Whether you’re starting a new hobby or a new business, 3d printing jewelry is an exciting project to take on. A few clicks and some resin, and you magically get a completely customized piece of fine jewelry – it’s like alchemy is finally real!
At this point you want to make your dream a reality, so let’s take a look at how to do that. Obviously, the option is 3d printing, but you probably realize by now that there is so much information on 3d printing. Where do you start?
You start right here, of course. We’re going to take a dive into the different printers you have as options, and then we’ll get into some things you need to know about 3d printing jewelry so you’re well-equipped to print your first piece.
Table of Contents
- Top 3D Printer For Jewelry (2020 updated)
- How Does 3D Printing Jewelry Work?
- Process Of 3D Printing Jewelry
Top 3D Printer For Jewelry (2020 updated)
Now the part that you care about. Let’s take a look at the best 3d printer for jewelry options you have.
The top pick for printing resin is the Formlabs Form 2. This is an SLA printer that checks every box on your list. The build volume is 115 x 65 x 155 mm, which won’t be a problem for you printing jewelry. The great thing about this unit is it’s a true desktop printer. It doesn’t take up any space at all so you can pile a bunch of these bad boys on your desk to start your jewelry empire!Well, either that or it’s easy to hide so your spouse doesn’t know about your new hobby.
The folks at Formlabs don’t live under a rock, either. They realized how many people were using their machine for printing jewelry so they released a special SLA resin that’s wax-castable. They’ve got a great inventory of other resins to help out with a ton of different projects you’re going to work on.
Their company is well-established, so their auxiliary programs are really sleek and easy to use. Not to mention, their printer looks really futuristic – almost like a piece of art. The accuracy and ease-of-use of this printer are going to pay for itself in no time at all, which is a good justification for the price tag. You get what you pay for.
A great thing about this printer is you don’t have to mess with the liquid resin in the trough at all. You just put in a canister, and the machine does all the work for you. It even has an automatic wiping system that will clean up the print as you go along. It’s fast and it will do a great job printing intricate details in your jewelry. It is absolutely the top pick for resin printers.
The logical next printer to look at on this list is the Moai. Everything you love about SLA printers, at a more reasonable price. This checks the same boxes as the Form 2; it’s super accurate, quiet to operate, easy to use, and you can easily print using a resin bath. The difference is that this machine is a lot less expensive, and the resin is also less expensive. The other thing that’s great about the Moai is it allows 3rd party resin!
This machine isn’t as polished or sophisticated as the Formlabs’ printer, but it is no stick in the mud, either. It will deliver great accuracy and precision for a fair price. Prepoly’s Moai SLA 3d printer is an excellent choice for beginners. It’s the perfect choice for people who like to experiment and tinker.
Since it’s open-source and allows 3rd party resins, you have a lot of room to test the boundaries of this printer. So that makes this a great printer for a lot of different people who are planning to 3d print jewelry. It’s very friendly to beginners, and it’s equally friendly to limit-testers and experimenters.
All this talk about the intricacies and costs associated with SLA printing, did you know there’s a true “budget” SLA printer? For a couple of hundred bucks, you can have a fully-operational SLA printer to start your 3d printing jewelry adventure. But don’t be fooled, there’s a difference between “inexpensive” and “cheap”, and this printer is far from cheap. The price might be low, but the quality you get is very good. Significantly better than any FDM printer can achieve.
25-micron resolution, to be exact. It’s a small unit, which is a pro and a con. It takes up less desk space, but you can do less with it. Of course, with printing jewelry, you shouldn’t care a ton about the build volume, but it’s something to keep in mind. The other thing to keep in mind is this doesn’t have the built-in safety features that the other SLA printers on this list have. Yes, printing with resin is dangerous. They provide great instructions as well as the required protective equipment to keep you safe.
The setup and cleaning process is manual for this printer, so be ready to get your hands dirty and have your patience tested. Just keep in mind how low the cost of this unit is. Sure, there are more precautions to take and more time required for each step of the process. But remember that you’re saving thousands of dollars here. It also might prove to be a good exercise to learn SLA printing without all the bells and whistles. It will give you a deeper appreciation for when you upgrade to a more expensive unit.
For the same price of the Moai from the SLA category, you can get the incredible Ultimaker 2+, also called the UM2+. This is a printer that I can’t stop talking about. Every part of the machine is perfect. The build volume is generous, and you can fill that build volume with a plethora of different filament types. You can also utilize the space to print many different pieces of jewelry in one shot. This is the highest-end single-extruder model they make. For 3d printing jewelry, this is the top-of-the-line Ultimaker printer you can use.
