Jewelry has come a long way in the past few decades. Complex metal carving that once took weeks (or months) to complete, can now be ready in just a few days. How is this possible? It’s all thanks to 3D printing.
3D printed jewelry has completely revolutionized the industry, sped up production times and saved both jewelry manufacturers and their clients much frustration and stress. Now, complex designs can easily be created on the computer, printed into a wax model, and cast into gold, silver, or other precious metals.
Let’s go over some of the different uses of 3D printing in jewelry.
3D Printed Plastic Jewelry
This is the least expensive and easiest 3d printed jewelry to create. First, a designer develops a digital CAD (“Computer Aided Design”) model on their computer. Depending on the complexity, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. As plastic jewelry isn’t usually set with precious gemstones, designing these kind of pieces is usually less complex.
To learn more about CAD models and 3D design, see our blog here.
In order to make the piece, the designer or jewelry company would then send their file to be printed on a 3d printer as a plastic wax. Although the jewelry might be developed further, this is the main production process for plastic jewelry.
Generally, these pieces can be ready to sell soon after printing, and don’t require extra work on a traditional jewelry bench. As a result, plastic jewelry can easily be produced in large quantities.
Although it’s made out of plastic, depending on the machine and process, it’s actually possible to create highly complex models with this method.
3D Printed Steel Jewelry
Similar to printing jewelry as a plastic wax, it’s now possible to print steel jewelry using a 3D printer. In this process, a printer produces layers of stainless steel powder, which is later infused with bronze.
After this, the jeweler can apply a coat of gold, if desired. This technique is great for creating jewelry that is more durable and precious than plastic, though it can’t be classified as fine jewelry. Still, for mass produced fashion jewelry, steel printing is a good choice.
Fine Jewelry Using 3D Printing
3D wax printing is also used for fine jewelry, but the process is a little different. Although technology doesn’t exist to 3D print gold and platinum directly from the machine, most fine jewelers now take advantage of 3D printing using the “lost wax” technique.
Here’s how it works.
First, just like with plastic jewelry, the designer creates a CAD model using the latest jewelry software. Since this time the design is for fine jewelry, the designer needs to have some experience on the jewelry bench. The design needs to be created with expert precision so that the ring or other piece can be properly set with gemstones. As a result, 3D CAD design for fine jewelry tends to be a little more involved.
Once the design is ready, the jeweler prints a wax model of the piece. This is essentially the same as a piece of plastic jewelry. However, when it comes to fine jewelry production, the wax model is simply used as a placeholder for precious metal. During the “lost cast” process, the 3D printed wax is dissolved with molten metal and the ring’s transformation into silver, gold or platinum is complete.
Of course, creating fine jewelry using a wax takes a few more steps than producing plastic jewelry. However, the production time is still much faster than using traditional jewelry manufacturing techniques.
These technology advances in jewelry making have made it much easier for anyone to create their own collection or custom piece. With the help of a custom jeweler, clients can create highly detailed engagement rings, and it’s easy than ever for new jewelry designers to start their collection from scratch.
For a quick overview on the possibilities of custom jewelry design, check out our blog here.