Metal 3D Printing Used To Craft Unique Jewelry Designs
Services Used: 3D Metal Printing, Polishing, Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD)
Quantity: 45 Pcs.
Meet Veronica Nunes
“I am a Brazilian jewelry designer, goldsmith and founder of VNunes. I started my jewelry line in 2009, when I was living in NYC and had my own studio in Brooklyn. I take inspiration from nature and architecture to design my collections. As a jewelry designer, I am focused on designing attractive wearable objects that will enhance and fit the human body comfortably.”
Veronica tested her ideas with many drawings such as these. After all, beautiful designs don’t spring to life automatically. They are the result of carefully refining profiles, proportions, light and heavy spaces until the perfect balance is achieved.
The 3D Printed Project
Veronica finally settled on her designs for a necklace, ring and earrings, and teamed up with Star Rapid on a joint project to bring these art pieces to life. However they still needed to be modified to conform to the unique requirements of 3D metal printing, which can be a challenging exercise in design engineering.
Designing for Additive Manufacturing
Although she is a trained designer with experience in CAD, Veronica had never worked before with the specific demands and limitations of the 3D metal printing process. Therefore, she collaborated closely with our engineer Chloe Kow to make slight modifications for optimal results. Here are some highlights.
Recommendations Following Design Review
Some of the recommended design modifications included:
We recommended that small features like these fine twisted wires be clearly separated. They may blend together in a single mass if the gaps are smaller than approximately .5mm, or 500 microns.
One of the great benefits of additive manufacturing is that it allows you to build moving parts-within-parts, something that would be difficult or impossible to do conventionally. But to achieve this effect, it’s necessary to allow sufficient clearance between moving parts so they don’t become welded together during printing.
Overhanging features less than 45 degrees from horizontal may collapse due to the pull of gravity. We recommended elevating these sections, especially on thin areas that are not able to support themselves.
These thin coils forming the outer helix are not actually round in cross-section but rather flattened out, like thin blades. It’s important that the leading edges of these blades also remain above 45 degrees from horizontal.
Preparing the Machine
Our Renishaw AM250 printer is a state-of-the-art direct metal laser melting (DMLM) machine. It uses a 200W ytterbium laser to fully melt metal powders into dense solids.
For this build, we used Renishaw’s blend of Ti6Al4V powder, a high-purity alloy of titanium, aluminum and vanadium. Because this is a very fine powder with a lot of exposed surface area, it can be potentially dangerous if handled incorrectly. We use careful process control procedures when working with this powder.
Our engineer input the program into the control software which sliced the design into thousands of discrete 2D layers. Now it was time to start printing!
All builds start out on a build platform which can move up or down on the vertical axis. Once the first layer was fused to this platform it was then lowered by the thickness of one layer to prepare for the next layer. Additional powder was recoated over each layer by a wiper blade. Note also that this printing was done inside of a sealed chamber filled with inert argon gas to prevent rapid oxidation and explosion.
The beauty of the parts begins to emerge when the powder is carefully brushed away. This powder can later be sieved, dried, and used for another build. Once revealed, semi-finished parts must now be removed from the build plate.
These parts can only be removed from the build plate by cutting or grinding them free. This is a relatively easy task for small jewelry but it can be a big project on larger pieces.
Notice also the careful part orientation. Our engineer arranged the parts to make maximum use of the build volume while also limiting the number of supports and preserving the part’s geometry. This is important for conserving time, material and cost during the build.
Immediately after printing pieces will still have a rough look. That’s why the majority of all 3D printing jobs require some form of post-machining or processing. These pieces of jewelry still need to be polished and plated.
In our finishing department, craftsmen deburred, sanded and polished the parts using hand and machine tools. After polishing, they were thoroughly cleaned and sent out to receive a physical vapor deposition (PVD) colored plating. Since the spinning earring design was too hard to reach inside by hand, it was placed into a tumbler to be polished by a fine abrasive sand before plating.
“I was very happy to partner with Star Rapid to produce my 3D jewelry printed collection. Their machinery and facilities are state-of-the-art. I worked closely with their 3D Printing Manager Chloe Kow, who patiently helped me adjust my designs to optimize the production and costs.”
Want To Learn more about Metal 3D Printing?
A great project like this is the product of careful engineering, manufacturing expertise and close collaboration with the client every step of the way. If you’d like to know more about how to design for metal 3D printing, we offer free face-to-face training at our facilities in China as well as online metal 3d printing video tutorials.
And when you’re ready to make your masterpiece, we’re ready to offer a free quote and expert advice to get you started. Contact us today!