If you have not heard of 3D printing then shame on you! Haha, no really it is changing the world. 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing in which a digital model of an object can become a solid, 3D dimensional object. Nowadays just about any material can be used as 3D printer food – plastics, ceramics, metals and even chocolate. 3D printing is a mainstay in the Maker/DIY Movement and considered a wave in the wake of the next Industrial Revolution. But that is a topic for another blog. Our focus here at Mocci is on 3D printing and jewelry.
How will 3D printing revolutionize the jewelry industry?
A couple ways.
First, anyone and everyone has access. With 3D printing the power of manufacturing is put into the users hands. No longer does it cost thousands of dollars in investment capital for the necessary molding equipment. No longer does it take months of apprenticeship to learn how to sculpt and mold molten metals at dangerously high temperatures. 3D printers can be had for as cheap as $300 and are only going to get better and more affordable. If $300 is not available, one can always use someone else’s printer with 3DHubs, Shapeways, ponoko, etc!
Second, the greatest design is now in your hands. The power of CAD (computer aided design) modeling software has progressed to the point where the only limitation in what you can create are the 3D printers themselves. Think of CAD as the architect and the 3D Printer as the civil engineer. The architect dreams up the vision while the civil engineer is there to tell the architect it can’t be done. The technology for 3D printing however is advancing at a rapid rate and soon enough the quality, rate of production and material choice will rival traditional manufacturing methods. Numerous companies and 3D printers have been popping up all over the world, so it is inevitable that growth will lead this technology into sophistication. The greatest advantage of the 3D printing age is the ability for customization.
The biggest challenge is disrupting the precious gem portion of the jewelry industry. With current technology, it is impossible to 3D print highly coveted fine ores such as diamond or gold. In this case, jewelry is molded from 3D printed wax castings by the lost wax casting method. Synthetic gems like sapphire and emerald are possible to recreate but will people even want them? Perhaps an amazing highly coveted composite material will be made in the future or scientists will find a way to 3D print gold.
But before that happens makers everywhere are still able to design and create beautiful, complex jewelry with 3D printing.