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The history of RP and the Jewelry Industy


I was asked to submit a quick history of CAD and the jewelry
industry. so here it is Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided
Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) has been successfully implemented in the
fields of engineering for automotive, aircraft and other mechanical
disciplines. Just a few years ago, CAD was exclusively used by the
very large industrial manufacturers that could afford the large
costs of hardware, software, training and support that these systems
required. With increases in reliance on electronic data, they have
required that their vendors accept and provide electronic data as a
part of doing business. This caused a demand for lower cost systems
and the market responded quickly to fill this growing market.

CAD software evolved from a drafting aid to a three dimensional
modeling and manufacturing tools. The designer now uses solid and
surfaced models to define the fit, form and function of the piece
that he or she is designing. Solid models are three dimensional
models that are built using a series of steps like extrude, rotate,
subtract, intersect and union. The final product is a model that
exists in the computer, as a solid part that can be analyzed for a
number of properties and exported to model making machinery for
production. In addition it can be manipulated to have photo
realistic viewing properties, show multiple viewpoints, or scaling
differences. The advent of three-dimensional modeling revolutionized
the engineering field by totally redefining the product design
cycle. The 3D model can now be directly exported to output
machinery. This shifted the product definition from a dimensioned
drawing to a three dimensional model.

In the meantime, the art world exploded in the field of
three-dimensional graphics and animation. Systems like Alias were
designed to be more user friendly than previous engineering systems,
catering to artists not engineers as the primary users. This
application can be seen in films like “Jurassic Park” and “Toy
Story” as well various television commercials. A key difference from
engineering applications is the final product of these systems is a
graphic image, not a CAD/CAM model.

The fact that these two worlds developed separately, has caused a
dilemma for jewelry manufactures desiring to implement CAD/CAM into
the manufacturing process. Jewelry design demands that the model
flows like a piece of art while requiring many of the same
manufacturing techniques required for mechanical components.
Therefore, the engineering based CAD/CAM software was too technical
to produce a smooth artistic piece without painstaking hours of
modeling. Previous graphic arts based design software was designed
to provide a graphic image for advertising and marketing. Companies
have tried to use a combination of these design systems by importing
a crude version of the graphic design into an engineering CAD/CAM
system and adapted it to produce a three dimensional model. This is
very expensive and labor intensive.

The CAM side of CAD/CAM stands for computer aided manufacturing.
This could be divided into two subgroups: Computer numeric control
(CNC) milling and rapid prototype machines. The fundamental
difference is that with CNC technology, the manufacturer starts with
a block of material and the machine cuts away material along a
computer-generated path until left with the final product. Rapid
prototyping machines build material layer upon layer to create a

Rapid prototype machines emerged as a designing tool for the
engineers to quickly make a real solid part that one can touch and
feel before going to production. The Rapid prototype industry began
in 1988 with a company called 3D Systems from California. Over the
years, many new companies have started to make rapid prototype
machines employing various techniques for building models. The
system that M2 uses is called the Sanders 3D Printing & Deposition
Milling model maker. This machine was selected because of its
accuracy (.0005"), surface finish and cost. These machines represent
the trickle down effect of technology from very large corporations
to smaller manufacturers. The new designer will be both designer and
model maker. The technology has compressed the development cycle
considerably, while increasing product quality. The Wohlers Report,
a progress report of the prototyping industry, has indicated renewed
growth in the industry overall. In the year 1999 “unit sales of
1,195 RP machines worldwide yielded 22% growth and a cumulative
total of 55,000 systems in 53 countries. These machines produce an
estimated 2.34 million models and prototype parts.”

John Mastoloni
M2 Systems