Bob Lynn – CAM/CAD with Solidscapes
This is the first seminar I was able to sit in on Saturday morning. This is cool stuff, if you are a jeweler and not involved with learning and using this technology. You should be. This stuff is going to do to the jewelry business what computers did to the printing and coping business years ago. It is very revolutionary and powerful.
I am a computer person and I do use and understand a lot of different types of software including CAD software. So I knew this type of jewelry CAD/CAM software was powerful before the seminar. I just did not realize how much it was going to change the jewelry business. Of course I am in the stone business.
There are quite a few software programs available. But like in most things in life you get what you pay for and the more expensive packages are a lot better. The software works in wire frame and then renders for speed.
Trust me, this the future of most jewelry and model making and will have profound effects on how the jewelry business works, products are created and/or manufactured. It will also dramatically effect how to make a living in the jewelry business.
This is not a picture of an actual ring. This ring has never been made in reality, it is virtual and only exists (at this point) as a computer data file.
Think of the potential of being able to show your customer a design like this for approval without actually having to make it in metal(s) first.
Also remember that once the computer file has been created it can be used and manipulated at any time in the future. In other words, the work once done and saved in a digital file can be used over and over, there is no need to do the labor to create the ring again.
Note: The image can easily be manipulated so the ring can be viewed from all sides and printed out on a color printer for easy use. If you need to change the shape of the stone, the ring size… what ever. It is virtually a click of the mouse button away.
Now imagine that you want to make an actual wax model of a ring that you have created in one of the CAD design programs? How? Easy…
That is what the Solidscape machine above does (the stand is actually an air conditioning unit to keep the wax enviroment perfect), it looks suspiciously like an inkjet printer that is standard with most home computers today. I think that like most computer equipment this machine will be a lot cheaper and pretty ubiquitous in the future in most jewelry shops. But at this time the machine is about $70,000.00 or so depending on accessories. Currently the machine is really only practical for a larger manufacturers at this point in time.
But just like in the old days of the printing business, there are “wax service bureaus” around. This is a business that speacializes in “printing”, or in this case making “waxes” of customer files. They tell me that a typical wax costs about $3 to $10 depending on the time and complexityof the design.
The jeweler/designers create the CAD file/design and download it or deliver the file on CD to the service bureau and in the next few days the service bureau runs the file and creates the finished wax. Then the wax is either sent back to the jeweler/designer or more often than not, the wax is invested and cast in whatever metal the designer wants for a small fee and then sent back as a finished piece of jewelry ready for the stone setting (if any) to the original jeweler/designer.
What can the Solidscapes machine do? Pretty much anything, and at a detail level and precision that is just not possible using the old traditional wax carving methods. Note: The red wax is soluable and acts as a female mold for the non soluable green wax.
The detail(s) on these wax models above is difficult to show in the photographs. But the tiniest detail shows and were razor sharp. Left – The engraving on the ring was done in the wax, there was no need to pay an engraver.
Notice the sharp detail and how clean the wax is… How long would it take to carve something like this by hand? How many wax carvers are capable of even carving something with this detail and intricacy?
Not many is the answer, and can you imaging the labor that would be involved doing this type of ring by hand? Imagine the time? It would be very time comsuming and expensive.
Every place you see a hole in this wax model is a place for a pave set stone (Diamond or Sapphire).
There were several hundred on this ring, all the way around the band. The stones were set in the wax model (in the wax). Then stones were cast in place.
They cast another ring with the stones in place at the Kraftwerks event but I was working myself and did not get a chance to see it or get pictures of it.
- Is the ring from above being made by the Solidscapes machine(about 1/2 done). The red wax was soluble (I think in alcohol, I cannot remember for sure). The red wax acts as a female mold of the green wax (male) and gives the machine the ability to create holes, things inside of things (like stone settings) and so on.
The machine uses several other types of wax with different properties for different jobs and applications.
At this point the Solidscape machine is not very fast (this ring was 30+ hours). But the machine runs by itself and does not need to be monitored, does not want a raise and works weekends.
Just like anything else having to do with computers it will be half as much money and twice as fast next year, and the year after and so on…
I asked the manufacture’s representative how many of these machines he though were out there currently being used. He told me for the Solidscape machine they figured that there was in the neighborhood of 2,000 or so with 3/4 of them being in Bangkok and places like that.
If I was a jeweler, especially a commercial one that statement would send a wake up call to me.
Remember that this wax machine (Solidscapes) is just one application of CAD/CAM. There are already CAD/CAM milling and lathe machines in wax as well as machines that work with metals being used and I am sure much more sophisticated machines of all types are on the way. CAD/CAM systems are here to stay…
Bob Lynn 2434 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93003
Solidscape Inc. 606 S. Hill St., Suite 705
Los Angles, CA 90014