Start A Fun New Hobby Or Profitable Business By 3D Printing Your Own Jewelry Designs
3D Printing is revolutionizing the world of jewelry making. You can now design and make your own professional quality jewelry in your own home.
Making your own jewelry is a great way to make unique gifts or you can even make some money from selling your own pieces.
Read on to find out what you can achieve in your own home jewelry design studio using a 3D printer.
Here’s a comparison of the 3D printers I’ll be recommending in this article:
How Do You 3D Print Jewelry?
There are two distinct methods of 3D Printing – FFF, and SLA. For metal jewelry pieces you will need an SLA printer that works with a Castable Resin. This type of printer and resin combo is used to make the molds or patterns that your precious metal is then cast into.
You can also use your 3D printer to print prototypes. This way your client can see and try on designs before you commit to melting metal.
FDM Filament vs. SLA Resin
When choosing a 3D printer for jewelry making, you have two routes to go down, FDM or SLA. Both types of 3D printer allow you to print molds that can be used to create your final metal alloy pieces.
For many designs, an FDM printer will be as much as you need. If you pick the right printer, it will be accurate and precise enough for most jewelry designs.
FDM printing also opens up a new avenue of using blended filaments. These allow you to print jewelry pieces in a mixture of plastic and metal, that look and feel like metal. FDM printing allows you to print finished jewelry pieces right on your desktop.
If you are more into traditional jewelry making, with pieces that feature fine gem settings, then an SLA printer is probably a better choice for you.
Currently, the best SLA printers on the market for home or small business jewelry making are the Formlabs Form 1+ and the XYZprinting Nobel 1.0. I’ll review both of these models later in this article to help you choose the one that suits you best.
3D Printing vs Traditional Methods
3D Printing jewelry on an SLA printer is quite clever as it combines the very traditional method of investment casting with the modern technology of home 3D printing.
You print using a material known as Castable Resin. This resin is designed to not leave any trace of ash or debris when it is melted away during the casting process. This means your final product comes out of the mold with a perfect unblemished finish.
In traditional jewelry making a wax model is the first step to manufacturing the piece. This has to be either carved by hand or by a computer-controlled machine. The shape of the final piece of jewelry is limited by what it’s possible for traditional machines to produce. As it’s a manual process, the more complicated the design of your jewelry, the more expensive the wax costs.
It is this part of the manufacturing process that is replaced by the 3D Printer. And because of the way 3D printers work, it is possible for much more complicated shapes to be produced at no extra cost, time or difficulty!
Once the 3D Printer has done its work, you can turn the resin mold into a plaster one and then cast your chosen metal. You can do this yourself, or you can simply take or mail your 3D print to a casting company who can do this for you. The fees for doing this are minimal, usually around $5 or so plus the cost of the metal you choose.
Why 3D Print Jewelry?
3D Printing offers many advantages over traditional jewelry manufacturing methods:
The most significant advantage it offers is the ability to create one-off bespoke pieces cost effectively.
Although skill and creativity are still needed, 3D Printing makes it much easier to manufacture even very intricate designs.
This frees you up to concentrate on the design and artistry of jewelry making, rather than the practical concerns of how to make your creations a reality.
Printing Jewelry Prototypes
Another advantage of 3D Printing jewelry is that you can make many cheap plastic prototype test pieces before committing to your final design.
This is especially beneficial if you are making a bespoke piece for a client as you can be sure they are happy with the design, size and fit before you commit to the final metal piece.
3D Printing’s superpower is speed! This gives it a massive advantage over traditional jewelry making. No matter how complex, you can have a resin part finished in a little over an hour. That’s just unbeatable by traditional means.
With a finished part in your hands so quickly, you can easily show it to customers, make changes or make a sale without having to say ‘please come back in a week’ for a trial fitting.
3D Printing Jewelry is Cost Effective
Once you have a suitable 3D Printer, the running costs and price of consumables are very cheap compared to traditional jewelry making with wax molds.
Although the cost of resin is high, you only pay for what you use, and jewelry pieces use very little. A 1-liter tank of castable resin costs around $250, but that’s a lot of resin!
