Jan 1, 2016 | By Benedict
Paul Steenbrink, of Netherlands based Cardillac Jewelers, has been working as a goldsmith for 27 years. The demand for gold jewelry has remained constant over those three busy decades, but production techniques have changed a lot. For the last few years, Steenbrink has made use of an Ultimaker 3D printer, to make prototype items for customers and to facilitate a unique personal design service.
3D printing enables Cardillac, whose items are stocked by dealers across Europe, to produce several iterations of a design. This process allows customers to make an informed decision on their purchase, which also provides a huge advantage to the company, since the plastic filament used by the Ultimaker is a great deal cheaper than the gold, silver and steel used to create actual products.
Cardillac has used its 3D printer for both functional and creative purposes. One of the company’s most exciting and unique services is its 'Face-to-Face' jewelry design, which provides allows customers to add a unique personal touch to their product. With the aid of photographs, customers can order a personalized ring which has been sculpted in the likeness of its wearer or a loved one. “Face-to-Face rings is a concept that we introduced two years ago,” said Steenbrink. “We’ve developed rings that are always unique, as their owners’ face profiles are on them.”
The clever process utilizes the Ultimaker 3D printer to create a lifelike mold. “We receive photos of the people who will be on the rings,” Steenbrink explained. “Then, based on those photos, we’ll draw face profile outlines, and when we have those outlines we can create the ring. With an Ultimaker 3D printer we print the ring in plastic and use it to create a mold, before casting a one-on-one version of the ring in steel, silver or gold.”
Cardillac Jewelers also makes use of the in-house 3D printer for its standard products. Steenbrink uses the machine to create prototype products for customers, so that they can be certain of the size, fit and style of their chosen product.
“You can design something pretty on your computer screen, but if it’s finished and the customer wears it and it turns out to be a disappointment, then you’ve made a beautiful ring that is unsightly on someone’s hand,” Steenbrink explained. “We work with gold, which is too valuable a material to waste.”
The flexibility afforded by 3D printed prototypes provides a big advantage to both customer and retailer. Since exact replicas of a final product can be 3D printed, there is no risk involved for either party. The Ultimaker essentially helps Steenbrink and co to safeguard themselves against poorly fitting or badly suited designs.
“If someone is interested in a ring that is in our regular collection and it’s 10mm wide, but they tell us they want to see it in 6mm, then we can print a prototype and show it, to see if the customer likes that width,” said Steenbrink.
Purchasing a 3D printer has opened doors for Cardillac which, in past years, would have remained firmly closed. “We could never have made this jewelry if I didn’t have the option of 3D printing with an Ultimaker,” Steenbrink admitted. “For us it’s a device that really helps in the production of jewelry.”
In spite of his praise for the 3D printer, the goldsmith was quick to point out the most important factor in the success of Cardillac Jewelers: “In the end I am still the one who needs to create and finish the rings!”
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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