3D Printing - "It's all about design and quality output. Not how fast the printer can run."
A great application for 3D printing is proof-of-concept prototype printing. This is an example.
I create Sterling silver lost wax cast jewelry pieces. I use two creative processes. The first is hand carving the wax master. Totally a manual process. Sometimes I start carving with just a sketch or photographs of what I want to create.
The second process is CAD/CAM, computer assisted drawing / computer assisted manufacturing. I use a computer 3D drawing program to design a piece to the ultimate detail and the send the file to a CNC, computer numerically controlled three or four axes milling machine. The milling machine carves the wax to match exactly what I have drawn in my design.
Hand carving usually takes days to complete. Machine carving may take days for the drawing and carves in one to as much as four to six hours.
From both these process, the carved wax is used to create the mold for the cast silver. The wax is destroyed in the process, thus the term, “Lost Wax”.
One benefit of the CAD/CAM is I can create a .STL file and produce the design on one of my 3D printers. If I were a rich man (Tweedel-deedle-deedle-dum) Fiddler on the Roof… I could print directly to a high-end jewelry wax 3D printer. Purchase prices start at the $10,000 range and supplies are also expensive.
I use a plastic filament (FFF) printer and can make plastic replica “proofs” in about 30 minutes before I commit to wax carving for many hours. I can also show the plastic proofs to a client with no fear of damaging the master. They are easily mail-able with no fear of damage.
The proofs shown here are printed at 0.1 resolution and show detail well, but are not good enough for actual casting even if they were wax. My Taig CNC mills use 0.003-inch ball end mills which produce better results directly in wax.
This is my first time “proofing” a design in plastic but I see it will not be the last when I have a client needing a durable and low cost proof on a custom design.
|Two sizes output on the 3D printer.||Cutting the "real" wax masters on the CNC mill.|
|Finished LWC silver. That's another story...|