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CAD & The Jewelry Industry

Shapeways 3D Printed Jewelry

According to New SmarTech Publishing Report, annual revenues from Additive Manufacturing in Jewelry are expected to top $900 million in 2026. That is a significant figure that shows a tremendous shift in the appreciation and use of CAD.

Digital technologies have been adopted into the jewelry production workflow. We see its use at almost every stage of realizing a finished product due in large part to the fact that Additive Manufacturing can produce products in a wide range of materials from photopolymers to precious metal. In the jewelry industry, we see various materials and printing technologies used at different points and for different reasons.

The most profound use of CAD in the jewelry industry has been in satisfying the increasing desire for custom items. We can use digital technologies to scan important gemstones to create settings without fear of damaging the gemstone during production. We then use 3d printing to make iterative polymer mock-ups of the final piece. The low-cost, small batch production of Additive Manufacturing allows designers the opportunity to create a unique item and quickly make changes and produce second and third versions without wasting precious materials. This has become a strategic element of my own design workflow.

Ribbon Ring Iterations by Original Eve

(Terrace Ribbon Ring by Original Eve. Iterations of the design process. The red ring is the first version pictured next to the final prototype of the piece with various other iterations in the background)

As the cost of printers and software decrease, we see more and more people incorporating the technologies into their business structures. As a result, the skills needed to operate a jewelry business are shifting from hand skills at a bench towards the technological as antiquated systems of creation are eliminated. For example, direct metal printing with precious metal powder could eventually eliminate the need for casting and its associated waste of material and time. A direct metal print comes out of the machine very close to its finished stage. With a quick polish and setting of stones, a piece can be fully realized in only a few hours, unlike a casting.

Today, many in the jewelry industry view CAD as a tool--a means to a faster and more efficient end--however, it is only a matter of time before Master CADsmen emerge, earning equal respect to the craftsmen who have dominated the field in the past using traditional methods of creation. As mastery of the technology improves and artistry is honed, respect for CAD as a medium will only increase. It is all just a matter of time. Perhaps only 9 years… And $900 million in annual revenue... ;-)

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