One feature that 3D printing offers, of particular interest to the world of retail, is a level of customization. One area where this is particularly visible is jewelry – from bracelets, earrings, and necklaces to rings, both engagement and wedding included, desktop 3D printing allows people to make truly unique pieces.
Recently, jewelry retailers and brands have been recognizing the many benefits of switching to a CAD-to-3D print model, which enables new collections to come to market faster and more affordably than ever.
Picture this scenario – you own a retail jewelry store, and a customer comes in and describes to you exactly what their dream engagement ring looks like. As their idea is customized, you obviously don’t have this exact design in the store. So, you sit down and discuss it together, all the while creating the design via CAD software. Once the discussion is over, you send the completed file to the 3D printer in the back of your store, and BAM! Only an hour later, you’ve got a 3D printed model of the ring for your customer to try on.
Top engagement and wedding ring brand egf Manufaktur is introducing 3D printing to the on-site customer experience in Europe for consumer-facing jewelry customization.
“Something new is always uncomfortable, because you first have to get used to it. The jewelry industry is very classic and often stores have been run for two to three generations,” said Nick-Maximilian Binder, Assistant to the Managing Director at egf, and leader of the on-site 3D printing project. “It was a big change when the configurators came in the early 2000s, and many wondered at the time: do we need that? We can imagine 3D printing is similar, and can also prove itself over time.
“Now, jewelers have been working with configurators for years. 3D printing and CAD software is just a slightly different interface to get used to. No training is required and the unit can be set up in five minutes.”
The Germany company, established in 1933, is working with Formlabs to combine desktop digital fabrication with a custom software solution to reduce the loop between customers and designers for a personalized, modern retail experience.
“Every wedding ring is individualized and made-to-order,” said Binder. “They’re more important than any other jewelry product in showing the customer’s individual ideas.
“That’s why it only makes sense to configure a ring in CAD software, print in 3D, and give it to the customer before the ring is hand-crafted by the goldsmith. We find that customers want to modify the original ring to make it either thicker or narrower, or with varying stone settings.”
Pre-loaded engagement ring designs in the company’s customized software allow for employees with no formal CAD training to quickly adjust and make changes on the spot while working directly with a customer. During the conversation, the employee can tweak designs immediately to ensure the perfect band, stone setting, and complete look; when this is settled, egf then sends the completed file to Formlabs’ PreForm print preparation software, where it’s then 3D printed on the desktop Form 2 with Grey Resin.
Binder explained, “The Form 2 excited us the most with its speed—less than one hour for printing our rings, the high quality its resins, and ease of use.”
Before 60 minutes are up, the parts are 3D printed, post-processed using the Form Wash system, and finished with sanding and support removal if necessary. Then, the customer can see the prototype ring model with their own eyes, and even try it on, before giving it the final stamp of approval.
According to Formlabs, “In a retail setting where time is of the essence, egf can accelerate the sale with on-demand customization and customer communication.”
Before now, jewelry brands would draw designs by hand and craft wax maquettes before short-run parts production. But the industry is experiencing a wide shift toward digital, and combining the traditional processes with new tools and technologies, like 3D printing. An even greater shift is now occurring, as designers move beyond prototyping jewelry for their individual collections and allow customers to help with customization and personalization. Giving consumers the power to realize their ideas in real time can open all kinds of possibilities in the retail jewelry industry.
“We’re always trying to discover trends early on,” said Binder. “From our point of view, 3D printing is an enormously important topic, which will still move a lot in the jewelry industry and will change it for the better for our customers.
“For example, 3D printed prototypes and visualization aids—this is a completely different, modern shopping experience and brings the product closer to the customer. Informing customers about the possibilities of the Form 2 to customize and have a hand at the creative process helps us gain feedback on which designs look best and which are more successful in the end. The customers also give feedback about their experience with the on-demand creative process. In the short to medium term, we see possibilities of visualization and thus an even higher quality of end-customization for the customer.”
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