In recent years, 3D printing has developed significantly and can now perform crucial roles in many applications, with the most important being manufacturing, medicine, architecture, custom art and design. The current growth of 3D printing — also known as additive manufacturing — is due to the development of customized parts, prototyping, product designing, and concept modeling, the technology is capable of doing so much more. The possibilities are mind-boggling. In fact, it is set to disrupt entire industries including consumer products, healthcare, automotive, construction, and aerospace. The production of jewellery is one industry that has embraced 3D Printing. It was amongst the first industries to utilize 3D printing in their ‘investment casting’ procedure.
3D printing is now used to create the patterns for investment casting and to print jewellery directly. Instead of metal printers, jewellers use wax here, that is, the piece of jewellery is printed or sculpted out of wax. With the help of Computer Aided Designing (CAD), manufacturers are able to 3D print moulds and master patterns for jewellery, which are then cast in precious metal to create intricate masterpieces of art.
From new design freedoms enabled by 3D CAD and 3D printing, through improving traditional processes for jewellery production all the way to direct 3D printed production eliminating many of the traditional steps — 3D printing has had a tremendous impact. One of the most profound ways in which 3D printing has impacted the jewellery sector is as a method for prototyping and tooling. 3D printing is used to create the primary model or a direct wax pattern from which to achieve a rubber or silicon mould. These applications have seen huge developments in many areas of the jewellery sector, eliminating some of the most time-consuming steps of the traditional process.
3D printing can be highly beneficial to this changing industry, since the technology enables jewellers, manufacturers, and designers to test with patterns, colours, and designs, which, in the past, was a more time-consuming process. It provides jewellers with an entirely new method of producing jewellery that’s more cost-effective and less time-consuming, but that still maintains the necessary high level of quality. Because its production can be so rapid, 3D printing can also open up the possibility of selling custom jewellery directly to consumers via ecommerce, creating an additional sales avenue.
With 3D printing, multiple patterns can be made at once and within a very short time frame. It also allows multiple designs to be produced in a single print. This means it is very cost competitive pricing for low production volumes.
For 3D printing, the jewellery sector, with money to invest, is proving to be one of the most inspiring sectors in terms of uptake and innovative applications. It is certainly one to keep an eye on as the technologies continue to evolve and new systems and applications emerge.