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Some thoughts regarding cad/cam

I want to share with my fellow Orchidians some thoughts regarding
cad/cam. It has been a subject of great concern for someones,
rejection for others, and indifference for many. As a designer and a
goldsmith, I owe it to myself (in the name of evolution and
competition) to look for and try new techniques concerning the jewelry
trade. Enters the concept of 3D design and rapid prototyping.

As a designer, years ago, I used pencils and paint to make my
drawings. It was never precise and expressive enough, so I turned to
computer 2D drawing using Corel. It was a big step, because true
colors, shadings and precise dimensioning were attainable. With 3D
design and rendering, I got what I was always wanted: photo-like
designs looking so real, and in different perspectives, that, when
submitted to my clients I could more easily close the sale. And I did
sell more, because my ideas and concepts were accurately expressed,
and clearly understood by my client. Is 3D design and rendering the
ultimate in jewelry design? I don’t think so: virtual reality is
coming soon, where a client could “see” herself wearing the jewelry
you are just designing.

As a goldsmith, precision and quality were always my primary concern.
I always considered myself as being precise and resourceful, although
there are many techniques I have never tried. but when 3D modeling was
lately widely available, here again, I found the tool I was looking
for: a computer software that allowed me to model difficult shapes,
outrageous forms with precision and speed. I have been using Rhino 3D
for the last few months. I haven’t achieved its full potential, but
it’s there and it’s a great tool.

Could a “virtual” or “digital” model maker still be called an artist?
Very delicate question! With 3d modeling, one can easily create
sculptural forms like master jewelers Lalique or Faberge. But they are
the artists, the ones who have handcrafted sculptures, not the
"virtual" model maker. Could a finished piece of jewelry be called
art? Regardless of the way it was produced, if the jewelry has
creativity, beauty, feelings, character, uniqueness, balance… if it
does move and enchant, if it make you feel love and passion, I think
it can be called art.

Let me show you how a 3D design and rendering is compared to a
regular 2D drawing: Please visit the Orchid gallery at and take a look at the design of a
swordfish I designed in 2D 3 years ago. Now, visit my web site at and take a look at the same design done in
3D with Rhino3D, and at different view and details found at Which drawing is
more convincing?

In conclusion, my 2 cents advice: I believe in art and beauty, and in
doing things like no other one has done it before in terms of
techniques. But 3D modeling is here to stay, and given time, it will
be more accessible cost-wise and more democratic. Every goldsmith
should consider integrating this new technology into his manufacturing

thank you all.

Fady Sawaya

The renderings are quite wonderful. What I would like to see now is a
photo of the actual piece. It appears to me that the customer is to
take on faith that what is promised can actually be delivered. I might
be able to design like Lalique, but I doubt my work will ever reach
that benchmark. Please do not take this as impugning ANY person’s
work! But does this technology truly represent the jewelry? I’d be
happy to hear comments. Thanks! --Noel

If it is truly a CAM arrangement, it would be able to at least carve
a wax that the design could be cast from. Depending on the machinery
it was attached to, it might be able to fabricate the design. For
extremely complex designs real CAM does it just like a human would -
it uses layers. The problem of course is that CAM equipment is truly expensive.

Noel, You must first differentiate the difference between a graphic
system and a CAD system. A graphic system like gem vision, is only
good for viewing a piece. If the picture is of a 3d CAD model, then
what you see is what you get. The picture is a rendering of a 3d
model that has volume and exists in the computer in three dimensions.
This file can then be sent to a computer numeric control (CNC) machine
or to a rapid prototype machine like the Sanders machine. So I guess to
answer your question, yes, the designer can make the part exactly like
the CAD rendering because the rendering and model are made from the
same computer file. John M

    The renderings are quite wonderful. What I would like to see
now is a photo of the actual piece. 

Let me set up an example on my web site. I’ll let you know when it is

    It appears to me that the customer is to take on faith that what
is promised can actually be delivered. 

If you have an intend to deceive the customer, wouldn’t you be able
to do it with just pencils and paint? In fact, chances are your
customer will often feel deceived when you deliver the finished
jewelry he has ordered from the pencils and paint design you have
showed him. It’s just because paint designs do not realistically
translate the real jewelry. There is room for error. With 3d design
and rendering, everything is close to reality: lines, shapes, volumes,
dimensions, colors, shades, reflections… No room for error!

