Aug 26, 2016 | By Andre

When it comes to the 3D printing service sector that caters to the average consumer there is very little doubt that Shapeways is the leader of the pack. Whether its the always growing community, industry leading prices or choice of materials, its becoming harder and harder for the independent service bureaus to keep up unless they have some sort of value add unique to their business model.

The Dutch founded company seems to be fighting to keep their upper hand intact with a recent announcement that they’ll soon be offering interlocking metal parts. Already a leader in 3D printing in metal at relatively cost effective prices (it’s still expensive but metal 3D printing has traditionally been out of reach of the average designer completely), their new technique allows brass, bronze and silver to be produced with two finishing options by combining up to six interlocking 3D printed parts at once.

Still primarily marketed toward jewelry makers, interlocking of metal parts was typically left to the post-production process by the maker once the part was printed and shipped. But that is now changing and Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen is as excited as the company’s clientele by admitting that “the launch of interlocking metals is a huge step in how jewelers and designers can use Shapeways to bring their creations to life. From chains to earrings to necklaces, the introduction of interlocking metals not only eliminates post-processing production, but also invites the potential for more complex and intricate designs.”

Using a lost-wax casting method like they previously have with their metal parts, the new process involves connecting each wax connection part together with a wax sprue. After this, the wax sprue gets shaved away to allow for the interconnected metal parts to exist as is described in the video below.

By offering two finishes (a raw and a polished look), and a variety of metals, the emerging era of 3D printed jewelry is fast becoming serious business that is almost certainly making the traditional jewelry industry a little nervous. The end result is several steps up from the cheap plastic looking prints found in the desktop 3D printer space most people are familiar with these days.

But in many ways its not just about catching up to traditional methods of manufacturing but instead to blow the door wide open. Popular Shapeways designer Lana Betty notes that “To design jewelry specific for 3D printing is to design a piece that could not be made any other way. What I love about interlocking metals, is that it encompasses this idea perfectly. Clients look at my interlocked pieces with wonderment and curiosity, searching for the point at which the metal was cut and re-soldered together. When it clicks and they begin to comprehend how the jewelry was designed and created, is the best moment. They get it and they immediately love the piece even more.”

The skeptics out there might say that this is no big deal; and maybe in the great scheme of things it isn’t. But for the most part material science and processes within the 3D printing space have been evolving, not in one big burst but with a seemingly endless stream of piecemeal advancements and this is another one of them.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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Anja wrote at 8/26/2016 10:14:47 PM:

@Olaf: Thanks Olaf, it is fixed.

Olaf Diegel wrote at 8/26/2016 3:14:25 PM:

And a typo of my own! Sprue, not sprew! :-)

Olaf Diegel wrote at 8/26/2016 11:46:31 AM:

I think there is a small typo in there. You may mean sprew, rather than screw? A sprue is the passage through which liquid material is introduced into a mold. So, in other words, they join together the separate wax parts with wax posts (sprues) and then chop them off after casting.

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