The benefits of additive manufacturing technologies within the jewelry and luxury goods sector are clear. Processes such as stereolithography (SLA) have opened the doors for intricate and beautiful jewelry design as well as customized luxury ornaments. In the case of polymer-based SLA, 3D printed jewelry typically requires molding and casting post-processes to create the final piece.
Ceramic additive manufacturing, for its part, offers the benefits of 3D printing (in terms of design and small batch production) but does away with the need for molding and casting. For this reason (and others), ceramic AM has made a significant impact on the jewelry and luxury goods industry as detailed in the latest report from SmarTech Publishing, the leading market research firm for AM verticals.
Similar to the medical and aerospace sectors, the jewelry market has accounted for a significant share of ceramic AM revenue in the past couple of years (making up nearly a quarter of 2017’s revenue) and, while it is expected to be a less relevant opportunity than biomedical and aerospace applications, SmarTech Publishing’s report on Ceramic AM opportunities expects to grow to $58 million in yearly generated revenues within the next 10 years. This will happen as a result of overcoming current challenges and limitations in AM of technical ceramics materials, such as zirconia and alumina (as detailed in the report), which SmarTech Publishing expects will take place beyond 2024.
Within the luxury goods sector, businesses have leveraged ceramic additive manufacturing for various applications including watchmaking, jewelry making and more. From functional prototypes to finished products, 3D printed ceramics offer beneficial qualities for the jewelry and luxury market including robustness, hypoallergenic compositions, and fine, polished surfaces.
Zirconia, one of the most prevalent 3D printable technical ceramics, is especially popular in the jewelry and luxury goods sector. Known for its high resistance to fractures, abrasions, chemicals and extreme temperatures, zirconia is well suited for producing wearable accessories or other components for luxury items.
Presently, only a small group of companies offer the SLA technology and ceramic materials suitable for printing luxury ceramic goods. They include 3D Ceram (France), Lithoz (Austria), Prodways (France) and Admatec (Netherlands). Optical systems experts Zeiss and Swiss watchmaker Swatch are two notable companies using ceramic AM for producing complex, technical ceramic parts, though many others are also exploring the technology for the purpose of research and prototyping.
The jewelry and luxury goods sector is currently one of the leading drivers of ceramic additive manufacturing, along with the medical and aerospace industries. And although the manufacturing technology is still predominantly used for prototyping and research, as it continues to advance, the number of ceramic AM applications in the jewelry market will only continue to grow.
In parallel, other early adopters of ceramic AM (including the dental, energy, automotive and electronics sectors) will increasingly explore the versatile technology for the production of durable, resistant and complex parts.