For years we’ve been gradually seeing the growth of more and more websites which attempt to provide a connection between CAD modellers and customers in need of their services. Whether it is being driven by the propagation of 3D printers, a greater number of creatives trying to start their own businesses, or simply a growing interest in personalised consumer goods, it is clear there is a steadily growing demand for creative CAD services. The question is where do these new digital middlemen fit in between the 3D modeller and the customer.
In a previous article we talked about the different ways in which CAD is being used by jewellers to interact with their customers. For this article, I’m going to look at the market from the other direction, and explore ways in which jewellery CAD designers can offer their skills to the wider market.
<UPDATE – The original article has been updated to include some more accessible schemes and programmes not previously mentioned.>
BBC Business News recently aired a segment on How Crafts Workers are Learning to Sell their Work. In the segment, both the mentors and the craftsmen highlighted the importance of learning business skills. The mentors also pointed out the balancing act required to stay a luxury manufacturer without devoting all your time on building the brand. While the examples provided were silversmithing and leatherwork, this is every bit as true for a new jewellery business.
Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow mentoring scheme mentioned in the video is an interesting one for ambitious luxury craft designers, but highly competitive (as you can see from the description on their own site). Since not everyone is aiming for the top end luxury market, I think it’s worth sharing some of the other UK business training schemes and support out there for craftsmen and budding jewellery businesses.
Not too long ago, the 3D Printing Industry Blog released their own list of best choices for commercial 3D printing services where you can release your 3D jewellery CAD models for others to purchase and 3D print.
Right now, it does seem like we are seeing a bit of an uncertain time for the jewellery industry. Every retailer is shifting their attention increasingly online, and while nearly all of the major jewellery manufacturers have embraced CAD, how they’re choosing use technology in their interactions with customers is still very much undecided. Within this uncertainty rests how CAD and 3D printing to order will sit within either fashion or fine jewellery.
At the moment, 3D printing marketplaces have become a kind of digital equivalent of the craft market, with free-wheeling designers using the established platforms as a way of getting attention and money for their talents. Like the old fashioned equivalent, these online marketplaces seem to be helpful for newcomers to get more of a feel for their target audiences.
Recently i.materialise‘s increasingly well-written blog publised a good article on ways to help 3D printing content creators to make their work more profitable through online distribution. While the article is primarily directed at i.materialise users, most of the tips are relevant to other 3D modelling marketplaces, such as Shapeways or Thingiverse. With this in mind, it’s definitely worth a read for those students and individuals who are trying to find new ways to monetise their CAD modelling work.
For anyone who has been following activity on these sites, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is definitely a strong market out their for bespoke produced items via 3D printing. I will be curious to see how this market evolves. Will it become a race to the bottom for worker’s wages, or will it lead to an entirely new ecosystem of tiers of skilled designers?
The technicians at FormLabs have written a first rate article on painting and applying clear-coats to 3D printed models to turn them from prototypes into sellable parts.
Considering just about every other area of product design makes use of paint jobs for finishing parts, it make sense there are likely CAD jewellery designers out there who would find this technique useful for their work.
ProtoLabs has created a handy physical reference piece for 3D product designers. They call it the Torus, and they’re giving it away as a free promotion.
i.materialise‘s 3D printing blog has released a nice article listing 10 popular choices using sculptural CAD for the purposes of 3D printing and product design.
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.
Serpents Buckle model made with Sculptris. Designed by Michael Mueller.