3D PRINTING AND UNLIMITED DESIGN POSSIBILITIES

By Mariam ATEF


We live in a world in which technology dominates, and new ways of doing things make our lives easier than ever.


3D printing, for instance, is one revolutionary technique in the jewelry industry. It has been replacing the classic ways of making jewelry—like handcrafting and lostwax casting, which are very time-consuming and mistakeprone—and making it easier to create unique, sophisticated jewelry designs. Without question, digital jewelry-making techniques bring new possibilities to the world of jewelry production, as well as new thrilling options for consumers! Here are some ways by which jewelry businesses benefit from 3D techniques:


UNLIMITED DESIGN POSSIBILITIES

One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is having design freedom, where jewelry designers have infinite design choices that would be hard to achieve with traditional ways. 3D printing has brought precision, uniqueness, and attention to detail to the jewelry-making world. Moreover, having a desktop 3D printer at an affordable cost has set the bar much higher for the quality of jewelry designs. Formlabs, for example, have been able to achieve striking precision in their designs using the latest technology in 3D printing. They’ve been able to effectively couple the smoothness you get from stereolithography (SLA) with the precision of laser technology to create very unique, beautiful designs which are easily mass produced. They used castable wax resin designs with exceptional attention to detail, such as raised text, delicate filigrees, and detailed pavé stone settings. Now, after these design restrictions have been removed, we’re witnessing entirely new design styles, which emerge from jewelers who have digital tools and capabilities in the United States, South Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East.



3D PRINTING SIMPLIFIES COMPLEX DESIGNS

Since the classic ways of making jewelry—like handcrafting and lost-wax casting—are not only time-consuming and mistake-prone, but also require very highly experienced designers to do the job right, it used to require a great deal of experience to start a jewelry business and bring your ideas to life. Digital tools, on the other hand, not only make jewelry customization much easier, but they are also perfect for the mass-production of designs. Formlabs’ Jewelry Vertical Product Manager Amos Dudley says: “With the quality that you can get with SLA 3D printing for printing these jewelry pieces, you can jump straight from the 3D printed part to a master mold,” “The surface finish is already so smooth that it doesn’t require very much finishing. You can use that as the rubber mold for creating the final wax parts that go into production.”


THE EXPANSION OF 3D PRINTING TECHNOLOGY AMONG SMALL JEWELRY BUSINESSES

Naturally, as new technologies come with hefty prices and complicated interfaces at first, so did the early 3D printers. They needed deep pockets and highly skilled operators to function properly. But the good news, according to Dudley, is that “3D printing has become much more affordable, offering unique opportunities to independent jewelry makers.” The spread of 3D printing technology in the market has allowed for more competition, giving us more options to choose from and thus making it much less expensive and more feasible. “In the coming years, we’re going to see a growing trend in that segment, with smaller jewelers adopting these technologies and becoming less centralized,” Dudley stated. This shift will not only affect large jewelry manufacturers, but it will also have an increasing impact on small, independent jewelers and artists. Until very recently, the industry of 3D printing jewelry had been dominated by expensive and complicated wax printers, but fortunately for smaller businesses, affordable desktop 3D printers, such as the Form 3, are becoming more available for jewelers.


FACTORS DRIVING THE GROWTH OF 3D PRINTING IN JEWELRY

It’s clear that the market of 3D printing in jewelry is in continuous growth, and there are three main factors that control this growth: 1. The rise of new fashion trends and the increase of fashion consciousness among consumers. 2. The growing popularity of e-commerce among consumers also favors the 3D printed jewelry market since jewelers are targeting those consumers via online platforms. Moreover, some e-commerce platforms offer augmented reality (AR), which allows potential customers to virtually try any piece of jewelry before purchasing it. 3. These factors have encouraged more businesses to adopt new methods of designing jewelry, including CAD, induction, and laser technologies, among others. One of these forms of technology is rapid prototyping, which when used in 3D printers, can help designers evaluate design concepts and understand the design in its complex details. This will definitely aid the growth of the market. But let’s face it, 3D printing technology requires very skilled technicians, as well as necessary materials and data management. Not having skilled manufacturers definitely restricts 3D printing in the jewelry industry.



WHAT 3D PRINTERS ARE THE BEST?

There are several 3D printers for jewelry, all of which have their pros and cons. So, if you’re going to enter the endless world of 3D-printed jewelry designs, you should at least know some of the names of the best 3D printers available! Here is a list of printers ranked based on resolution, price relativity, material compatibility, and smooth exposure.

Peopoly Moai 130

Formlabs Form 3

3DSystems FabPro 1000

Zortrax Inkspire

Photocentric LC Precision 1.5

Solidscape S300 Series

EnvisionTEC Vida cDLM

DWS 029JL2

Prodways ProMaker LD3

EOS M100


THE FUTURE OF 3D PRINTING IN JEWELRY INDUSTRY

Although 3D printed jewelry has great potential, it currently represents a small fraction of the jewelry market. However, owing to the accessibility of 3D printing technologies, the arrival of new skilled designers, and the creation of other foolproof hardware and materials, the market of 3D printed jewelry is very promising and is expected to grow further in the near future.