For some established companies, embracing 3D printing has been difficult. It’s understandable, particularly in lines of work that have been relying on handcrafted work or other traditional methods for years. Take the jewelry industry, for example. 3D printed jewelry has really begun to take off, as it offers increased options for customization plus precious stones and metals at lower prices. Jewelry is such an old, traditional art form, however, that many crafters are reluctant to bring new technology into what has always been a personal, hands-on process.
If a company like Mappin & Webb can embrace new technology, though, anyone can. The London jewelry company has existed, in various iterations, since the 1770s, and they carry the status of official Silversmiths to Her Majesty the Queen and Silversmiths to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Not to mention, their designer Martin Swift is currently the custodian of the British Crown Jewels themselves. If any company is going to be stuffy about tradition, it’d be them. But Mappin & Webb has announced that they are officially bringing a 3D printer into their vaunted establishment, after much initial reluctance. A new EnvisionTEC printer is taking up residence in the company’s London workshop among the more time-honored tools.
In fairness, Mappin & Webb has been working with digital design technology for some time now. Gemvision, a CAD software suite for jewelry designers, has been a favored tool for Mappin & Webb’s jewelers, and it is distributed by GVUK Design, which also happens to be the UK supplier for EnvisionTEC. GVUK was largely responsible for convincing Mappin & Webb to try bringing 3D printing into their own workshop.
“Mappin & Webb has been using Gemvision’s CAD design program for many years now, and with continual upgrades they have always kept bringing us new tools,” said workshop manager Mark Appleby. “Bringing 3D printing in-house has taken some convincing but finally we have found a printer that offers a level of excellence we demand.”
EnvisionTEC’s printers have been favored by jewelers, particularly the Perfactory family of desktop printers which are targeted towards 3D printed jewelry, among other applications. The Digital Light Processing (DLP) printers are capable of intricate detail and are calibrated to be ideal for casting. Another English jewelry company, Aconia Jewellry Casters, has been using EnvisionTEC products, including their EPIC resin and EC3000 materials, designed specifically for jewelry casting, for some time. They’ve been well pleased with EnvisionTEC, Aconia says, and they are now expanding their GVUK investment by adding Gemvision’s Matrix CAD software to their product services.
“It is important with the dominance of CAD-designed models that Aconia remain at the cutting-edge offering the highest level of service possible and Matrix is by far the most advanced design program for goldsmiths,” said Aconia’s managing director, John McCabe.
Word is still out on what the Queen herself thinks about 3D printing, but considering she’s already been turned into a 3D printed lollipop, I suspect she won’t disapprove too harshly of her Royal Silversmiths bucking tradition a bit. Discuss this use of the technology in the 3D Printed Jewelry forum over at 3DPB.com.