For example, a very large sized cushion engagement ring would use approximately 0.3ml (0.01 fl oz) of resin for the ring itself, plus 5-10ml for build supports. That’s only about $1.50 worth of resin!
Whether your jewelry piece is simple or complex in design doesn’t matter, the only factor that affects the cost to 3D Print is the volume of resin used.
In contrast, traditional custom waxes start at around $100 and increase in cost with complexity. This makes 3D Printing jewelry very cost effective in comparison.
Can I make a business from 3D Printing Jewelry?
Yes! 3D Printed jewelry is currently very popular because you can offer your customers a completely unique, bespoke product.
Customers will happily pay a premium for an item of jewelry that is wholly unique, or personal to them.
You can even actively involve a customer in the design process, allowing them to contribute to the design will give them a sense of personal ownership that isn’t possible buying from a jewelry counter in a shopping mall.
3D Printers capable of creating casting molds are now available for a little upwards of $1000. After this initial outlay, the cost to print individual pieces is very small compared to the price you can retail them at.
Another advantage of 3D Printing jewelry rather than traditional methods is that the cost to print one piece is the same as the cost to print a hundred.
This means as a business; you don’t have to keep a large stock or indeed any stock of your products.
You can simply manufacture as and when an order is placed, preventing you needing to carry lots of stock that may not sell.
What Type of Jewelry Can I 3D Print?
Here are some great examples of jewelry designs that have been made possible by 3D Printing:
Which 3D Printer is Best for Jewelry Making?
Review: Ultimaker 2+
Unlike the two 3D printers below, the Ultimaker 2+ is an FDM printer. This means it heats a solid plastic filament to make your prints, rather than solidifying a liquid resin.
In general FDM 3D printers are less accurate than SLA printers, but the Ultimaker 2+ can print to such high accuracy and precision that its prints can rival those of an SLA printer.
The Ultimaker 2+ is also able to print using Moldlay Filament and other wax filaments. These are designed specifically for investment casting using the ‘lost wax’ method and are suitable for making molds for most jewelry metals.
Why Choose an FDM Printer for 3D Printing Jewelry?
Although SLA Resin 3D printers will give you a better quality finish on fine detail such as gem settings, the best FDM printers like the Ultimaker 2+ are quite capable of printing details as fine as 20 microns.
If you are making jewelry that has fewer fine features, then the Ultimaker 2+ is a great choice.
The Ultimaker 2+ is also perfect for printing prototypes. You can print jewelry items within a few hours to allow your customers to see and even try on pieces before you commit to making the final piece.
If you buy an Ultimaker 2+, you can also make use of an array of exotic filaments. These are plastic filaments that are blended with metals and other materials such as wood.
When you make jewelry using these materials you can achieve fantastic finishes that have the same characteristic luster, sheen and feel as metals such as copper, silver, and brass.
Exotic filaments are great for making contemporary looking jewelry from materials like bamboo or carbon fiber.
Ease of Use
One of the main benefits of the Ultimaker 2+ over SLA printers is the ease of use and much shallower learning curve. The design of the Ultimaker has evolved over a few years; bugs have been ironed out, so it’s very straightforward for you to turn your jewelry CAD model into a finished piece.
3D printing is revolutionizing the world of jewelry design. When choosing a 3D printer, many people are looking for a product that effectively replicates traditional manufacturing methods like casting.
You can use the Ultimaker 2+ in this way but you can also use it in much more creative ways. If you embrace the use of exotic blended filaments, you can design and manufacture exciting new jewelry designs right on your desktop. 3D printers like the Ultimaker 2+ allow you to create designs that just a few years ago would have been impossible to make.
Review: Formlabs Form 2
Disclaimer: The Form 2 is my favorite 3D Printer of all time! In my lab, I’ve used industrial SLA printers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and this incredible little machine performs to the same high standards. The only difference is it can only make objects a few inches tall rather than a few feet!
The Form 2 has become the most highly regarded of the consumer SLA printers. Its predecessor the Form 1+ already paved the way for easy and economical SLA resin printing at home, and the Form 2 does nothing but improve on this solid foundation.
Why is it so Good?
Where other SLA printers fall down is the amount of laborious setup and tasks needed before you get to actually print. Formlabs have solved all these issues to make resin printing as easy as can be.
