Judging from discussions in online forums, it can be difficult to see the point of 3D printing. Why not just make it in wax? Why bother? I happen to have relatives who built their own 3D printer from a kit, so I’ve been more aware of 3D printing for a while.
Lately, a few really innovative medical uses for 3D printing have come up. I think it’s becoming easier to see the benefits of 3D printing.
Here’s this amazing cast that would be much cooler than plaster:
Even more amazing is the story of a puppet maker in Seattle collaborating with a woodworker in South Africa to create Robo-hand. Listen to the whole story, from NPR, here:
Here’s a video of the hand in action:
But what about 3D printing for jewelry? It’s a tough sell for those who have spent years building their skill in moving metal. Designing on the computer is a completely different thing. One source of frustration for long time goldsmiths is when computer-only designers lack the foundation in physical jewelry making and don’t understand some of the practical aspects you need to know how to do when designing jewelry.
It does seem like some time spent making jewelry in the real world would be a good place to start.
Anyway, to date, most 3D printers have been unable to create fine enough detail for jewelry. (other CAD systems can do it — machines that carve wax can manage just fine.)
The most affordable 3D printer with fine enough detail for jewelry may be this one:
It was featured in a Product Showcase at MJSA (Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America), which is where I heard about it.
What else is out there? Machines that can print chocolate!