Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3D Printed Parts on the Ulysse Nardin FREAK neXt Watch

ST Medical Devices

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Luxury watch manufacturers like Ulysse Nardin are certainly aware that enthusiasts today want something modern and unique, but they still expect pristine quality and spectacular style. Adding a 3D concept is an excellent way to garner the attention of savvy consumers, along with enjoying all the manufacturing benefits of 3D printing too.

The FREAK neXt watch is still a concept piece in the prototyping stages—following production of the first FREAK watch fifteen years ago—but it shows off technical and watchmaking skills of the future, along with the fruits of Ulysee Nardin’s labor in collaborating with Swiss 3D printing glass microdevice manufacturer, FEMTOprint. Together, the two dynamic companies have used their expertise to create an impressive piece, featuring details such as:

  • 3D glass minute hand
  • 3D printed oscillator
  • Glass bridge with integrated shock protection
  • Self-winding mechanism

FREAK neXt timepiece with the 3D glass logo-decoration (Photo: Ulysse Nardin/FEMTOprint)

FEMTOprint’s focus in 3D printing is centered around transforming microfabrication, mainly with glass microdevices. Their platform applies to numerous applications, including microfluidics, packaging, photonics, a wide range of manufacturing, and other works involving fine mechanics.

“There is no doubt that glass has unique properties and advantages compared to materials such as metals and polymers: it is optically transparent, resistant to thermal shocks, abrasion and scratches, it is biocompatible by nature, chemically stable and electrically insulating, but what is less evident is that, it has fantastic elasticity properties and a high failure strength after chemical treatment,” states the FEMTOprint team as they report on their case study with Ulysse Nardin.

Traditionally, quality watchmakers are in need of glass materials for parts like dials, actuators, balance wheels, and indicators. This new prototype is meant to show a ‘technological milestone’ to the world for watch enthusiasts, and other designers and engineers too, with the 3D printed flying oscillator accompanying the carousel baguette movement. The oscillator serves as a regulating device for the watch, but in this design is suspended in mid-air. This unique engineering prevents friction on the bearings and allows for better performance overall.

“This is a radical development that hugely improves the traditional principle of balance spring regulation introduced in the 17th century,” states FEMTOprint in their case study.

FREAK neXt with 3D glass tubes for luminescence (Photo: Ulysse Nardin/FEMTOprint)

(Photo: Ulysse Nardin)

The new FREAK watch also features a phosphorescence dial, only visible in the dark, produced by a strontium aluminate–based, non-radioactive and nontoxic photoluminescent pigment and 3D tubes. This device could be put into production in the very near future, according to the designer.

Before the advent of smartphones glued to our hands, most of us relied on more conventional timepieces; in fact, if you did not, your character could be swiftly judged as someone asked, ‘what kind of person doesn’t wear a watch?’ Today not as many of us do, which makes the watch a real statement of style.

When you now have an iPhone to gaze upon, it can tell you what time it is in any city in the world, remind you what to do on the hour, and tell you when to go to sleep, when to wake up, and even count your breakfast calories for you. What goes on your wrist is a statement of style, and 3D printing is propelling watchmakers into the future with so many options now, whether they are making watch straps, experimenting with 3D printed metal in production, or even fabricating parts for wearables like smartwatches.

Find out more about the design partnership between FEMTOprint and Ulysse Nardin here. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source / Images:  FEMTOprint case study]

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