Lost-wax casting is the process used to create a duplicate metal piece of jewelry from an original piece of jewelry. It may be more accurate to call the process of using 3D printed models to create jewelry as “lost-mold” casting as materials other than wax can be used, but it’s clear that 3D printing is revolutionizing the working methods of jewelry designers. As 3D printing provides jewelry designers nearly unlimited design freedom, it’s changing the way goldsmiths go about their task as well.
Now i.materialise and RhinoGold are trying to encourage artists and designers to use 3D printing in their work, and to that end, they’ve announced a new design challenge which invites all 3D modelers to submit designs for rings, pendants, earrings, cufflinks and any other piece of jewelry for a chance to win a print of their submission in 18K gold or sterling silver.
The winner of the challenge will receive a 3D print of their design either in sterling silver – with a maximum volume of 4300 mm³ – or in 18K gold – with a maximum volume of 270 mm³. Add to that the fact that the winner will receive a 3-month subscription from RhinoGold software, a goody bag from i.materialise and a free ticket to the 3D Printshow in Paris (October 16-17), and you have some serious motivation. The second and third place entries will be awarded goody bags which will include vouchers from i.materialise and a 1-month subscription from RhinoGold.
The contest goes like this: submit 3D designs of jewelry pieces via the company’s challenge page and make sure those entries get in to the system before the end of the day on September 30th. Open to all designers from professionals to amateurs, the challenge has no limit on the number of entries per contestant.
The contest team say that prior to submitting designs, they recommend that entrants review the dedicated material pages for gold and silver where they can find general information and practical guidance on creating the perfect 3D model.
All submissions will need to include a specification of the intended material and finish required. As for finishes, i.materialise offers a number of options depending on the material selected.
The sterling silver material is made up of 92.5% pure silver, and it can come in five different finish states. Gloss models are post-processed in a magnetic tumbler, the polishing technique of high gloss is quite aggressive and will round sharp corners. Satin models are manually treated with a wire brush to obtain the effect of lines on the metal. Sandblasted models are treated with an abrasive blasting technique which leaves the surfaces of a model with a matte look. The antique silver option is very shiny and smooth on all outer surfaces, but the deeper recessed areas of a piece are darker and unsmoothed.
The 18K gold material contains 75.2% pure gold, and to assure that jewelry will be properly durable, silver, copper, and zinc are added as well. This alloy system means 18K gold can be offered in several colors from yellow to red to white gold.
All the pieces in gold and silver are created using the lost-wax printing and casting technique, and it starts by 3D printing the models in wax. Stereolithography and a wax-like resin are used, support structures are automatically generated and those are then manually removed following the printing process.
Wax ‘sprues’ are attached to each model and that model is then attached to a wax ‘tree’ which includes a group of other models. That tree is placed in a flask before being covered in a fine plaster, and as the plaster solidifies, it forms the mold which will ultimately be used to cast the metal object. The plaster mold is placed in an oven and heated for several hours to burn out every trace of the wax.
Molten metal is poured into the cavities voided by the lost wax, and once the metal is properly cooled and solidified, the plaster molds are broken and the metal models can be removed. The sprues are removed by filing and sanding before they undergo the final finish steps required and listed above.
Do you plan to enter the i.materialise jewelry design challenge? Let us know in the Jewelry Design Challenge forum thread on 3DPB.com.