Growing demand for fewer companies, the state of jewelry AM at Vicenza Oro T-Gold

Benefits are increasingly evident as transition focuses on jewelry 3D printing as service

As always, the original Vicenza Oro 2019 jewelry fair, the one that actually takes place in Vicenza, Italy (one of the primary global hubs for jewelry manufacturing), offered a clear cut view of what the state of the art in jewelry 3D printing has to offer.  While the benefits of implementing AM, either for investment casting or direct precious metal powder production, are now clearer than ever, the segment still struggles with making investments on technology. For this reason, the use of 3D printing as a service is now becoming the dominant path for most innovative jewelers to access the future of jewelry manufacturing and the growing demand for more complex and original geometries.

This underlying trend was reflected in the smaller number (compared to past editions) of 3D printer manufacturers present in the T-Gold section fo the Vicenza Oro fair. A big change from the past, when several major players used this event to present their latest products. Nevertheless, those that remain, are reporting strong growth in hardware sales, especially for indirect jewelry manufacturing processes (patterns for casting and silicon molds) and strong growth of services using their direct precious metal 3D printing hardware.

When the going gets tough…

The biggest players at the show were the local ones. Sisma and DWS, each presenting some very interesting new products. DWS is a historic leader in SLA and its technology evolved created specifically to cater to the needs of local jewelers, which it knows very well. The latest innovation presented was actually a software-based one: the Nauta machine software now enables direct, optimized and fully automated creation of casting trees. These are the wax segments that connect multiple jewels in order to directly cast multiple small parts in the investment casting furnaces. The best part is that the casting tree now also acts as supports for printing the parts, meaning you can easily fill the entire build volume. As a result, a large format system such as DWS’s DigitalWax 030J, can produce hundreds and even thousands of jewelry parts in record time (as shown in the photos below).

Sisma is another local leader in jewelry manufacturing machines, both subtractive and additive ones. The company is well known in the jewelry AM industry for its mysint 100 laser metal fusion (a type of SLM) 3D printer, which is one of the few specifically built to process precious metal powders. Recently it also introduced the Everes DLP system, a stylish and affordable system (priced around €13,000), which is capable of producing some impressive casting parts (shown in the photos below). The company’s extensive knowledge of the jewelry industry’s needs also enables the development of very specific applications, such as 3D printed supports for post-processing jewelry items in Sisma’s subtractive systems (shown in the first photo of the gallery below).

Getting  the message through

Vicenza Oro is also an opportunity for those who are already familiar with direct precious metal jewelry 3D printing to show off what can be achieved in terms of advanced geometries. Unfortunately, to date, there are only a handful of jewelers who are forward-thinking enough to push geometries in new directions through AM. One of these is Nuovi Gioielli, a jewelry making company that has pushed Sisma’s mysint in dramatic new directions and has now scaled up the nuymber of installed systems.

The good news is that it is now increasingly clear that 3D printed jewelry is the future, the bad news is that the majority of jewels shown in the jewelry exhibition part of the fair was not 3D printed and hardly innovative (which may explain why the show halls were almost completely empty). Nuovi Gioielli’s 3D printed pieces are evolutions of pieces that were created a few years ago and it will still take some more time before others finally catch on (at least in the Western world).

On the other hand, the Eastern world may be a lot faster in adopting directly 3D printed jewelry. At the show we finally had the opportunity to meet with Cooksngold’ David Fletcher, the man in charge of Cooksongold and EOS’s venture into precious metal 3D printing, beginning with the PRECIOUS M080 system. Mr. Fletcher confirmed that Cooksongold’s jewelry 3D printing service is now working at full regime, with five systems instlalled to produce orders of several thousand pieces, mainly for Asian markets.

This was not the only news to emerge from Cooksongold’s participation at Vicenza Oro. The company also announced that the EOS M 100 system can be used for jewelry 3D printing as well. This is a significant change from the previous approach with the PRECIOUS M080, which will now be progressively phased out. While the first machine, which was sold only by Cooksongold, used a wooden filter to collect precious powders, the M 100 uses a standard metallic filter, meaning it can be used for other materials as well. Along with a larger diameter, this will further open up the use of precious metal 3D printing in many areas even beyond jewelry.

Much like Sisma and Nuovi Gioielli, Cooksongold also works with select partners to push the capabilities of direct precious metal 3D printing. One of these partners is Bolternstern. The Swiss company followed the ideal adoption cycle. It first turned to Cooksongold as a service to begin producing some of its more innovative designs. Then it acquired a system which it housed at Cooksongold facilities, in order to fully familiarize with it. Finally, it will move the system in-house to fully commence production. Mr. Fletcher said that even some larger companies are now showing increased interest in understanding the potential of direct jewelry digital additive production. Products such as the gem bracelet (fro Bolterstern) and the double metal bracelet below help to explain what these capabilities are.

Vicenza Oro 2019: looking ahead and looking behind

One of the most interesting new announcements came from Prodways, as the company announced the new DLP 3D printer from newly acquired Solidscape, thus making a clear entrance into this market. Prodways will now be able to use the resins produce internally by its subsidiary DletaMed to directly target jewelry makers, using a brand that jewelers know very well. More interesting news came from Legor, a leading producer of precious metal powders. The company introduced a new, optimized 5N (rose gold) powder for AM, and presented its exclusive distribution of the B9 Creator DLP 3D printers.

The most significant absence was EnvisionTEC’s. The former – and current leader – in jewelry manufacturing was conspicuously absent, without any of the distributors present on the T-Gold show floor. Other company’s chose a much more low key approach: 3DZ, the leading Italian 3D SYstems distributor had a very small booth – a big change from when the company was present with three different distributors. Even formlabs’ booth, represented here by Bilcotech was small and surprisingly quiet, although the company has been making a gradual entrance on the European jewelry market and expects to grow it further in the future. In general these changes in strategy can be due to several factors, not all dependent on a company’s own current status in the market.

In many cases, the jewelry market might not represent as large an opportunity as some other verticals, with companies like EnvisionTEC and 3D Systems now favoring rapidly growing adoption segments such as dentistry or other industrial applications. For Formlabs it is also a time of relative transition with the company consolidating its recent growth and refocusing on the most profitable opportunities. In addition, many companies report seeing more significant growth for 3D printing adoption in emerging Middle Eastern and Asian jewelry markets. Time will certainly tell but there is little doubt that jewelry 3D printing – either direct or indirect – is the way to go. The only question is how and who will get there first.

Davide Sher

Since 2002, I have built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, I spent 12 years in the United States, where I received my Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree. As a journalist covering the tech industry - especially the videogame industry - for over 10 years, I began covering the AM industry specifically in 2013, as blogger. In 2016 I co-founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. (now 3dpbm) which operates in marketing, editorial, and market analysis & consultancy services for the additive manufacturing industry. 3dpbm publishes 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, and leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore. I am also a Senior Analyst for leading US-based firm SmarTech Analysis focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets.

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