From age old traditions of hand made moulds to the high-tech realm of machine manufacturing, jewellery making has traversed a long way. But where is it headed and what does the future hold for precious metal?
At a threshold for the next industrial revolution, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that technology offers substantial support to all activities of a goldsmith. What was once a task, is no more than click of a button now.
“I still remember those days from my childhood when we used to wonder if there would be a time in future when hitting a button would release whatever we wished for. If not anywhere else the time has definitely arrived in the jewellery manufacturing industry,” remarks Kamlesh Parekh, Founder/ Director, Imaginarium.
Changing times and demand brought in the need for innovation. With changing demand came a need for research in technology that would meet the requirements of the industry. Jewellery manufacturing, as they say, has always been a task.
Considering traditional procedures for manufacturing there has always been a limitation on light weight jewellery. A complex design had to be cast in a thickness much more than needed because of its intricacy and precision, and later grinded manually to the required thickness. The process not only resulted in wastage of material but also added to the turnaround time and production cost.
The advent of 3D printing brought in a new era of jewellery manufacturing. What was once a complicated, time consuming and expensive process is now just a matter of hours. Often considered an epitome of jewellery manufacturing process, CAD (Computer Aided Designing) makes it possible to create 3D models in a computerized environment. Once analyzed with CAD, the design is sent for ‘printing’, and later cast in metal.
What started with making patterns on melted metal, moved to hand pouring, creating prototypes using DLP, SLA or MJM and later casted in precious metal using lost wax method, can now be directly manufactured in the required metal! Next step forward in additive manufacturing for jewellery, the DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) process will lessen the gap between digital design and product-in-hand.
Zipping the long process of investment casting that involved a series of procedures such as tree making and furnace blasting, to just digital design and product-in-hand, technology has helped reduce time, manpower, and the need for hard core technical skills required for jewellery manufacturing process.
“This innovative technology allows the production of unique one-off designs and stunning geometries that cannot be produced by other processes. It frees designers from the constraints of conventional manufacturing processes and enables the creation of complex and beautiful parts that are ready to finish in 1 day,” reports The Goldsmiths Company, a technical journal based in UK.
“It offers great potential in terms of design freedom and will surely find a strong business demand, particularly in the up and mid-market sectors as it offers a near-net shape manufacturing process. Whilst it may seem an expensive process, the fact is that the powders on the build platform not directly used in the sintering process are re-usable and so production scrap should be minimal, unlike conventional processes such as casting and stamping,” it adds.
Unlike in traditional manufacturing procedures where cost of a product depends mostly on the complexity, in 3DP manufactured jewellery the complexity of a design does not make it any costlier than the simple ones. The cost of a 3D printed product depends only the size of product and the volume of material being used.
The designing process requires a sequence of choices and merges two most important features of the ‘innovation’ process into one- creativity and production. A boon for all design and prototyping cases, with a potential to make the product development process faster and cheaper to iterate, 3D printing has also opened up a whole new world of shapes and formations that are cost-prohibitive and impossible to make using traditional methods.
This article was published in Feb- March edition of GJEPC’s Solitaire International magazine.