Committed to CAD

Hi Doug, I’d like to preface my comments by saying that I’m learning
to use ArtCAM the last 3 months with the intention of representing
the Model Master CNC milling machine. I’m not the seasoned expert
yet, but I’ve been working in CAD/CAM jewelry for about a year and a
half. There are many more experienced people who will be able to
tell you much more than I know… and I also need to say I feel a
little reticent in talking about this subject because it seems I
always focus on technology whenever I write to Orchid… I’m
basically just a garden variety goldsmith who has found another way
to be creative after a carpal tunnel injury precluded my ability to
work at the bench full time.

When I trained at M2-systems last year, I remember a design that
John did for you, the pendant with the “splash” in it. It turned out
nicely, but I can’t remember if he did it in ArtCAM or SDRC…

From the description of your design motifs; organic naturalistic
forms such as twigs, animals and faces, I don’t think anyone will
dispute that ArtCAM will model those shapes with the most ease…
you can actually sculpt with the mouse… I’m a beginner level ArtCAM
user, and I find myself working with it on a very intuitive level. I
know I’ve only scratched the surface of it’s capabilities…pardon
the pun.

Rhino isn’t as user friendly as ArtCAM or Matrix…Using Rhino every
day I’ve gotten to a good level of proficiency but I’m still
learning how to do new things with it on a weekly basis. That’s the
power of it, you can take it to any level. I love to design jewelry
this way, so I’ve invested the time. I’m making things now that I
could not do by hand in a million years. You can make anything
imaginable with CAD, but it can’t nor ever should replace the
traditional artisan. Used as another tool, this method of design
compliments the skills and talents of the wax carver or jeweler who
fabricates in metal. Certain designs will always be more feasible
to make by hand, and ultimately, the hand of the artisan sets the
stones and finishes the piece, whether it’s designed on a bench or a
computer screen.

As you acknowledge, each program has a particular strength. I started
out with Rhino, so I tend to gravitate to Rhino, first. But, I know
I could be doing some of the same designs in ArtCAM much faster and
easier. I’ll get there…I guess a lot of it comes down to comfort
level, what you’re most familiar with…All of these programs are
going to get more powerful and sophisticated…Rhino 3.0 is out, and
a new Jewelers Edition of ArtCAM is coming out shortly that will add
to it’s already powerful jewelry specific modeling features. I would
recommend both of them!

In considering whether to send out files for production or investing
in the equipment to do it in-house, if you plan on sending out CAD
files for rapid prototyping on a regular basis, that will be a lot
of money going into in someone else’s pocket that could be invested
in your own milling machine. If you don’t like your results or
change your mind about a design, you’ll have the option of doing it
over on the mill rather than having to pay someone to do it again.
And…if you mean by " one-of-a-kind" pieces -that you don’t intend
to mold and reproduce them, then you have only one chance to make a
profit on each design. The expense of farming out the CAD file can
be easily justified if you are making multiple castings, but for
one-offs, it might diminish your income in the long run.

The mill can also cut metal molds and silicon moldable butterboard.
Unlike a lot of the other mills out on the market, the ModelMaster
CNC machine was specifically engineered to cut at the very precise
tolerances needed for jewelry making. Regarding your question about
tool marks, I’m relatively new to milling, but any tool marks I’m
getting on a milled piece are extremely miniscule compared to the
grid-like surface texture that some of the RP machines put on a
prototype. However, I don’t mean to discourage you from using RP
services. Some models require that method and the new RP machines
have much better resolution than the older technologies.

Doug, only you know how much time, effort and resources you are able
to dedicate to CAD/CAM. There is definitely a learning curve, but
hey, I figure that if I can do it, anyone can! By doing the research
as you are doing now, you’ll be confident in your decision to
incorporate CAD/CAM in your business. I can tell you from personal
experience that once the CAD bug bites you, it gets into your blood.
It’s just so powerful a creative tool…If you talk to other people
who have embraced this thing, you’ll find that most, if not all of
them will say, they only wish they had done it sooner.

Jesse Kaufman
JDK Jewelry
CAD/CAM Technology
Handcrafted Originality
West Hartford, CT