The 280 Billion Dollar Jewelry Business
Customizing Made Easy
In the business of jewelry-making, two techniques define the industry: handcrafting and lost wax casting. Handcrafting refers, of course, to the process fashioning a jewelry piece by hand; and the lost wax casting is when a duplicate metal sculpture is cast from an original sculpture. They both require real expertise, are very time-intensive, and mistakes here can cause a lot of money. 3D printing changes all that. Digital techniques bring new possibilities in design and production to jewelers, as well as exciting new customization options for clients.
3D printed jewelry production augments the principles of lost-wax casting with the advantages of a digital design and manufacturing process. In the traditional way lost-wax casting is done, jewelers hand-carve the original pattern in wax, place it in a mold to be burned out, and pour precious gold or silver into the mold to create the cast piece. Designers polish and finish the cast piece to shine. If done digitally, CAD software tools create the designs and a 3D printer produce the patterns that can be cast in the mold. After burnout of the positive pattern, the process follows the same traditional casting. No longer is this time-intensive manual labor and the design itself is easy to preserve, modify, and recreate.
Jewelers and customers benefit from the technology. Customizing a unique design shortens the time discussion between the parties; the customer can hold and try on a real, physical model of the jewelry, such as a 3D printed ring. The piece can be redesigned and reprinted again according to client’s wishes. Moving from design to production is easier and faster also.
The technology allows for freedom of design, enabling jewelers to make even very difficult and intricate design details with amazing sharpness. Jewelry also becomes easier to mass produce, using room temperature of high temperature molds. Some techniques can produce smooth-surface pieces that need less finishing and polishing. 3D printing jewelry can make independent jewelers competitive as well.
Unlike before when 3D printers were high-maintenance and required skilled operators, it has become much more affordable, offering unique opportunities to independent jewelers. The lower cost and higher-quality technology have made the digital workflow a viable method of manufacturing. Soon smaller jewelers adopting these technologies and becoming less centralized will be seen.
Looking to a Sparkling Future
Custom jewelry is an exciting field 3D printing has made inroads lately and it won’t be long you’ll find your favorite jewelry designer is using the wonderful technology of 3D printing.