I’ve had this exact machine and used it for over 3 years with no issues at all. It’s the only brand of FDM printer that I feel comfortable leaving the room right after starting the program – no need to babysit the print or check-in at all. Bed leveling is really easy, and the LCD screen is convenient. You’ll get a great bed adhesion with this guy, too.
Best of all, it comes pre-set out of the box so it’s ready to go right after plugging it in. Compared to other FDM printers, it’s expensive. But, compare it to SLA 3d printers and the cost is on the low-end. The operating cost is significantly lower than the SLA printers.
For a couple of hundred bucks, you can start learning how to make custom jewelry. The Ender 3 Pro is not the most polished or glamorous printer, but it’s a workhorse. A lot of people consider it the best printer in its price category, myself included. What you get are reasonably accurate and high-quality prints. The machine is really sturdy and durable. When it comes to 3d printing jewelry, it’s an excellent option. You can start learning the process and experimenting without breaking the bank.
If you’re not comfortable investing thousands into a printer, let’s start small and see how passionate you are about the space. The Ender 3 Pro gives you that option. It’s the most budget-friendly option if you’re just a 3d printed jewelry hobbyist. Just like the Ultimaker 2+, since this is an FDM printer you’re not pigeon-holed. Sure, it’s not the best 3d printing tech for making jewelry, but it can do a ton of other stuff.
You can enjoy the full range of freedom that comes with having an FDM printer. Admittedly, sometimes I break things just so I can 3d print replacements – and that’s something you can’t do with an SLA printer.
The last 3d printer on the list is from Solidscape. Before reading further, I need to point out that it’s a professional-grade, top-of-the-line jewelry 3d printer, and so it’s priced accordingly. In fact, the price tag sits north of $55,000. It’s an investment for a professional, and not for a hobbyist. With that out of the way, let’s look at how this can transform your custom 3d printer jewelry business. So it’s an SLA printer on steroids. It avoids everything you hate about the other SLA 3d printers and adds a ton of extra benefits.
The post-processing using dissolvable supports which means it’s mess-free for you. The set up takes no time at all, and continued use is just as easy. The benefits don’t stop there. The machine will automatically wax-cast your piece of jewelry. If you recall, with the other SLA 3d printers there are a few steps between printing, and having a cast. On top of these points, it’s also insanely accurate. In fact, the layer thickness goes down as low as 6 microns. 12 times smaller than the thickness of a piece of hair.
Solidscape’s printer will create pieces time and time again with no issues; it’s a highly repeatable and reliable machine. Everything about the S370 is automatic. They pride themselves on a one-touch operation. You touch the screen once and the print starts. Another few touches will do the post-processing and wax-casting for you. In other words, it’s one of the easiest and most convenient ways to 3d print jewelry.
So let’s circle back to the comment in the beginning. This is a machine for professionals or aspiring professionals. There is no doubt that this printer will elevate your business to the next level, but you need to make sure you have a business first. For that reason, I would strongly suggest you start with another printer first and learn the ropes. Exploit a less expensive printer as a way to prove your concept and learn the hard lessons. When you’re ready, this machine is here for you. It was made specifically for 3d printing jewelry, and no other machine does it better. Essentially, it is the best 3d printer for jewelry.
How Does 3D Printing Jewelry Work?
Just to clear things up, you’re not going to be printing custom gold jewelry right from the nozzle of your 3d printer. You’re going to be printing a high-detail mold that you’ll use to make your custom jewelry. If you’ve made jewelry the traditional way before, you know the low-tech method of making these molds. Either they are hand-crafted, or you can use a CNC mill to cut one. You make a version of what you want the ring to be, you make a mold around it, pour in your molten silver or gold, then you get your ring!
This uses the exact same process, but it launches it into the 21st century. Instead of a mill or hand-carving, we’re going to be using a 3d printer. If you’re familiar with hobby 3d printers, you’re on the right track. Those desktop units are one example of 3d printing technology we can use, but there are some others that might work better for you.
Process Of 3D Printing Jewelry
In case you don’t know the process for 3d printing jewelry, let’s take a quick look at it. The first step is to either design or find a design for the jewelry. This will be done on a CAD program, or you can find a ton of different models online. Next, you 3d print your piece of jewelry using resin or a special wax. No, we’re not 3d printing gold.
After that, you take your wax or resin piece of jewelry and get it ready for casting. From there, you’ll make a mold. The result is a mold that has the cutout of your piece of jewelry. Now, pour your molten precious metal into that mold. After some time, the magic is done! You have a shiny ring! That’s the easy part – the hard part is figuring out which 3d printer is perfect for you. Like a “choose your own adventure” book, you have some options to start you down your path.
