Apr 14, 2016 | By Kira

High value or heirloom jewelry can hold an extremely special place in people’s hearts. Often, they are passed down for generations, given as gifts to celebrate milestones, or quite simply, to pass on wealth. In the former case especially, when precious jewelry is lost or stolen, simply receiving a cash reward or an ‘equivalent’ piece from your insurer does little to replace the emotional value of what was lost.

Now, thanks to 3D printing technology and a first-of-its-kind insurance claim service, UK policyholders at SBS Insurance will be able to receive identical, high value, 3D printed jewelry models that replace the previously irreplaceable.

This novel 3D printed jewelry insurance claim service is the result of a collaboration between SBS Insurance Services, the Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre (JIIC) at Birmingham City University, Cooksongold, and the Assay Office Birmingham. Using 3D scanning and metal 3D printing technology, they believe they can replace even the most high value, bespoke jewelry faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.

“The major problem for insurers is that they are often faced with valuing and settling claims for high value items based on vague descriptions and old records, such as photographs, out-dated valuations or old sales invoices,” explained Paul Fairbrass, technical director at SBS Insurance Services. “Once an item has been validated, the insurer must find a matching equivalent from a limited range on offer from retailers. This can be impossible with bespoke items or family heirlooms.”

Another option for insurers has been to manufacture custom items using wax casts. However, as Fairbrass continues, “this has been expensive, cumbersome, and it makes the claims process very slow for the customer who might, even then, not be pleased with the replacement item.”

According to SBS, the insurance industry has been facing increased costs and complaints around jewelry claims specifically. However, trying to sub-in a new item, create a brand new one from scratch, or simply forking over some cash has not been satisfying for either the insurance company or for policy holders who have lost something important to them. Luckily, 3D printing could be the answer.

We already know that 3D printing allows jewelry designers to fashion previously impossible shapes, patterns and designs from a wide-range of materials. However, 3D scanning and 3D CAD modeling also allows designers to create exact replicas of heirloom, designer, or even bespoke jewelry pieces.

Using 3D scanning, computer-aided modeling, and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) 3D printing technology, the JIIC and Cooksongold (makers of the PRECIOUS M 80 jewelry 3D printer) can therefore recreate even the most unique jewelry from metals including gold, sterling silver, and even platinum.

A major advantage of 3D printing jewelry for the claim handler is that additive manufacturing is often more cost-effective than traditional manufacturing techniques.

Results from the first test trials of SBS' new service—which included a 3D printed gold bangle, pendent, and several sets of gold earrings—showed that they were able to replace items faster and cheaper, with savings of 30-50% against High Street prices.

“We’ve now proved that 3D printing completely changes what is possible and this innovation is not just relevant to jewellery claims,” said Fairbrass. “The longer term impact of 3D printing technology for other insurance claims is likely to be hugely significant.”

Beyond jewelry, SBS plans to create similar 3D printed claim services for other insurance areas. “The ability to have required parts and components printed on demand will reduce product obsolescence factors, and enable more economical fixes on many accidental damage claims for appliances. Items which currently are just written off may be able to be repaired very cost-effectively. This is particularly relevant in our expertise of household contents claims,” he said.

The world’s first 3D printed jewelry insurance claim service was funded by Innovate UK as part of a Knowledge Transfer Programme. In addition to potentially revolutionizing the contents insurance claims industry, it represents yet another unexpected area where 3D printing is re-writing the rules.

For a few recent examples of how 3D printing is being used in the jewelry industry, check out Daniel Christian Tang’s luxury 3D printed line, a 3D printed engagement ring, and an entire collection of precious metal 3D printed jewelry made with the 3Doodler 3D printing pen.



Posted in 3D Printing Service



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