Architect and 3D Jewelry Designer Jenny Wu Partners with ExOne to 3D Print Steel Catena Necklace

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We first heard about the beautiful 3D printed jewelry of Harvard-educated architect, author, teacher, and designer Jenny Wu back in 2014, when she partnered with Stratasys to print necklaces and rings for her luxury LACE by Jenny Wu collection. Less than a year later, the jewelry line released its first pieces of jewelry 3D printed with steel powder; most of its necklaces are 3D printed using nylon materials. Now, LACE by Jenny Wu is introducing another gorgeous steel piece, which just so happens to be a big advancement for designer 3D printed jewelry: the fully 3D printed, interlocking steel Catena necklace, produced in collaboration with industrial-grade additive manufacturing leader ExOne.

“For the past 3 years, my necklaces have been the most iconic, popular pieces in my collection. Unlike most 3D printed necklaces out there, our pieces are fully 3D printed without any additional analog assembly nor non-3D printed hardware to hold these incredible statement pieces around the neck,” said Wu, who is also a partner at the Oyler Wu Collaborative architecture firm. “This type of necklace was a technical and financial challenge to 3D print entirely in metal until now. While we love the wearability of our nylon necklaces, our goal was always to 3D print our necklaces in metal, from the hinge down to the latch. After many years of testing and prototyping with various different technologies, we were finally able to produce the Catena necklace with ExOne and their 3D printing process.”

The architecturally inspired Catena was originally only available in nylon, but by using ExOne’s binder jetting process, where a liquid binding agent is selectively deposited to join together steel powder particles, the necklace can now be fully 3D printed in steel, making the geometric piece one of the first of its kind.

Since the avant-garde LACE by Jenny Wu line was launched three years ago, the unique bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rings it creates have quickly risen in popularity, adorning the bodies of celebrities like Jessica Alba and Christina Aguilera. The luxury line combines organic movement with line-based geometry, and features over 26 different styles. Three different 3D printing processes are utilized to make the jewelry: binder jetting for steel, selective laser sintering (SLS) for nylon, and wax pattern 3D printing for precious metal.

According to the website, “The design of every LACE piece starts with a sketch. Each design is meticulously digitally crafted from its edge detailing to its intricate, interlocking assembly. We create modern, beautiful pieces that people actually want to wear-not just what is cool at the moment or what the technology can do. We think about jewelry as ‘architecture on the body,’ and we carefully consider the relationship of each piece to our body and to each other.”

The Catena necklace is available in black and natural, and features the LACE line’s signature elliptical interlocking ‘petals,’ which gradually change in both size and thickness from the front of the necklace to the back. The necklace is available on the online store for $392, but it’s still listed as being made from a “strong yet flexible nylon based polymer,” so that price may go up once it’s available for purchase in the steel material.

Celebrities aren’t the only ones interested in Wu’s architectural jewelry designs – last month, the Catena Steel Necklace was officially acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for its permanent collection.

Bobbye Tigerman, the Marliyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Curator at LACMA, said, “Jenny translates the complex line-based geometries of Oyler Wu’s architectural projects into jewelry and brings a high level of technical skill to the crowded 3D-printing field. The Catena necklace is her most sophisticated design to date, both conceptually and technically. The complex design of interlocking pieces is entirely articulated, a feature made by possible by the 3D printing process, without requiring extensive manual labor and time investments.”

Check out the video to learn more about the process of making the 3D printed steel Catena necklace:

Discuss in the Jenny Wu forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images: LACE by Jenny Wu]

 

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