Posted on June.21th, 2019, | By Kenzi, WayKen Project Manager
Jewelry manufacturing is one of the oldest trades of the world, however, it is early to say that everything that could be useful for manufacturing jewels has already been invented. Progress moves on and CNC Rapid Prototyping of Jewelry can be improved with metal rapid prototyping services as well as laser and water jet cutting. You will be able to know how by reading this article.
The Conventional Process of Manufacturing Jewelry
Jewelry has been traditionally manufactured by casting. That is so because precious metals have good casting properties and the mold can be made with very low surface finishes. The casting process is fast and has good repeatability. However, it requires a master model. The overall quality of the mold and the cast part is highly dependent upon the quality of the master model? So, how were they manufactured originally?
Master models are conventionally made from wax. That usually meant them being carved from a piece of wax by the jeweler. The process was time-consuming and required a lot of skill from the manufacturer.
Once the master model is complete, it is encased in a special substance similar to concrete. You heat up the substance once it has solidified and the wax is evaporated from the concrete. Then you pour molten metal and break the concrete mold to get the jewel out. So, you have to make the master model for each piece from scratch. Modern industry and the consumer simply doesn't provide enough time to manufacture jewels commercially this way. If you manufacture each master-model manually, you won't produce enough products at the required rate and your competitors will overcome you. This is where CNC rapid prototyping comes in handy.
How to Speed up Your Jewelry Business with CNC Machining Services
CNC Machining Services
There is a number of good options CNC prototyping can offer to increase your jewelry business competitiveness. At WayKen, not only CNC metal machining is useful but wax machining and laser and waterjet cutting can be a successful addition in the jewelry business as well.
CNC Jewelry Master-Models
The first thing that comes to mind is implementing CNC machining to manufacture wax master-models. And it really is an efficient way implemented in a lot of modern plants. However, you can't use any simple CNC machining equipment and cutting parameters as the wax is easily bent and melts under high temperature. In addition, since it's very soft, you'll need extremely high spindle speeds ( up to 70,000 rpm). Overall, you will be able to manufacture wax master models at a terrific rate. Additionally, laser and water-jet cutting techniques are highly useful for this type of work as well. They generate little heat and can be further cooled down with special coolants.
Manufacturing Metal Molds
Another efficient way to manufacture cast rings or bracelets is to make reusable molds through metal machining. That way, you won't even need the master model. You can just create a 3D model of the jewel and make a cavity from it by using specific Boolean operations present in all CAD systems. Then, just add elements necessary for the mold halves to be joined and you can manufacture. The result is a durable mold that will serve you for tens of thousands of jewel pieces. One thing though, it is vital to manufacturing mold halves to match as close as possible. Otherwise, you'll have a stepover and you'll have to do a lot of postprocessing afterward.
CNC Machining of Jewelry
Jewels are usually quite small themselves and their ornaments and features are smaller still but if your machine tool and cutter are small enough, It is always possible to make jewels straight on the CNC machine. Machining silver and gold is not unheard of though they are quite soft so the clamping devices must be of similar hardness and with more contact area. The spindle speeds must be very high as well, otherwise, the metal will stick to the tool and it will be more pushed rather than cut resulting in unwanted deformations. In addition, CNC machining has some limits. Basically, it can't cut where there is no space for the tool to operate. However, it can create intricate patterns and it can offer a very good surface finish, which will drastically cut polishing time.
Engraving Jewelry with CNC Machining
Even if you consider new rapid prototyping methods of creating jewelry unnecessary and prefer to use conventional methods. They are great as well since each jewel is hand-made. However, even if you prefer the old ways, you could still use CNC Rapid Prototyping for Jewelry. How? Well, a lot of bracelets, pendants, and rings are engraved with an intricate pattern that is hard to produce manually and CNC machining centers can be mounted with engraving tools and create perfect patterns with a tolerance less than 0,05 mm.
Cutting Diamonds with CNC
The last but not least is using CNC metal prototyping equipment with abrasive tools to create multifaceted beautiful diamonds from raw uncut stones. As you well know, raw diamonds are not those gorgeous sparkling crystals seen on our rings. They are actually quite plain. It's the masters that make them shine. They cut off bits creating facet by facet to point out the stones' beauty. This is a tense and time-consuming task. However, it can be done and at a considerably faster rate by implementing CNC grinding. The wheel is programmed to grind off facet to facet with a precision unreachable even by the best masters.
Having analyzed the main uses of CNC rapid prototyping for Jewelry, we can make a few conclusions. First, using rapid prototyping significantly decreases Jewelry production cost despite CNC prototyping cost per hour being larger than that of manual labor. The advantage in time is so large that the overall price of the jewel made using CNC machining is smaller than paying the master for his work that he does much longer. Secondly, the quality of modern CNC machine tools is so great that no master can achieve as much. And lastly, CNC Rapid Prototyping can be implemented at almost any stage of the jewelry manufacturing process.