That sounds unreal, doesn’t it? Actually it may surprise you to learn that 3D Printers are used by jewelers, yet oddly enough, the one thing they are not used for is to print out the finished piece of jewelry. You wonder why? After all there are 3D printers that can print out pizzas and apparel and, well, just about anything. The reason they aren’t used for finished jewelry is because it would be entirely too costly, think about the precious metals that would have to be loaded into the printer… and the waste.
But there is a misconception about how 3D printers are used in the jewelry-making business. One thing is for certain, they have been a game-changer for the industry as it has saved time and associated costs from the former use of CNC (computer numerical control) – a completely different method.
The best way to understand how 3D printers are used in jewelry making is to go through the process of how a custom ring is made – from start-to-finish.
Award-winning designer Lisa Krikawa – founder of Krikawa Jewelry Designs – explains, “There are generally nine steps to the process of designing and producing a custom ring. Clients aren’t always aware of all that is involved, but the 3D printing comes in at about step seven. I think it is worth understanding, particularly when you realize how much more affordable custom rings are becoming because of 3D printing.”
How a Custom Ring is Made
Not all nine steps are required for every custom ring; it depends on the elements and the design’s complexity. But as with anything custom – it starts with the vision. During an initial consultation the “vision” is discussed and samples are shown with the client and the jeweler. Then the concept is either sketched or a 3D computer model is completed so the client can be assured the vision has been captured and all of the details remembered and included.
Then the engineer takes a close look to determine if the design is structurally capable of holding the desired gemstone. If the carat is too heavy or embellishments are too delicate adjustments might need to be made.
Next comes the sizing of the ring. Sizing rings are provided to confirm the best size and width for the finger and hand, which will allow the ring to enhance the wearer’s display.
After that – a very close rendering is produced from the upshot of the previous steps. The renderings are detailed illustrations of different angles of the ring so everything can be inspected prior to the 3D printing stage.
Here is Where the 3D Printing Comes in
Here’s where it gets even more interesting. The custom ring design is 3D printed as a wax mold which is a replica of the finished piece. It is made from the rendering/3D computer model. The 3D mold is placed in a centrifugal casting unit along with the selected precious metal. The heat causes the wax to melt and the centrifugal forces fill the empty mold’s cavity with the precious metal.
The “cast” ring is still not finished. It then goes into final production where the soldering, stone setting, plating, hand-engraving and any additional metalworking and finishing take place. Diamonds for engagement rings are then placed into a prong or bezel setting, as well as other center gemstones. Bright white diamonds or fancy colored diamond accent stones are often added at this stage.
3D Printing Helps Decrease the Cost of Custom Rings
This technique has broadened the creativity of jewelry artisans, so custom jewelry and rings are going to become more popular. What could be better than wearing your own custom-designed bling? Look into it if you are thinking about custom engagement rings or wedding bands, as marriage is one life milestone worth customizing, right?