Frequently Asked Questions 11 – What are Parametric Solid Modelling and Direct Modelling, and How Do They Apply to Jewellery CAD?

Parametric CAD Modelling Animation

A sample of the parametric CAD modelling process as a quick animation (complete with history tree on the right).

(This article is one of my series of Frequently Asked Questions posts. See the rest of the FAQ pages.)

After a discussion with a colleague a few months ago, I went searching around the Internet to find a good definition of parametric history as it applies to product design CAD and jewellery CAD in particular. Unfortunately, after days of searching it appeared no one on the internet has ever bothered to explain this parametric modelling technology in layman’s terms, much less in terms relevant to a jewellery CAD designer. All my searching turned up was either very generic descriptions of parametric or direct modelling, highly technical articles from industrial engineering blogs, or salesmen selling their software without ever getting specific on technical details.

Indeed, during my research of for this article, it seems as if the most technical aspects of parametric and direct CAD modelling have been intentionally simplified to make the user interfaces more friendly for product designers. However, that did not change the fact nobody I had found had ever tried to explain what it is in a clear way before.

In an effort to solve this problem once and for all, I’ll now demystify what parametric solid modelling and its newer cousin direct modelling really are, and how they work with jewellery CAD.


Continue reading

Frequently Asked Questions 10 – 3D Scanning, Model Conversion, and Jewellery CAD

(or “Why can’t we just 3D scan a ring and make copies on a 3D printer?”)

goscan3d 3d part scanner

The GoScan3D hand-held part scanner demonstrates just how portable 3D scanning is really becoming. But how useful is it for parts like jewellery?

Last Updated 14 June 2016.

This is a question which seems to come up mainly among advanced students or those already experienced with using CAD for jewellery, but I do get the occasional person who has just been to a trade show and seen the latest 3D scanning machine released onto the market. Either way I reckon this is a good question to answer next, as it ties in with several other FAQ articles I’ve written previously for this site.

It seems for the past 10 years 3D scanners have been improving rapidly in terms of scanning resolution, scanned mesh quality, assembly of data, ease of use, and efficiency of file sizes (otherwise known as decimation to those who work with the machines).

You’ll even see salesmen and technicians at trade shows demonstrating how easy it is to 3D scan a ceramic or plastic part or a visitor’s face, import it straight into their program, and manipulate the mesh form in full colour.

So why doesn’t this scanning device work the same way with jewellery?

Well, it kind of does, but not at all in the way you would expect, and as of the date this article was written 3D scanning still faces some serious technical limitations. To answer this question fully, I’ll have to answer the question in three parts: the differences between the various CAD geometry types used by 3D modelling software packages, the problems with model conversion, and the technical limitations of the 3D scanners themselves.

Continue reading

Frequently Asked Questions 9 – Which 3D Printers and Rapid Prototyping Machines Are the Best For Making Jewellery?

(Last updated 25 May 16)

(This article is one of my series of Frequently Asked Questions posts. See the rest of the FAQ pages.)

This list came from an increasing number of people who came to me wanting to know which 3D printers and machines were the best ones to consider for the purposes of setting up their own businesses or getting their pieces made via outsourcing. After some searching on the internet, I noticed nobody had really tried to make a list of all the options for rapid prototyping for jewellery.

Since the 3D printing capabilities we need for jewellery are generally much higher resolution than most other forms of product design, I reckoned I should make a list of available state-of-the-art rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing systems just for jewellers, and clarify how rapid prototyping fits in with jewellery casting and manufacturing.

But before I talk about the various rapid prototyping machines used for jewellery, I reckon I should answer a couple of key questions first:


  1. The difference between Rapid Prototyping, Rapid Manufacturing, and 3D printing
  2. How Much do rapid prototyping machines cost?
  3. Industrial 3D Printers Suitable for Jewellery
  4. Metal Laser Sintering 3D (MLS) Printers Suitable for Jewellery
  5. CNC Milling Machines Suitable for Jewellery
  6. Small Home 3D Printers Suitable for Jewellery
  7. What about Hobbyist 3D printers or plastic 3D printers? (3Dhubs 3D Printing Trends List)

Continue reading

Frequently Asked Questions 8 – Minimum and Ideal PC Specs for CAD

(last updated 10 Jan 2017)

Buying a PC for CAD

This has recently become the single most frequently asked question in the CAD courses here at Holts Academy. Given how quickly computer specifications and prices change, it’s a hard answer to keep up to date. While I can’t possibly hope to keep track of who’s offering the best deal on PC hardware, at least I can try to demystify some of the important terms to watch out for in a way everyone can understand, and in the process give people a guide of what they should be looking for in a CAD-ready PC.

Continue reading

Product Design CAD Software List From Digits2Widgets

Our friends from Digits 2 Widgets have produced a handy general product design CAD software list on their website giving their choices for starter CAD software packages at various levels of difficulty and cost. There’s even a short list of free CAD software available for download.


Think of it as a product design counterpart to my own jewellery CAD software list here on this site.

Frequently Asked Questions 7 – The Economics of CAD Jewellery Software (or “How Can I Afford £5000 of Jewellery CAD Software?”)

How Do I Afford CAD Software?(Updated 18 March 2015)

Probably the most common (and heartbreaking) question I get from aspiring CAD designers keen to develop their skills is “How am I supposed to afford thousands of pounds of software when I’m only just starting out?”



Continue reading