printed jewellery by adding a soft touch to stiff and sharp-edged printed surfaces.


How???? we support your digital crafting needs

Undoubtedly, the age-old traditions and know-how of a craftsman’s hand are seldom replaced by 3D printing nor is that the goal. 3D printing simply acts as a digital vein of the artisans’ hand providing them the ease of renewing their craft with significant time and cost savings. We at Hydrotech 3D Chennai facilitate your art digitalization journey with outstanding quality 3D printers and exceptional best-in-class services. Our technical experts are here to guide you every step of the way to successfully establish your mark in digital jewellery manufacturing. Every product from our diversified portfolio of 3D printing machines, resins and 3D consumables has been handpicked from across the globe and is tested to meet satisfactory standards, ensuring longer life and maintenance free operations.

Being one of India’s leading distributors, we are earmarked for after sales services of the shortest lead time. Our ever-growing customer base benefits from our huge selection of quality curated products, on-stock items, ease of installation and usage with our YouTube video tutorials, and swift issue resolution on the same business day.

Ready to begin crafting the digital way? Ambitious to capture the high-end personalization market? Looking for highly functional, efficient and affordable 3D printers to print your exclusive jewellery collection? or simply triggered to take your hobby of jewellery making to the next level? Reach us here to learn more.

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