3D Printing

Metal 3D printing set to transform jewellery & watch making

11th March 2015
Jordan Mulcare

The jewellery and watchmaking industry is set to enter a new era as students from Birmingham City University gear up to begin training on how to use a new world-pioneering technology. The Direct Metal 3D Printing technology, from Cooksongold, will free designers from the constraints of conventional manufacturing technologies, meaning that once ‘impossible’ complex and costly designs will now become a reality for jewellery and watchmakers.

Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery is currently the only education institution in the world to train their students on how to design for as well as operate this technology, as part of a unique partnership with Cooksongold.

Frank Cooper, Senior Lecturer and Technical Manager, Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery, said: We are excited by the prospect of allowing our students to fully explore the new design freedoms this technology allows and to have them going out into industry one step ahead of the game, with a skill set not available elsewhere and hugely adding to their potential employability.”

At present four tutors from the School of Jewellery have been trained by Cooksongold on how to operate the technology, with student teaching already underway. A new Master’s degree course, set to begin in September 2015 at the School of Jewellery, will focus heavily on this new technology.

David Fletcher, European Product Manager, Cooksongold, said: “The partnership with Birmingham City University is one of the most important aspects for the adoption of this groundbreaking technology."

“Students will learn how to design for direct precious metal 3D printing and in doing so will have a new tool to use alongside existing manufacturing processes and gold and silversmithing techniques. This is a new tool that really does start to make the impossible, possible.”

The School of Jewellery’s purchase of the M080 machine from Cooksongold comes at a time when the sector is seeing positive results for the UK market. Consistent growth since 2009 has resulted in the UK jewellery and watch industries being valued at £5bn, with Birmingham being touted as a hotspot for international students looking to upskill in this sector.

The Direct Metal 3D Printing technology operates by allowing the designer to create their jewellery illustrations in specialist 3D computer-aided design software, the design file is then processed through specialist software that slices it into very thin layers. The technology then re-builds the item layer by layer by passing its laser beam across a thin sheet of fine gold powder and melting it into the required profile. A fresh layer of gold powder is then spread again and the process repeats until the item is ‘printed.’

The M080 will be launched to industry this month at the international Baselworld watch and jewellery show, taking place between 19th to 26th March, where visitors will have the opportunity to see a live working demo of the technology.

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