Can You 3D Print Gold, Silver, Diamonds & Jewelry?
Many people who get into 3D printing start to wonder whether you can 3D print gold, silver, diamonds, and jewelry with it. This is a question that I decided to answer in this article so people have a better idea.
There’s some useful information that you’ll want to know about 3D printing with these materials and even making jewelry, so stick around for the answers, as well as some cool videos that show the processes.
Can You 3D Print Gold?
Yes, it’s possible to 3D print gold using lost wax casting and pouring in a melted liquid gold into a wax mold and letting it set into an object. You can also use DMLS or Direct Metal Laser Sintering which is a 3D printer that specializes in creating metal 3D prints. You can’t 3D print gold with a normal 3D printer.
3D printing gold is really amazing as you can not only just create complex designs but can opt between 14k and 18k gold as well.
Apart from this, by changing the amount or quantity of additional materials that are commonly used to straighten small parts of jewelry, you can also print gold in varying colors such as golden, red, yellow, and white.
Do keep this fact in mind that 3D printing gold requires some specialties and high-quality equipment and it can only be 3D printed using two major methods:
- Lost Wax Casting Technique
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering
Lost Wax Casting Technique
Lost wax casting is considered one of the oldest techniques to craft jewelry as it has been practiced for about 6000 years but now the procedures have been changed a bit due to advancing technologies and 3D printing is one of them.
It is a simple technique in which gold or any other metal sculpture is created with the help of an original sculpture or model. Some of the best things about the lost wax casting technique are that it is cost-effective, time-saving, and allows you to 3D print gold in any designed shape.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to wear safety gloves, eyewear, and a mask during the whole process. If you are still confused and want some actual examples, take out a look at this casting video that shows the setting of a Gemstone in a Laurel Pendant.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering
Direct Metal Laser Sintering is also known as DMLS and could be regarded as the best method to 3D print gold.
It allows users to simply create any kind of complex model by just uploading its design into the machine.
The best thing about this technology is that it can create even worse models in terms of complexity. Take a look at the video that shows whether you can 3D print gold.
They use a machine called the Precious M080, designed especially for gold. It uses high-value gold powder as the material, though it is extremely expensive to purchase, and not for the average user.
The benefit of 3D printed gold jewelry is how you can create shapes that would be impossible by traditional methods of jewelry creation.
It also is cost-efficient because it creates hollow shapes rather than doing a solid piece, so you can save plenty of material. The jewelry pieces are cheaper and lighter.
- The process starts just like a normal way of uploading a design of the 3D print model that you want to have in gold. It will be uploaded to the DMLS machine.
- The machine has a cartridge filled with gold metal powder that will be leveled after each layer by a balancing handle on the machine.
- A UV laser beam will form the first layer of the design like a 3D printer does on the print bed. The only difference is that the light will burn the powder to make it solid and form the model instead of extruding the filament or other material.
- Once one layer has been printed, the powder will be lowered down a little bit and the handle will bring extra powder from the cartridge over the first printed layer.
- The laser will be exposed right above the first layer which will be directly attached to the model placed inside the powder.
- The process will go on layer by layer until it reaches the last layer of the uploaded design model in the DMLS machine.
- Remove the fully crafted model from the powder at the end of the 3D printing process.
- Remove supports from the model like you normally do with any other 3D printed model.
- Do the post-processing which mainly includes cleaning, sanding, smoothing, and polishing the gold jewelry.
The drawback of DMLS machines is their cost as they are extremely expensive and cannot be bought just for users who want to print some gold models at home.
So, it is best to get services from an experienced company that can easily be found online. It will still save you a lot of money as compared to buying gold pieces directly from a jeweler.
Some of the best DMLS machines that are considered the best suitable to print gold and other metal materials include the following:
Can You 3D Print Silver?
Yes, you can 3D print silver similarly to using a fine gold powder with a DMLS process or a lost wax casting. A special kind of 3D printer is needed to create silver 3D prints, so you won’t be able to with desktop machines. You can 3D print models and spray paint them a metallic silver for a basic imitation.
Although DMLS is the best suitable option for 3D printing silver, it is extremely expensive to buy as the price range starts from a whopping $100,000.
Apart from this, the powder that is used in the process contains metal and other ingredients which can be hazardous for humans and pets if breathed in. You need all the safety equipment such as gloves, eyewear, and probably a mask to get the job done while being safe.
It’s usually done in industrial settings so many safety features should be implemented.
DMLS is considered the best suitable option as compared to lost wax casting because they can go down to a Z-resolution of 38 microns or 0.038mm and can sometimes go even lower which is important and beneficial while printing silver or any other metal.