    I might be able to design like Lalique, but I doubt my work
will ever reach that benchmark. 

when you draw with pencils and paint, would you create a design which
you know you won’t be able to produce as a goldsmith? Designing in 3D
does not give you an extraordinary power of producing jewelry like no
one has done it before; it is just a tool like pencils: you create a
design in your mind, and the 3d helps you translate that image into
something tangible. If your imagination has limits, so will your
finished jewelry have. 3D design is the continuity of your
imagination, and in turn, your finished jewelry the continuity of your
3d design: if there is a gap somewhere… you’re no for real.

    But does this technology truly represent the jewelry? 

3D design, rendering and rapid prototyping are only tools. They have
pushed a bit the limits of what you can do, but will not make a
Lalique out of you. Remember 20 years ago when wax carving became
popular in jewelry making. It did push the limits of what a goldsmith
can do. Remember how we would submit a wax model to our customer for
his approval before resuming the model in gold, just because the wax
model was the closest thing to the real finished jewelry. Today it’s
the advent of 3D design.

Fady Sawaya


If you can draw a thing in cad… cnc can mill that thing in either
metal, plastic, wax or almost any material you desire.

You can do pieces that fit together in different metals or

The is a real revolution in hand work for those who actually KNOW
what these machines can do…

And the prices are falling as well.

Woodwork has been revolutionized by CNC, and precision increased
immensely as well as optimizing material useage.

Think about how much time you can spend planning how to cut up a
sheet of 18k gold or platinum… Design it with cad, put your
projects together and the putah will figure out the best way to cut
it out and then DO IT…on the cam …

Think about NOT having extensive inventory because with cad/cam you
can create pieces to order with lots of options (JIT) just in

The implications are astonishing … and there will still be a huge
market for hand work too…

And I haven’t even begun to tell you about how nano-technology is
going to change our world and lives much less our arts :>)

all the best in all things,

Source for gem stones, crystals, jewelry
Metaphysical, New Age, Contemporary

Sounds fascinating but where can one learn about this stuff. What
software do you use? What type of jewelry milling equipment is driven
by CAM? Rio’s stuff is interesting but $20000+? Also it seems to be
a proprietary system. I’ve been burned too often to want to
participate in that?

I bought the Art2Part system through Rio Grande in February of 1999.
While Rio now sells a different system, the Model Master Art2Part
system has worked out very well for me. I am now averaging over 100
models a year for myself, plus numerous outside projects- prior to
buying the system I averaged about 35 or so models a year. It is very
accurate, and Delcam’s ArtCAM software is easy to use. But, then
again, I worked with professional modelmakers in RI and learned quite
a bit from them. They would have loved this stuff.

My advice is not to buy a system until you have a real need for it,
and you are willing to put the time into learning to use it, otherwise
it will become a very expensive paperweight. Once you have a system,
however, you may wonder how you ever lived without it. Then again, you
won’t be tossing out your hand tools either. I find myself making
components for my models and jewelry- another tool in the toolbox.

Unfortunately, there are no places to learn CAD/CAM on this level. I
have tried to convince Model Master to place some machines and
software in some of the college jewelry programs- RISD, FIT, etc, so
far nothing is happening. MM will train you once you buy the system,
and they offer further advanced training as well. Go see them at one
of the shows, and bring some .eps files.

Benchtop CAD/CAM systems are too new, kind of like home brew
computers were in the 70’s. The financial incentives are not there,
either, for training kids in CAD/CAM, despite the fact that every
consumer product probably uses parts made by automated computer
controlled equipment. Right down to your toothbrush. Rick Hamilton

Gold and Platinumsmithing CAD/CAM Jewelry Photography

    The renderings are quite wonderful. What I would like to see
now is a photo of the actual piece. 

I would like to invite all Orchidians to visit the page
http://www.fadysawaya/Catalog/keybrooch.htm and take a look at both a
3D design and a real photo of a “key” brooch. This is to show how a
3D design and rendering can accurately “describe” the real thing.

