How much does a does a CAD/CAM and CNC machine cost?
There’s a big range of programs and machines out there; prices vary
a lot. At the bottom end, you can download programs for free, or use
inexpensive shareware, and still come up with impressive results.
It’s possible, if you’re clever, to take apart old printers you’ve
scrounged, throw in a Dremel tool, and cobble together a CNC machine
capable of cutting wax, without having spent more than a hundred
dollars or so. At the high end, you can buy programs like ArtCAM
Jewelsmith or Matrix costing thousands of dollars, and use them with
a Revo or MiniTech machine costing tens of thousands. And there are
many alternatives in between.
What software is best? How much does it cost? (I am currently
reading old threads on this subject as well)
That’s a matter of taste, and depends on what you want to do. I like
the Claytools software/hardware system from Sensable Technologies; it
has force-feedback, and is the closest computers have got to working
on real material with a tool. There’s a version that accompanies
Rhino, a versatile 3d CAD modeling program, and there’s not much the
combination can’t do. Some people want a jewelry-specific program
that expedites the creation of standard jewelry parts like ring
shanks and Tiffany heads; these programs are available too; prices
vary, but they are usually more expensive than general-purpose
How long does it take to become proficient with the software and
That really depends on which software you get, and what machine.
Some is simpler than others, and some will probably suit the way your
mind works better than others. I’d say to try various different
alternatives, and see what “clicks”.
Was it worth the expense to you to purchase a like set-up? And the
time spent learning it?
Yes. It made things possible that I couldn’t have done any other
way, and took my work to a new level.
Is buying used an option?
It’s possible, but I’m not sure you’d save much, or be better off.
Technological things like this are valuable because of what they
promise to do for you, not for their intrinsic worth. If you don’t
get a warranty and technical support, then there’s a big piece
missing from the value equation. If something is working well for
someone, they tend to hang onto it; the things people sell off are
the ones that don’t work out.
What is the going rate for work done for a wax? A casting(s)?
That’s all over the map. There are a lot of variables to consider;
how complex is the job, how machinable it is (some designs are better
suited to additive Rapid Prototyping) and what the local competition
Is there enough work available for this service?
It’s difficult to say. In the USA, it seems that jewelry
manufacturing has largely moved offshore, and the companies that
remain are quite cost-conscious. On the other hand, they see the need
to differentiate themselves from the low-priced competition, and
their primary means of doing that are by coming up with new designs,
and by taking advantage of whatever technical advantages remain.
Certainly there are some who have made large investments in this
technology and have seen them pay off royally, but there’s no
guarantee you’ll find a big market for your services. Any small
business is difficult to establish, and more fail than succeed. But
at the least, by getting up to speed with this technology, you’ll
have made yourself much more employable in the jewelry field, as more
jewelry companies realize that this is something that can boost their
productivity and profits.