The production of jewelry is one industry that has embraced 3D Printing. Many jewelers now use the technology to disrupt the way things were done for hundreds of years. 3D printing is now used to create the patterns for investment casting and to print jewelry directly.
3D Printing techniques:
3D printing is typically used to create jewelry via 2 methods; investment casting and direct printing
One of the most popular methods of producing jewelry via 3D printing is the investment casting process. Investment casting produces parts through an 8 step process:
Traditionally this was done by pouring a special casting wax into a metal mold. 3D printing now allows the pattern to directly be printed from wax or a castable resin.
The molded or printed pattern is then assembled onto a “casting tree”. This allows multiple parts to be cast at once. Some 3D printing methods disrupt this step by printing the part patterns and the tree in a single step.
After completion of the pattern assembly, the entire assembly is submerged multiple times in slurry. The slurry coating is then left to dry and solidify forming a ceramic outer layer over the pattern.
The structure is then placed inside a furnace and the original wax/resin structure is melted/burnout resulting in a hollow negative mold (cavity).
Once all the original pattern material has been removed from the ceramic negative the final casting material is poured into the mold and left to cool and solidify. Parts are often cast in brass and then electroplated in precious metals during the finishing stage.
The outer ceramic mold must then be removed. This is typically done by vibrating the mold to knock off the outer shell.
After the ceramic shell is completely removed the individual cast items are cut off the mold tree.
The cast parts then go through traditional jeweler finishing techniques.