While many of the choices are primarily from digital effects programs, they can all be used with some adjustments to your workflow, and with the right tolerances jewellery design will work just fine.
They’ve left off quite a bit of jewellery specific sculpting programs, however. ArtCAM Jewelsmith features 2.5D relief sculpting, while 3Design’s Shaper, and the T-Splines and Clayoo Rhino plug-ins all offer organic modelling to more traditional types of product design CAD, but this is still a helpful list.
Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time here talking about 3D CAD as it applies to precious metal working. We’ve also talked about the rapid advances of 3D scanning and how it gets more valuable to CAD jewellers every year.
But how does 3D scanning apply to gemstones?
The world of 3D diamond scanning and mapping is a parallel road of development in 3D scanning technology, but with its unique combination of specialised scanning setup and pattern recognition software, it’s as fascinating to see in action as any kind of 3D scanner on the market. (Video after the break.)
Shapeways has published a simple but useful article outlining three common ways in which a traditional hand making jeweller could take advantage of 3D printing.
They’ve covered most of the good points of using CAD/CAM for jewellery in plain language– the idea of building a virtual collection, the idea of not working at the bench, and the idea of testing models for fit. I would also add the advantage of sending files via email to manufacturers and factories rather than posting master models or moulds as well to their list, and letting them prototype the pieces on their end.
Of course, this does make the bold assumption that said jeweller can actually use jewellery CAD to produce their models.
Our friends at i.materialise have put together their own list of cheap or free 3D CAD programs to help people get started with product design CAD for 3D printing.
While not all of these choices are the easiest to learn (Blender has a reputation for a steep learning curve), and none of them are particularly designed for making jewellery specifically, it is a good list. But if we’re discussing inexpensive CAD programs for 3D printing, I would also add 3DCoat as well.
The nice people at the CNC Cookbook blog have put together a valuable article of good starting up tips for new users of CNC mills. Many of these tips and pieces of advice are things I wish I had been told when I acquired my first mill.
The perennially wonderful Ganoksin Project website has posted an old article from the MJSA Journal offering an interesting case study in using CAD modelling to amplify a classically designed filigree bespoke engagement ring made for a client commission. The design in question is one of the many excellent pieces made by Ron Litolff of Gemstone Designs. (His CAD work is strong enough to warrant adding to the Something Beautiful in Jewellery section).
While the story is rather lacking in imagery, he does provide an interesting step by step account of his approach to surface texturing in Gemvision Matrix Jewellery CAD. It contains some good suggestions for solving certain problems in making American Deep South style heavy engagement rings like the one you see below.