Firstly, filling resin into the printer is now an entirely automated process. Simpler even than most FFF printers. You simply drop a sealed cartridge into the back of the unit. The printer is told which resin and how much is left by a microchip on the cartridge. If you don’t have enough to complete your print, it will warn you.
Under the hood, there are further innovations that make it stand out from the crowd. A new wiper system cleans off any bits of gunk left after each layer is deposited, completely solving the common problem of builds failing due to debris in the liquid resin. This is a feature found on the most expensive industrial printers, so it’s very impressive to see it scaled down and included in a consumer printer.
The resin chamber is heated which provides the optimum conditions for SLA printing. This is where a lot of competitors fall down as stable environmental conditions are essential for reliable SLA printing.
Is the Software Easy to Use?
Yes! Formlabs include their own PreForm software, and it’s a very competent package.
There are a few preferences to input such as what resolution you want to build at (from 0.025mm to 0.1mm). But from then on PreForm does a remarkably good job on its own.
Firstly it will rotate your model until it finds the optimum orientation. Then it will add its own suggested support structures. These are thin legs that hold up your object while it’s being printed. They help to keep its shape and prevent it collapsing.
The supports are nicely designed to be very thin where they join to your part. This allows you to trim them off of your part very easily and reduce the number of blemishes that are left.
Finally, PreForm will let you know how long it’s going to take to build your part with the current settings.
If at any stage you don’t like the suggested build orientation or location of build supports, it’s just a few clicks to adjust either to your preference.
How Easy is it to Print?
The printing process itself is as simple as you could wish for. Once you’ve loaded the resin cartridge, you just slide the resin tray into position and clip the wiper blade down. At each step, the on-screen display tells you if you’ve done everything correctly, or warns you if you haven’t.
An on-screen spirit level warns you if your printer is unlevel and helps you adjust the appropriate foot to make it spot on.
Next up you need to send your print file to the printer. You can do this via wifi, SD-card or network cable. The on-screen display is very adept at showing a queue of jobs, which is ideal if you plan to use the printer in a business or office environment with multiple jobs or people.
Each part that you upload to the printer is shown as an image on the screen, so you don’t have to remember file names only.
Once you press print, the Form 2 starts to fill the tank with just enough resin to print your part. Then it gently heats up the resin in the tank to a comfortable 30°C, occasionally giving a quick stir with the wiper arm, then printing begins…
You can set up the included software to email or text you once your print is complete. Again a handy solution in a business environment.
In use, the Form 2 is very quiet. As the lasers swirl around there is no sound, it’s only as it raises each layer and the wiper arms slide across that you get a whir of motors.
I found it quite easy to have it running in my office without finding it too distracting.
Formlabs have put a lot of effort into making the post-processing part of SLA printing as easy as possible. Unfortunately, the downside of resin printing is that the parts don’t come off the build ready to use. They will be covered in sticky uncured resin and will need a certain amount of cleaning and processing.
Thankfully, Formlabs have made this often frustrating process a breeze by designing tools that solve every common problem. From stands to grips, removers to liquid baths, the whole process is optimized and made easy with the right tools.
Firstly, removing your finished part from the build platform is made much easier and safer with a neat holding clip that grips the platform, so you don’t jab the removal tool into your hand.
Next, you can take advantage of the cleverly designed cleaning station. There are two rinsing containers held in a stand and a useful tool for lifting parts to and from them.
You drop your part into the first of the tubs with the gripping tool, give it a swirl around and then leave to soak for about 20 minutes. Then a quick dunk in the second tub and the part should come out clean and ready for finishing.
Formlabs include some useful snips to break off the build supports.
Although all this can sound like a hassle, the way you feel when you see your finished ring or bracelet will make it seem more than worthwhile.
Compared to the highly manual process of traditional jewelry making with a wax mold this is a dream.
Form 2 Verdict
I can’t hide my enthusiasm for this little 3D printer. It is genuinely groundbreaking. The quality of finish is astounding; the price is a bargain and the ease with which you can create resin parts incredible.
For jewelry making the Form 2 is a perfect companion. It can easily meet the high quality needed to print such delicate detail and best of all it will do so with ease, again and again in a production environment.
