CAD/CAM Clarification

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Well, there's more, but that's a start --- Many people use Rhino
for jewelry - there's one called jewelcad (ArtCam), someone I know
has a nice program I'm afraid I'm not sure of the name - I believe
he uses Matrix3d. As you may know, they all cost $500 or $5,000, so
they're not things one buys casually. 

I mean no disrespect but I have seen some posted here
regarding cad cam that is somewhat confusing. The above is a partial

First let me clearly state that there are many ways and programs
that you can use to get to an end product. My theory is that
whatever gets you there and works for you makes it a great program.
However there are certain programs that do specific things better
and easier than other programs. If you are narrowly focused, product
wise, and only one feature of a program is all you need then thats
"a good program for you". However if you want versitility and the
ability to do whatever comes your way, a little more thought and
investigation is in order.

Rhino is not primarily a jewelry program. It is used for shoes,
medical, boat building and a whole host of other industries. It is
an extremely versital program. It is not exactly a “solid” modeler
like solidworks and other programs. Rhino can build either solids or
"surfaces" (which can then be converted to solids.)

Rhino is an excellent program for modeling jewelry. It is one of the
cheapest and most versital programs to use for jewelry. If you are a
student it is only like $295.00 U.S. A regular program is under
$1000.00 McNeel and Associates @ distribute it. You can
go there for pricing and info. A great add on program that makes
Rhino very jewelry friendly is called Tech Gems ( This
company makes scripts that can place diamonds on surfaces do
multiple booleans and a whole host of other things. In my personal
opinion this is an excellent combination and an easy an inexpensive
way to get into CAD.

Matrix, By Gemvision in Bettendorff, Iowa is also a Rhino
plugin…but wow is it a fantastic program. It is not cheap. Matrix
is $6500.00 Matrix’s strong point is that it is jewelry specific. It
is Tech Gems on multiple Steroids. There are many features to help
you make jewelry. It will take you longer to decide exactly what the
dimensions of a signet ring are that you want to make than for the
program to automatically build it for you. The program is extremely
feature rich and versital. In my opinion it is the best program for
jewelry on the market today. (I have owned and used it since version

  1. Version 5 of this program will be released next month. It will
    include many new features but one of the more exciting features is
    the heightfield from bitmap capabilities. You will be able to take a
    line drawing or another drawing that has been processed by photoshop
    and duplicate the drawing into a 3 dimensional piece. There are many
    well written tutorials with step by step pictures, an extremely well
    written instruction manual an an online help forum for this program.
    The companies support is second to none. There are many users of
    this program all over the world and many of them can be found on
    various jewelry networks, so help is easy to find

Prior to Matrix, Artcam by Delcam (Modelmaster in Atlanta GA, in the
USA) had the heightfield from bitmap field all to itself. The
program costs more money than Matrix. The training is also more
expensive. I have a copy of Artcam too. Since Matrix I have used it
very little. I primarily use it for their “face builder”, which is
very slick, and had used it for heighfield from bitmap work and as a
toolpathing software. Artcam has a very robust toolpathing software
built right into the program, the parent company Delcam is known in
England for their toolpathing software. When you take into account
that in order to do any milling with Matrix you must also purchase
additional toolpathing software it puts the net cost of Matrix and
Artcam on an even par. In my opinion it is a good program and will
do many jewelry related tasks. However I prefer Matrix to Artcam.

Jewelcad is a program that is widely used in the Orient. The look
and feel of the program is quite similar to Rhino. It has a decent
library of “parts” It will get the job done but there is very little
support and training in the USA. If you live in the Orient though it
could be a possible choice for you. I also have version 5.1 of this

There are also other program that are comming on the market that
will do some decent work with jewelry. One of them is 3Design. This
program will also do many of the same things Rhino will do. It’s
primary claim to fame is that it is “Parametric” This is a fancy
name for “if you change one element or part of the design the entire
design automatically redraws itself and incorporates the recent
change automatically” The parent company is French and also makes a
program called Type 3. This program, 3 Design is just really getting
started here in the states and I am not sure of how many people are
using it. They do have a presence here and a training facilty. I
have a demo copy and tutorials and manuals for this program but
haven’t had time to play with it.

There are other program like Cimigraphy, Jewelspace, Formz, etc that
will also allow you to do Jewelry. As to Cimigraphy ( I have a copy
of this too) It is an Israli company and the general look and feel
is very similar to Artcam. It does allow you to have more control
over the layers that will make up the heightfield from bitmap
portion. It has a milling module too. However try finding any
tutorials, users, user groups or anyone else locally that uses it.
You will have a great deal of difficulty finding help with this

Jewelspace…I think it died an unnatural death but has not yet been
buried. I had a demo of this program and found it to be the absolute
most confusing software that I had ever seen. It was based on
Truespace which was used as an animation type program. I know of
dozens of people who bought it because it was cheap but everyone
abandoned it very quickly. I recently heard that there is a version
that comes free with some type of USB device. I guess it’s worth
what they are asking for it.

There are a host of other programs out there too. Alibre (I have
this too), IronCad, and many, many more.

I saw some one who sells Visual Mill recommend the Rhino plug in for
this program. I would take issue with that recommendation.
ESPECIALLY if you do any 4th axis or Rotary work. It takes a long
time to generate toolpaths with this program for Rotary. Its a
robust program but there are much better and cheaper program to use
for jewelry work.

The two best programs for toolpathing work for jewelry are
Protowizard and Deskproto. (I was a beta tester for protowizard) It
is the first Jewelry specific milling program on the market.
( With the flip fixture that Don sells it is very
easy to do complicated 3 sided milling. He is also working on making
it to do bracelets and heads. Roland milling products are using this
program heavily because of it’s ease of use and setup. There is not
a big learning curve with this program. It is VERY easy to use and
do complicated milling.

