Lionel Theodore Dean is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, London, and following his schooling, Dean worked for automotive designer Pininfarina in Italy. He went on to launch his own design consultancy business with the rollout of a full-size concept car at the 1989 Tokyo Auto Salon.
While his work was initially found focus on small cars and motorcycles, he went on to design interior products – particular lighting – such as the Tuber9 lamp which is now a part of the MOMA collection. Back in 2002, Dean was appointed Designer in Residence at Huddersfield University where he began his FutureFactories digital manufacturing project for the mass individualization of products.
All this has led to exhibitions in London and Milan, and he now says digital manufacturing is certain to “reshape the jewellery industry.”
To that end, Dean has created a collection of pieces 3D printed in 18 carat gold as part of a project called Precious. It’s a collaboration between Delcam, precious metals supplier Cooksongold, Future Factories/Dean, Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre, Finishing Techniques, and a number of other designers were unveiled at Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery.
“Additive manufacturing with metal allows you to create forms that would be almost impossible to create by conventional means,” Dean says. “The jewellery industry was one of the early adopters of additive technology, using it in an indirect sense, printing waxes and casting from those waxes. It’s been more reluctant to adopt direct metal processes.”
Dean says that, while the jewelry industry has used 3D printing to create molds for pieces which would ultimately be cast for a long time, it’s taken time for jewelers to 3D print their work directly in metal.
It was the collaboration with Cooksongold – via their laser sintering device they call the Precious M 080 – which led Dean to begin directly outputting his designs. Cooksongold developed the Precious M080 working in conjunction with 3D printer manufacturer and innovators EOS, and it was built specifically to create objects in precious metals.
“Regular laser sintering machines have lots of cavities and places where powder can get trapped or lost. Obviously with the high value of gold powder, it’s important to capture every speck of material. The nice thing about the Precious M080 is that it’s designed specifically for gold,” Dean says.
In his recent efforts, Dean has designed a range of customizable, 3D printed pieces which fully demonstrate the capabilities of the technology. His pieces include intricate latticework rings and a small sculptural piece which holds tiny reproductions of various family heirlooms.
“The customer brings in a piece of retired jewelry that’s not fashionable to wear, yet precious to them. We turn this into a contemporary piece by trapping elements of that jewelry into a contemporary design,” Dean says. “For me, the future lies in digital design tools and the direct link between those and the artifact you get. 3D printing will reshape the landscape of the jewellery industry as designers get to grips with the capabilities of digital technologies and master the skills to harness them.”
During the course of the Precious project, Dean worked alongside software company Delcam, and the team developed a tool for rendering jeweler designs in ideal form for 3D printing which the designer hopes will someday be released as a commercial product.
Have you ever seen the EOS-developed Precious M080 at work? Let us know what you think in the 3D Printer for Precious Metals forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below for a look at the creation of the collection’s “HeartBeat” piece.