3d printing is not exactly a new process, however, what many people don't realise is how accessible commercial grade printing has become. for my first attempt at 3d printing i decided to make myself some custom jewelry, in both plastic and silver.
my original idea for making jewelry came from wanting to make myself some impressive custom cuff-links for when i eventually have to wear formal clothes. while trying to think of a design for my cuff-links i remembered that i *never* wear shirts and that i should make something i'd be able to wear every day. this is how i landed on the idea of rings, and more importantly the signet ring.
after coming up with a few ideas for rings i could get started on the interesting part; the 3d design. as a student i was able to obtain free licenses of both 3dsmax
. these are both examples of professional grade software for 3d modelling. there are many tutorials on the net on how to get started with these, so i won't go into it here.
after a weekend of playing with the software i had my first versions of my rings. as a side note; for 3d printing it is important that your 3d models are a single piece and don't have any holes. the 3d models should then be uploaded to shapeways
for printing. once you select your materials, that's it!
and here are the results:
the plastic is quite rough and the lettering on my initials is slightly squashed. that said, the rings are the correct size [measured with a shoelace] and exactly what i'd expect from a printed object.
on my second attempt i changed the design on the signet ring to include more detail. in plastic the laurel leaves did come out quite distorted, but the design is still clear enough to use.
at this stage i also designed an amulet and the original cuff-links. the much larger size of the amulet [4cm diameter] meant the cut-out initials were much clearer, however there is still some distortion on the 'h'.
the cuff-links both turned out very well; one cut-out, one raised and both function.
after some wear, i decided that i was quite happy with the prints and i'd splash out for the silver versions. the silver 'printing' actually prints in wax, the casts in silver. the result of this is apparently a much finer print.
and it is. the precision on the silver print is absolutely amazing. the final prints look exactly like the 3d models. the distortion from the plastic version is completely gone. this comparison is most obvious when comparing the laurel leaves on the signet ring; in plastic they are barely recognisable as leaves. in silver; flawless.
it's less obvious in the pictures, but i chose the least polished option shapeways offer. there are still some print lines on the signet ring and amulet but the overall finish is very impressive. the most important point is that the silver prints look like jewelry.
as a final note, i designed the signet ring to function as a signet ring. this means that the design is back to front for use as a wax seal.
the wax is easily obtained from amazon
and produces a very impressive way to seal christmas presents or letters to the king.