With the help of available methods, silver can be 3D printed in various finishes, shades, or styles mainly including:
- Antique Silver
- High Gloss
You have the ability to 3D print more than one silver art model in a single try using the same lost wax casting, investment casting, or DMLS method. One YouTuber has printed 5 silver rings at the same time.
He created rings and their design in the slicer while attaching them to a single backbone which almost looks like a tree. Check out his video below.
As it is a difficult and costly process, you may take help from some online service providers that will do all the things for you at relatively low prices than that of the gold market. Some of the best design and services providers include:
- Sculpteo – found under “Wax Casting” material
Can You 3D Print Diamonds?
In general, 3D printers can’t 3D print diamonds since diamonds are single crystals, so the actual diamond is made from nearly perfectly aligned carbon crystals, in a specific diamond-like structure. The closest we have gotten is with a composite diamond created by Sandvik.
Diamonds are the hardest thing this earth has ever had and it is said that it is 58 times harder than the second-hardest material in nature.
Sandvik is an organization that is constantly working on innovating new things while advancing old technologies as well. They claim that they have 3D printed the first-ever diamond but it still has some flaws. One of the major flaws in their diamond is that it doesn’t shine.
Sandvik has done this with the help of diamond powder and polymer which is exposed to UV lights to form layers on the layers. The process they used to create a 3D printed diamond is called Stereolithography.
They have invented a new tailor-made mechanism in which they can create almost the same composition that an actual diamond includes. They claim that their diamond is more than 3 times stronger than steel.
Its density is almost the same as aluminum while the thermal expansion is related to the Ivor material. When it comes to the heat conductivity of the 3D printed diamond, it is way higher than copper and related metals.
In a nutshell, it can be said that the time is not too far when 3D printing diamonds will be as easy as printing any other material. You can take a look at how they have got this thing done in a short video.
Can You 3D Print Jewelry?
You can 3D printer rings, necklaces, earrings out of plastic with normal 3D printers like filament or resin machines. Many people have businesses of 3D printing jewelry pieces and selling them on places like Etsy. You can create pendants, rings, necklaces, tiaras and plenty more.
The best thing about 3D printing jewelry is that you can create complex designs, print multiple parts at the same time, save time, mitigate cost, and many more. Although 3D printing is prominent in all its aspects, some people still don’t adopt it for a few reasons.
Some jewelers believe that even though 3D printing has amazing capabilities, they won’t compare to a handmade piece of jewelry. I think with current developments and what we can expect in the future, 3D printed jewelry will definitely match up to handmade pieces.
3D printing can create shapes and geometries that are practically impossible by traditional manufacturing methods.
You can use SLA or DLP techniques for 3D printing jewelry as well. The process photo-cures an ultraviolet-sensitive resin that then forms a model in small layers at a time.
These machines are affordable at around $200-$300 for something like the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro from Amazon.
Some of the best and widely used casting materials that fall in the SLA/DLP category include:
If you don’t want to go through the wax process, you can spray paint your jewelry prints in a nice metallic gold or silver color, as well as sand & polish the model to get a really nice metal effect and shine.
Check out some popular 3D printed jewelry designs all from Thingiverse.
- Witcher III Wolf School Medallion
- Customizable Fidget Spinner Ring
- GD Ring – Edge
- Darth Vader Ring – The Next Ring Episode Size 9-
- Elsa’s Tiara
- Hummingbird Pendant
I 3D printed this Open Source Ring on a resin 3D printer, using a mixture of basic resin and flexible resin to give it more durability.
How Do You Cast 3D Printed Jewelry with Resin 3D Printing?
Castable resin that is a photopolymer is used for this process as it can act just like wax. The job is done by using a well-known technique known as investment casting.
- The first step is to create a model design in your preferred slicer, save the file, and upload it into your 3D printer.
- Print the design with a high-resolution resin 3D printer, clip off all the supports, and attach the sprue wax rods to the model.
- Insert the other end of the sprue into the hole of the flask’s base and put the flask’s shell.
- Make a mixture of water and investment and pour it inside the shell. Put this inside a furnace and heat it up to an extremely high temperature.
- Pour burned metal into the investment mold from its bottom hole. Once dried, remove all the investment by putting it into the water.
- Now it’s time to move to the post-processing and have some final touches to get the job done with smoothing, finishing, and polishing.
Check out the video below for a great illustration of this process.
One thing to always keep in mind is your safety. This is a specialist task so you want to ensure you have good safety equipment and have the correct training beforehand.