If you’re a small business who is looking to 3D print your own real precious metal jewelry, then unfortunately your options are pretty limited. Using a metal 3D printer is probably out of reach for most small businesses; the machines are quite expensive on their own, and priced far out of reach of a small enterprise. Although companies like Shapeways, i.materialise and Sculpteo offer 3D printed metal used for jewelry and small models, it is still expensive, especially compared to just buying jewelry made using traditional methods. But that doesn’t mean that high-quality jewelry made from precious metal can’t be made using a 3D printer, it just takes a bit of creativity and patience.
Jewelry designer Paula Szarejko was looking for a way to speed up the production of her jewelry molds. The traditional methods were both expensive, and took 8 to 12 days to ship, which isn’t ideal when making jewelry to order. So she decided to see if she could create her own jewelry molds using her ZMorph 2.0 SX 3D printer, and she came up with a pretty simple process that really almost anyone can use. ZMorph was so impressed with her mold making process that they published a guide to recreating it on their blog.
Szarejko starts her process by 3D printing her jewelry designs in standard ABS at the highest resolution possible on the ZMorph 2.0 SX, between 0.05 and 0.1 mm. Once the models are printed, she cleans them, sands them and polishes the surface of the plastic jewelry form. Szarejko 3D printed some basic boxes using ABS that could be tightly held together using standard bolts. Then the jewelry form is placed inside the box and it is filled with a two-component rubber material that will solidify at room temperature. Once the rubber in the jewelry form boxes has dried for 20 hours, the bolts are loosened, the rubber forms removed, and she has her jewelry molds.
From this point Szarejko was able to use traditional foundry metal casting, but that is a process that can be done fairly quickly and cheaply. The molds were filled with wax and then cast in sterling silver using a traditional wax casting process. By making the molds herself, she was able to shave more than a week off of her typical turnaround time, and the entire process of making molds for two pairs of earrings, three rings and a pendant only cost her about $150 in materials.
Based on the jewelry that she was able to produce you would never guess that Szarejko originally used a 3D printer to make the jewelry forms. She’s created some gorgeous low poly wolf head earrings and a matching pendant and a pair of simple geometric icicles. She also designed three different rings, a simple bow ring, an abstract geometric ring and a ring set with several multi-colored cubic zirconia stones. Szarejko was even able to use her ZMorph to 3D print some cool gift boxes for all of her jewelry designs to ship out in. It is little wonder why so many 3D printer manufacturers are starting to target the jewelry market — in the right hands 3D printers are tremendous time saving tools for any workshop.
ZMorph’s new 2.0 SX 3D printer, like its predecessor, is a multi-tool desktop machine that can 3D print using almost any material from food to thermoplastics to ceramic pastes. There are also easily swappable toolheads for 1.75mm filament, 3.0mm filament, a dual extruder, a laser cutting and engraving toolhead, and a CNC mill toolhead. Basically, it’s seven different machines all in one, and the Polish company is quickly becoming one of the most talked about 3D printers on the market. You can read more about how to use a desktop 3D printer to create jewelry molds over on the ZMorph blog, and you can see more of Szarejko’s jewelry designs on Facebook and in her online shop. Discuss further in the 3D Printed Jewelry Molds forum over at 3DPB.com.