The most important attribute of the Form 2 is that it is so hassle-free it will leave you to get on with what you want to be doing – designing jewelry!
Lastly, Formlabs have an excellent record in customer service. If you should hit any hitches, they are always on hand to help. And there is a very active community forum where fellow owners love to offer tips and advice.
Review: XYZprinting Nobel 1.0A
New & Improved!
Note: This is a new and improved version of the Nobel 1.0. The second generation Nobel 1.0A.
The first generation model was popular due to its crazy low price for a fully functioning SLA printer. However, there has never been unanimously positive feedback from users. Some people have great luck with the printer and think it’s fantastic value, while an equal amount of owners find it a frustrating experience to get consistently reliable prints.
The new second generation Nobel 1.0A has some improvements that should help rebalance those opinions. So far, owner feedback has been very positive.
It has an upgraded laser, improved from 300 to 130-micron accuracy. Faster printing speed. Improved software featuring improved visuals for easier slicing and with faster orientation, and build support generation.
Like the Form 2, the resin is now automatically checked and filled, making for a much less messy experience.
Like the previous model, the build volume is larger than the Form 2 at 5″ x 5″ x 7.8″. However, unless you have a specific need for larger builds, I wouldn’t let that stat sway you. Jewelry is generally more than small enough to fit in this space. And in most cases, you can simply split your part up to fit if you need to.
At the moment I don’t think there are enough models sold to confidently conclude this is a 100% reliable out of the box 3D Printer. However, if XYZ has made a step up in usability with this model then they surely have a winner at this price point. Whether you feel confident taking that risk is up to your budget and how much you like to take a chance! So far, owners have reported a very positive experience with the upgraded model.
Is This The Best Value For Money SLA Printer?
The Nobel 1.0A is currently the only worthy competitor to the Form 2 on the market. The big selling point of the Nobel 1.0A is its incredibly low price for an SLA 3D Printer.
In fact, it’s about one-third the price of the Form 2! Given that I think so highly of the Form 2, there must be good reasons that I recommend a more expensive model?
Why is the Form 2 Better than the Nobel 1.0A?
Firstly, it doesn’t quite print to the same level of detail as the Form 2. You will notice build lines on parts. Fine detail can be missing. For example, small holes that create a pattern may end up being filled in. You would need to correct these by hand on the finished part.
Secondly, the original Nobel 1.0 suffered from usability issues. User opinion has been split pretty much 50/50 between those owners that have no issues and find it to be a reliable and easy to use 3D printer. And those who find it either inconsistent, unreliable or never manage to get it to work at all.
Thirdly, customer support from XYZ is not as proactive or helpful as FormLabs. There isn’t really much of an online community, and official help usually comes in the form of regurgitated owners manual rather than live problem fixing.
The new model seems to have fixed all the known issues. But as yet it’s too early to say with confidence it is as reliable and easy to use as the Form 2. I hope it does prove to be so as it will then become the bargain of the century!
Nobel 1.0A Verdict
Its predecessor (without the A suffix) was the cheapest SLA 3D Printer ever available to home users. Unfortunately, it was just never able to overcome is teething problems.
However, XYZprinting has made a concerted effort to fix all these issues in the second generation model 1.0A.
If they’ve succeeded, then this really will be a turning point in home SLA printing. However, with so little user feedback appearing, it’s just too early to make an informed judgment on reliability and consistency across models.
The Best 3D Printer for Jewelry Making
Any of the 3D printers I’ve reviewed will give you a great start in the world of jewelry design and manufacture.
If you want to embrace the new possibilities that 3D printing can offer you, then the Ultimaker 2+ is an excellent choice that will open up many creative avenues for you.
If fine detail is most important to you, then you should look at the Formlabs Form 2.
Both printers are a joy to use, designed by people who have used them, listened to user feedback, and improved them.
For printing jewelry, you need a printer that can handle the finest detail down to 0.1mm and beyond. You need confidence in the tool so you can concentrate on harnessing your creativity and honing your design skills. In every aspect, the 3D printers above deliver for jewelry making.
I hope you found this article useful and it helps you in your new business venture or hobby as a jewelry designer!