Alternative 3D Printing Processes
Yes, there are options when it comes to 3d printing technology. Those traditional 3d printers you may have seen on the internet or in your friend’s garage are what we call FDM or FFF printers. Fused Deposition Modeling, or Fused Filament Fabrication. We’re using fusion, or sticking a hot thing to itself, to make the part. The plastic is hot, the layers build up and stick to each other, and then they cool and you have your final model.
The other method that we’re going to look at is called SLA. It’s a little funkier and tougher to understand. SLA stands for Stereolithography Apparatus. Big words. Basically, it uses science and lasers to form a 3d printed part from a trough of liquid resin. The great thing about SLA is it can make really strong pieces and can print with more robust material options. SLA is a more favorable tech for jewelry, but FDM is a more universal tech.
Pros And Cons Of Each 3D Printing Method For Making Jewelry
Okay, now that the nerdy science talk is over let’s take a look at why you should care about either of these 3d printing methods.
FFF / FDM
The big benefit of using an FDM printer for making jewelry is that the cost is really low. The upfront cost of the printer is lower, and the operating cost is much lower. Of course, there’s a downside to this. The quality you get with an FDM printer isn’t close to the quality you get with an SLA printer – it’s a lot worse.
If your jewelry doesn’t require a lot of fine detail, then an FDM printer will be perfect for you. If you plan on printing a ton of non-jewelry projects, an FDM is the only option for you. SLA 3d printers are a lot more specific and niche-y. If you’re a jeweler, cosplayer, DIYer, and craftsperson, then an FDM printer is the best pick for you.
SLA printers were made to print resin, which is what you’ll use to make your jewelry. In that sense, SLA printers are made for exactly what you’re looking to do with them. Keep in mind that the upfront cost and the cost to run the machine are higher than FDM printers. Additionally, the resin is toxic, and with some SLA printers, you need to be careful when operating them.
With those two points out of the way, an SLA printer is exactly what most people need when they want to make their own jewelry. Why? Accuracy. The accuracy that an SLA printer can achieve is unbelievable. SLA is the only option if you’re looking for 3d printed jewelry with very fine detail. The other key feature is the strength of the materials used in an SLA printer. Resin is so much stronger than the default filament of an FDM printer.
Why 3D Print Jewelry?
So we highlighted how to 3d print jewelry, and what goes into it. But are you totally convinced that you should even try it? Why 3d print jewelry? Why 3d print anything? The answer is exactly the same.
You have complete freedom over the design
You can make highly customized pieces and serve a niche market. If you can operate 3d CAD, you can completely design your own pieces to print.
Pieces can be made that seem to defy physics
You can 3d print such intricate pieces with odd geometries. This is great for modern pieces of jewelry.
For some pieces, there is no alternative
Traditional methods cannot scratch the surface of what you can make with a 3d printer. Some of your physics-defying pieces simply cannot be made on a CNC mill, so there’s no other option.
Prototyping is so much faster
I’m from a manufacturing background so trust me when I say that nothing compares to the lifecycle speed of a project when you’re using a 3d printer. The time between initial concept, designing, and getting your first working prototype could be 8 hours with a 3d printer. Traditional manufacturing methods might take a week for the same amount of progress.
The cost is so low
Crazy low. You don’t need a staff of trained machinists, design engineers, and project managers. You are the entire team. You don’t need a $250,000 CNC milling machine, a couple hundred dollars for a printer will suffice. You don’t need a $100 piece of raw material to prototype with, $5 is plenty. Finally, you don’t need to pay someone hourly to make it, you hit “go” and leave the room.
So why 3d print jewelry? It’s faster, cheaper, more customizable, and you can make any shape you want.
I hope you get as excited as I do when I hear about all the different ways to 3d print jewelry and start growing your business, or just make fun pieces as gifts to family and friends. The process isn’t so hard to learn when you get your hands on a printer. Whether you go with an FDM printer, an SLA printer, a budget option, or a professional high-quality printer, you’re going to love the new world you unlock with your 3d printer. It’s faster and cheaper than traditional methods, and there’s huge profit potential.
Choose the Formlabs Form 2 if you want a serious SLA machine. The Anycubic Photon is a great option if you’re new to the SLA world and want to learn more about it. The Peopoly Moai is a great option for the in-betweeners who want good value without sacrificing quality. On the FDM side, you have the Ultimaker 2+ which is the best option in this space. For jewelers on a budget, there’s nothing wrong with the Ender 3 Pro for what we’re doing here.
If you’re picking an FDM printer, don’t be afraid to see what other markets you can print for. They aren’t strictly for 3d printing jewelry, so there’s a lot of opportunity for you. If you’re ready to invest in your business and grow it, consider the top-of-the-line Solidscape S370 printer. Enjoy your time with your new 3d printer! There’s a lot of learning and growing to be had!