Deskproto…I have a love hate relationship with Deskproto I
absolutly hated it and found it confusing until I correctly learned
how to use it. Once you master it you will love it. It is NOT a
jewelry specifc program. This is good and bad. The bad part is the
learning curve the good part is that it allows you to do complicated
setups and is very very versital. I recently learned from Lex
Lennings in the Netherlands that the next version of the program
will have freeform toolpathing capabilities. (I may get to beta test
this one ) Currently it is limited to a square or a rectangle. This
means you must mill the entire square or rectangle section and that
adds to the cutting time that your toolpath takes. (There are ways
to trick Artcam into doing freeform milling as it is vector based.)

Now, having said all that, I will tell you that none of these
programs will run themselves. They take a lot of effort to learn and
master. The learning curve is steep. A very big part of your
consideration to purchase should be based on two things. Is ther
anyone in my direct area or sphere of influence who has this program
and can help me with it when I need help. The second consideration
is the company itself. You are NOT buying the software…you are
buying the COMPANY ITSELF. Talk to actual users and directly ask
about support and newsgroups and help. If you can’t get help with
the product it isn’t worth a damn.

The same thing applies to a mill. I have a modelmaster CNC 1000 and
bought it because of it’s history as an industry workhourse. When I
was considering the pruchase of a mill I had one guy contact me so
many times trying to sell me his product that I almost had to change
my telephone number. This guy has an industry wide reputation of
NEVER returning phonecalls or helping you with his product AFTER you
buy it. I have heard this from numerous people who have his product.
The best part about that is that his product is a very good one, but
if you can’t get service after the sale…what good is it?

Well I have probally put a lot of you to sleep with all this
rambling. I have about 4 years of cad/cam experience, and over 40 as
a bench jeweler. Cad has become my passion and it is the way of the



Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I think we all needed that!

I have Rhino, which I love, and use frequently. I have been flirting
with getting a more jewelry specific software, but the choices make
my brain ache. It’s nice to get info from someone who is familiar
with many programs, and is willing to take the time to share ideas.

Troy Hines


If you do a lot of jewelry and are familiar with Rhino I would
suggest that you look at Tech Gems ( It has great
functionality and will do many of the same things that Matrix will
do. Matrix is just a much better laid out interface and is entirely
jewelry specific. Tech Gems will aid greatly with diamond placement,
Pave, bezel building, eternity ring building and many other things.
It is about $600.00 If this proves to be your forte’ then you can
step up to the bar and get Matrix. I think the price of Matrix also
has the cost of a copy of Rhino built into it. If you already have
Rhino get them to deduct the cost of Rhino from the cost of
Matrix…It will be much cheaper for you that way. If you are
already familiar with Rhino you will love Matrix.

Tech Gems has downloadable videos to show the function of each tool.
Check them out and see if they will be of assistance to you. I know
for a fact that they will make a lot of things much easier for you.

How far advanced are you with Rhino? Do you understand surface
modeling? The real power behind Rhino is the ability to model in
surfaces. Making solids and chewing away the parts that you don’t
want is OK, but you can’t do a lot of things without surfaces. They
make modeling much easier. If you understand surfaces you have it
knocked. Gemvision doesn’t teach full surface modeling until their
advanced classes, so if you understand it now it will make matrix
much easier to work with.



I have posted on here before about my love for ArtCAM Jewelsmith.
There are a few things that I still do in Rhino, but not much
anymore. If you are willing to take the time to learn JS, it
compliments Rhino wonderfully IMO. For examples why not check out


There are also other program that are comming on the market that
will do some decent work with jewelry. One of them is 3Design. This
program will also do many of the same things Rhino will do. It's
primary claim to fame is that it is "Parametric" This is a fancy
name for "if you change one element or part of the design the
entire design automatically redraws itself and incorporates the
recent change automatically

Hi. First of all, I don’t want to offend or get anybody upset. I’m a
supplier of CAD/CAM systems and the worst thing I could do is to
start a fight or an argument.

I just want to provide additional about 3Design:

3DesignJewel is a powerful CAD software designed specifically to
produce 3D models for jewelry. It has a wide range of 2D/3D jewelry
tools to help you create easily your 3D jewelry models.

It’s very versatile. You may start your design process from:

  • A 2D drawing. The draft function allows you to import a 2D
    sketch/line drawing and create easily your 10 3D model.

  • Or directly in 3D using the libraries of shanks, gems, heads that
    come with the program or your own libraries. As you build your
    models you can add them to the libraries and use or modify them
    later on. Also the program has a wide range of 3D tools to create
    components directly in 3D: CAD users call them builders: Ring
    builder, Stone builder, bezel builder, head/prong builder, chain
    builder. You are not limited to the libraries but to your

  • it’s easy to use: icons allows you to use easily a lot of jewelry
    functions like building custom shanks, custom heads and bezels,
    automatic and manual pave, channels, links, calculate weight,
    adjust the dimensions of your model to meet specific weight
    requirements, change the dimensions of your model in 3D while you
    see how it changes

And yes, it’s Parametric. It may sound like a marketing or sales
gimmick, but it really is a nice feature. When building a shank for
example, it is nice to have the capabilty to make a change in a
section of the shank and then with just a click recalculate the
entire shank. This is the feature that allows you to specify the
required weight, then click and the program will resize the model
automatically to meet the requirement.

I believe there are hundreds of thousands of users of SolidWorks all
over the world that say Parametric is a powerful feature of SW.
3Design parametric features work like SolidWorks’

If you are interested in learning more about 3Design, please send me
an e-mail to schedule an on-line demo