I thought I would create a poll to gather on how Orchid
members perceive the 3D technology and how will they respond to it. the
questions I posted on the above mentioned web page aRe:

Do you think the 3D design represents well the finished jewelry? Do
you think a well rendered 3D design will help close a sale? Would you
consider adding rapid prototyping to your manufacturing process? Would
you consider adding a catalog of 3D designs to your sales aids tools?

You have to answer to those questions directly from the web page. I
will publish results of the poll every day for you to read. so please
let us all participate in this poll for results to be precise.

Many thanks.

Fady Sawaya

Hi Rick, With regard to classes in CAD/CAM , GIA now offers a class in
CAD/CAM for jewelers using Solidworks software, and a Sanders
Modelmaker II. The classes begin in mid-July, Sept. and November.
Best, Steve Workman

Aloha Rick, Actually, Cecily and Mike, of Model Master, gave me the
task of bringing CAD/CAM to the schools. Currently I am working or
talking with, 8 Jewelry programs in the US (including the specific
schools you mentioned), one in India and one in Australia. The
problem seems that as excited as they are, they are not moving
forward. There are discounts on software and equipment, grants for
software and equipment (read FREE!), and as you know, a very good
training and support mechanisms in place.This is available to
accredited institutions, not Billy Bobs School of Jewelry Repair
(Sorry Billy Bob, but you may apply).We even will help with the
cirriculum development and specific training method. The instructors
would be certified as trainers and the students would be certified as
technicians. Instructors are skeptical to learn this technology or
apply themselves to the task at hand. They don’t want to learn, they
want to teach. A good example was GIA. Go figure.

Best Regards,
Christian Grunewald
Precision Modelmaking Technologies
(808) 622-9005

Rick, I am currently teaching a Rapid Prototyping class at Loyola
Marymount University in Los Angeles. We have SoidWorks, Rhino, AutoCad
and Magics. We have two systems Sanders and Stratasys. All these
facilities are available to the students so they can use them 24 hours
a day. I will be doing private tutoring and consulting.

Sue Dorman

It is good to hear that the GIA is offering training… I mentioned
RISD as a possibility because they have a strong jewelry program and
are already teaching computer software courses in Adobe and AutoDesk
products, so they have a lot of structure in place to teach CAD/CAM.
As Christian points out, they also need to have interested, qualified
instructors as well.

Rick Hamilton
Gold and Platinumsmithing,
CAD/CAM and modelmaking,
Jewelry Photography…

3D & Cad/Cam poll results as of june 4, 2000.

Do you think the 3D design represents well the finished jewelry? 9
Yes, 0 No

Do you think a well rendered 3D design will help close a sale? 9 Yes,
0 No

Would you consider adding rapid prototyping to your manufacturing
process? 7 Yes, 2 No

Would you consider adding a catalog of 3D designs to your sales aids
tools? 8 Yes, 1 No

There was an error in the web address where the poll is taking place
so please note the correct address: (thanks Michael)

Fady Sawaya

Hi Steve, Will this CAD-CAM class be taught at GIA in New York in the
near future? Why did they decide to teach Solidworks instead of Rhino
which is more reasonable in price? Kathy

Great, Sue; Network with Christian and you could offer ArtCAM and Model
Master’s mill as well. Your students need hands on
experience- field trips to machine shops can open eyes…

Hi Kathy, There is some talk of bringing the program to NYC, but as
of right now, it will only be taught here in California. We started
looking at CAD/CAM software and hardware around 1996 and have been
studying the subject since then. We’ve looked at, and had
demonstrations of virtually every major design software that might be
used for jewelry. In our opinion Solidworks was the best choice for
our purposes. Its very powerful, and yet relatively easy to learn and
to use. As a 3-d parametric solid modeler, we found it to be superior
to a surface modeler like Rhino in most ways. I hope you find a
software that works for you. If I can be of any help, please let me
know. Best, Steve

Greetings from sunny Karachi. Have been following the string on
cad/cam with valuable from Steve, Christian and others.
However, am still not clear as to which system is used or preferred by
the jewellery industry presently. Further, as someone considering
purchasing a cad/cam system for jewellery manufacturing, what system
is the best bet for being relevant for the next 3-5 years?
Regards, Saeed Motiwala, G.G., Shaikha Jewellers, Karachi,