A few weeks ago the Economist ran a briefing on 3D printing and it’s effects on mass production, alongside an equally good leader article. While it is general in its nature, there are elements in the article about jewellery manufacturing.
Overall, the article both provides a current snapshot of the readily available state of the art in rapid manufacturing, as well as introducing to the general public how current trends in 3D printing are affecting the way commercial and industrial goods are manufactured. They’ve even mentioned in passing a commonly reiterated point about 3D printing’s particular strength in the area of small scale mass production versus using traditional mass production on short product runs.
I’m listing it here as a useful reference for those jewellery CAD/CAM users who may want somewhere to start when communicating to others what the fuss is about with 3D printing.
Back in January, Bre Pettis (founder and former CEO of MakerBot) launched his own boutique 3D printed product brand called Bre & Co.
Their site and presentation is a fascinating study in ways to make 3D printed products appeal as a premium product to the current 25-35 year old middle income consumer market. It also shows what a website would look like when an artisan boutique is created to sell mostly or fully 3D printed retail products.
This marks an interesting evolution in the development of the CAD/CAM and 3D printing in the jewellery market. While we have talked about how CAD/CAM is portrayed to customers in the jewellery market before, it seems we are now seeing several distinctly different business strategies evolve which use 3D printing as a key component not only for manufacturing, but also for retail presentation. Each of these strategies shows how CAD/CAM is used and presented in a different target market.
i.materialise published an article in their blog not too long ago which I feel is too valuable a lesson for CAD modellers who are serious about 3D printing.
But, just like I normally do here, I don’t normally post these things without adding my own additional advice:
Pixologic (makers of Zbrush) recently announced a new collaboration with the 3D printer manufacturers Formlabs to make an enhanced 3D printing plug-in for Zbrush. The plug-in would allow users to take a model from within Zbrush and more quickly and efficiently export it directly into Formlabs’ Preform software to start the 3D printing process more quickly and easily. They’re even talking about a “One Click Print” tool.
Since I started this blog and began following rapid advances in 3D printing over the years, I’ve noticed the technology has affected different areas of product design in different ways. In some fields (such as ceramics), we are still awaiting the refinements 3D printing will require to really revolutionise their industry. But in other cases, the technology has quickly become indispensable, to the point where it has completely changed the face of the industry in the space of a few years.
Jewellery manufacturing is one of these. I’ve recently written a research piece (the first of many for Jewellery Focus Magazine) summarising all the recent changes to the jewellery industry. To add to this, a recent statistic I heard at this year’s IJL said that 95% of all bespoke work undertaken by the UK jewellery industry involves CAD/CAM and 3D printing.
But there is one other area of product design which has arguably been changed even more by 3D printing—prosthetics.
Recently TCT Magazine spoke to their readership to ask them what it takes to build a successful 3D printing service bureau for any focus or industry (including jewellery). The results make for an excellent read, with some invaluable advice.
Advice from Nick Allen at 3D Print UK
As for my thoughts on the article: I wholeheartedly agree with their thoughts on trust and reliability being the most vital issues. But I would add something else that was not mentioned into this article– the classic concept of underpromising and overdelivering. If you’re going to run any manufacturing equipment day in and day out, you must be prepared for the machines to break down or for a job to produce a surprising result. Therefore, it has always seemed to me any company offering to turn around pieces too quickly either has an enormous capacity they’re not fully using, or they’re running a dangerous game, or both.
This fantastic lecture comes courtesy of a former student and author of the jewelleryweekly.com blog. (Thank you, Anissa!)
President and CEO of 3D Systems Avi Reichental has presented quite an inspiring TED talk entitled “What’s Next in 3D Printing”. After all, who better to comment on what’s coming next in the pipeline of 3D printing technology than the CEO of the company throwing the most money at it?
Interestingly, he gives a shout-out to a few companies we’ve mentioned here, such as Bespoke Innovations.