3D printing finds its way in just about every aspect of jewelry manufacturing, due to the widespread adoption of CAD software among jewelry designers. Even in traditional manufacturing, with vulcanized silicon molds, the initial model is often 3D printed using high-temperature resistant photopolymer resins. Jewelry prototyping for size and shape verification is complemented by the use of directly 3D printed wax and resin patterns for direct casting and serial manufacturing. The next evolutionary step is direct metal 3D printing, although further down in our timeline.

Wax for 3D printed direct casting has been used for almost two decades with Solidscape material jetting technology. Over the past decade, jewelry manufacturers and jewelry 3D printing service providers have been introducing castable resins with both material jetting and vat photopolymerization technologies. Today those technologies are evolving with the introduction of low-cost systems (sub-$5,000) and high-productivity (layerless DLP) systems, opening the door to a new phase of growth and more widespread adoption for serial production of more complex and customized products. Directly 3D printed precious metal jewelry is the next step, however the complexity of the technology and the high-initial investments required mean this will remain an opportunity limited to a few highly experienced companies for the near term future.

Directly 3D printed precious metal jewelry from Sisma and Nuovi Gioielli.

In this AM Focus, we will leverage the latest SmarTech Publishing report on Jewelry 3D Printing and the report on Opportunities in 3D Printing with Precious Metals to provide a ten-year jewelry additive manufacturing outlook. Sectors covered include hardware (photopolymerization and metal powder bed fusion), materials (photopolymers and precious metal powders), jewelry-specific 3D printing service bureaus and jewelry-specific software. We will also analyze future adoption patterns and short- to medium- and long-term 3D printed jewelry applications. We also assess pricing schemes for all currently available jewelry 3D printing technologies, systems and materials.

Finally, we will take a closer look at the leading providers of technologies and materials for jewelry AM. These companies include Stratasys, Solidscape (Prodways), 3D Systems, EnvisionTEC, EOS, Concept Laser, Sisma, ReaLizer (DMG Mori) as well as precious metal powder providers such as Cooksongold, Legor, Progold and Hildebrand and Heraeus, among others.

In doing so we will pinpoint the opportunities for stakeholders in jewelry additive manufacturing – from manufacturers of AM systems (with a specific competency for castable materials), to suppliers of gold, platinum, silver and other precious metal alloy metal powders optimized for AM systems, to adopters of AM focusing on the many applications for the jewelry sector.

A lost wax casting pattern 3D printed using SolidScape material jetting technology

Highlights in Jewelry 3D Printing

  • Increasing adoption of castable photopolymer resins is expected to drive the bulk of the business for 3D printing in jewelry for the near to mid-term future.

  • Demand for photopolymer resins (including wax for material jetting and non-castable prototyping materials) is expected to reach to account for 968,000 Kgs of jewelry oriented materials consumption for AM processes as of 2022. These data reflect the steady growth in the use of photopolymer resins for direct casting in production.

  • The jewelry industry has been increasing its reliance on the use of 3D printed patterns for direct casting as new trends such as fast fashion and mass customization require smaller batch orders (in the order of hundreds rather than thousands) with faster production requirements and shorter delivery deadlines.

  • Most jewelry manufacturers still use 3D printing only for prototyping or for production of the initial pattern to produce vulcanized silicon molds, which are used to traditionally produce the patterns for lost wax casting.

  • This lengthy and manual labor intensive process is gradually being replaced through the implementation of 3D printers both within jewelry manufacturers and external, jewelry-specific manufacturing services, driving yearly sales of  professional photopolymer based 3D printers to reach 2,266 units by 2022, of which 70% are expected to be vat photopolymerization based systems.

  • A niche yet potentially very significant opportunity will come from the precious metal powder-based AM technology sector, with a focus gold and platinum powder-bed fusion systems. Gold is significant as it remains by far the most commonly used precious material in jewelry and in directly 3D printed jewelry as well, accounting for over 86% of all precious metal AM powders in 2022.

  • New technologies are also expected to introduce the possibility of offering new gold alloys and gold colors (such as green and blue) which are difficult to work with standard manufacturing processes.

  • Platinum alloys also stand to significantly benefit from 3D printing technologies, by enabling thing and lightweight platinum jewelry products which are impossibile to manufacture by traditional means.

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