February 7th, 2023
In part 3 of our series we look at how 3D Design, Visualization and Prototyping can be used in the world of jewellery making.
3D printing might not seem like the obvious choice to create jewellery but with the high price of base metals and other materials, people are increasingly turning to 3D printing for their jewellery needs.
The question is through, can you actually create quality jewellery using 3D printing or will it look like you’re wearing something your child brought home from school art class. This is something that surely has put people off using 3D printing in general, not just for making jewellery.
A popular misconception of 3D printing is that it’s just for making toys and models of film and TV characters which don’t then need to have any degree of high quality as they’re going to be painted anyway. This of course is not the case and you can read more about this in our other articles which includes "3D Printing: Not Just for Small Toys and Models".
For now though, let’s dispel that misconception by confirming that yes, you can create quality jewellery using a 3D printer.
Where to start
When creating anything from scratch you’ll need a plan or design otherwise you’re just making things up as you go along. If that’s the way you like to do things then go for it as artistic flair and free flowing creativity are always encouraged. However, to get something 3D printed you are definitely going to need a firm design and a 3D printable file of said design.
So, you could either design something yourself using CAD software such as Tinkercad or Blender but there are a multitude of other good design software packages available. If however you prefer to stick to pencil and paper to draw your designs then you could use a 3D printing service, such as Politech, to transform the design into the finished article.
The nature of jewellery lends itself to delicate and intricate designs but can also often be big and bold. This then leads to the question of which method of 3D printing to use to create your jewellery. For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll just use either FDM or SLA printing as our methods but other printing options could be used. Have a look at our article "3D Printing: Comparing FDM, SLA and SLS" for more insight into different 3D printing methods.
So, let’s look briefly at each of these methods and how they would best be used in the creation of 3D printed jewellery.
SLA or resin 3D printing is a particularly popular choice for those wanting to 3D print miniatures for gaming or display. It’ also often used to create small gears and other machine parts for things like RC cars or working prototypes.
The main reason for this is that SLA 3D printing can produce items with a high degree of detail which will also be both hard wearing and light. This therefore means that small details in jewellery items could be perfectly produced using resin as the material. We’ll look at some examples of jewellery produced using both methods later on.
FDM may not seem like the right choice for jewellery as it uses a method that might leave lines or might not give as smooth a finish as you want. But FDM 3D printing still has a place in the field of jewellery making.
Although you’d get a better result with SLA printing on the small, intricate parts of jewellery such as necklaces and earrings, you can still print other parts using FDM. For instance, there are clasps and connecting links that could be made as well as things like rings and bangles. You could also use flexible filament such as TPU to make things like wristbands which, although not technically jewellery, do come under the umbrella of decorative adornments.
That’s then given you a rough idea of the route from design to 3D print but now let’s look at some examples of 3D printed jewellery.
This first one actually uses FDM printing but as you can see from the images, it’s of a bigger nature so lends itself well to that method of printing. You’ll also notice that the designer has used a silver chain and earring clasps for these items which gives it a bit of contrast and strength. These could though have been 3D printed but it’s often better to use more traditional means to attach or hold the 3D printed part of the jewellery.
Another example of a necklace/pendant and again the chain isn’t 3D printed but the pendant part is. This is a simple piece to print and would be best produced using SLA 3D printing but could be done with either method.
This has been painted to match the chain so gives the impression that it’s silver but obviously at a fraction of the cost. This could though be printed using any colour you wanted if painting isn’t your thing.
We mentioned rings earlier on so let’s have a look at this one which is a bit less delicate in style than the necklaces and earrings we’ve looked at already.
This is a “steampunk” ring and has all the hallmarks (excuse the pun) of a piece from the popular genre. This would be ideal for any steampunk fan or could be used for cosplay.
Again, this could be printed in either SLA or FDM but the rough and rustic nature of the ring allows for imperfections so you can’t really go wrong either way. The ring has obviously been painted to give an antique look to it but again, it could be printed in a bronze or gold filament and stained for effect.
That’s just a brief look at the options available for creating 3D printed jewellery but hopefully it shows the possibilities that can be achieved.
We’ve also looked a few examples of 3D printed jewellery items which have been designed and printed by home users. All the files we’ve shown are available to download so you can either have a go yourself or pass the files over to Politech and we’ll do the rest for you.
There are many more designs out there so just search online and you should be able to find something that catches your eye. Alternatively have a go at designing your own and after a while you’ll know how to use 3D printing to create jewellery.
Remember to keep an eye out for Part 4 of this series next week!