How is 3D Printing Impacting The Jewelry Industry?

Jahabow display cases are used across many retail environments, from national big box club stores to local independent jewelry shops. We work closely with our customers and strive to add value by following and understanding the issues and trends that affect them. In this blog post, I take a closer look at an emerging trend in jewelry design: 3D printing.
The maker revolution is taking the jewelry industry by storm. Computer Aided Design (CAD) and 3D printing have opened up an entirely new realm of creativity for jewelers who want to try something new. Some may argue that this new manner of designing jewelry is still in its infancy due in part to the traditional mindset of many jewelers. However, because of the many benefits CAD and 3D printing offer we’re witnessing an increasing trend to embrace 3D printing technology.
In 2015, SmarTech Markets Publishing released a report titled, Opportunities for 3D Printing in Precious Metals, in which they predicted that the worldwide value of rings, necklaces, timepiece components, and other common consumer fashion items made via 3D printing would reach a whopping $11 billion by 2020. When you consider that the jewelry and watch industry had total revenue of about $300 billion in 2015[1], this is no mere drop in the bucket.
The report explores the traditional use of 3D printing for wax casting models, as well as the emerging potential for creating directly fabricated jewelry using powder bed fusion (PBF). In powder bed fusion, a bed of metal powder is sintered[2] together by a laser. A new layer of powder is applied, and the process repeats until the design is complete. Having the ability to rapidly create custom jewelry can be a boon for attracting Millennial and Gen Z clientele who are interested in attractive, trendy jewelry at a lower price point.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

As opposed to traditional wax carving, which can be very tedious, take weeks to complete and lack precision, a 3D printer can rapidly prototype exacting designs to fit clients.
Naturally, some investment in both technology and time is necessary for jewelers who want to make the leap into the world of 3D printing. Key to this new production method is learning Computer Aided Design (CAD). Popular CAD applications such as RhinoGold and JewelCAD, enable jewelers to create custom designs even if they don’t have top-notch computer skills. The designs are then exported to a Computer Aided Modeling (CAM) device (i.e., a 3D printer) for production. Depending on the level of intricacy involved, the wax form can take around 2-5 hours to complete.

Why 3D Printing?

According to National Jeweler, nearly 1,000 retail jewelers, wholesalers, and manufacturers closed up shop in 2015. This number increased by more than 500 in 2016, marking a dismaying 64% decline in jewelers across the United States. 3D printing can be highly beneficial to this changing industry, since the technology enables jewelers, manufacturers, and designers to test with patterns, colors, and designs, which, in the past, was a more time-consuming process. 3D printing provides jewelers with an entirely new method of producing jewelry that’s more cost-effective and less time-consuming, but that still maintains the necessary high level of quality. Because its production can be so rapid, 3D printing can also open up the possibility of selling custom jewelry directly to consumers via ecommerce, creating an additional sales avenue not previously used by many jewelers.
Of course, any piece of jewelry is enhanced in the retail environment by a high-quality, well-lit jewelry display case. If you are looking to make your products look as best as possible, our Jahabow team is here to help!
[1] Latest data from United States Census Bureau
[2] The process of compacting and forming a solid mass of material by heat or pressure without melting it to the point of liquefaction.