Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

What would YOU do with a 3D printer?

Hi Folks,

I’m rather excited by the developments in additive manufacturing
these days. I have a number of things I’d like to try when I finally
get access to one… (mutter mumble handwave lost wax)

but it does make me wonder - what would YOU do if you had a 3D

Dr Paul van den Bergen

Make wax originals for casting.


My friend just invented this 3D Printer. It funded over 100% on
Kickstarter in 36 hours.

This maybe what you are looking for. 3DMetalCreator


Well ours collects dust. We have one and don’t use it. Tim and I
simply like to make things by hand. Same with rendering. I actually
enjoy both and find them soothing to do. Keeps me mostly sane. Just
having the tools in my hands makes me feel better.

Now if you are talking about non jewelry items, I’d love to be able
to print out a new spine and knees for myself:-) Have fun and make
lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Besides the jewelry and the music that I do my full time insurance
paying job is in building equipment for people with special needs.
3-D printers have incredible potential in the fields of prosthetics
and adaptive mechanics. Articulated prosthetic fingers is an area I
am anxious to see in development. I have two very good friends who
are bilateral lower leg amputees. 3-D printers are already making
incredible strides (Did I just say that?) in leg, ankle, and foot

Don Meixner

I’d print out a mini-me to do the yucky work.

Sam Kaffine

They are great for making soldering/fixturing jigs, texture and/or
roll printing plates for one thing- tool replacement “parts” on the
fly, and positive/negative mould making is accomplished very easily
with a 3D printer- to name a few functions of the one’s I have used !
Not to mention the edible materials and variety of them being
introduced makes the chef in me ecstatic !, but the ordinarily
available plastics limit the things I’d love to do with the machines
relative to goldsmithing/metalsmithing-I would love some 18 or 22kt
materials for making complex clasps, hollow parts, tubing and
textured tubes. And although I can think of hundreds of things having
an assortment of coloured and multiple karats of gold and/or fine
silver material on spools would help with making prototypes for
clients is already the main use for 3D printers given the limitations
of the available materials that any machine accepts. rer

Hi Paul,

The real question here is what kind of 3D printer.

If I had a Makerbot? not much. Sell it and save money for a real

If I had an Envision machine? Start cranking out casting models by
the bucketload.

If I had a laser sintering machine? All sorts of direct metal parts,
especially if it was one that could handle precious metals.

(Of course the cost of the precious metal feedstock is why you don’t
see much of that.) If I had one of the weld-up/mill down machines?
Conquer the world.


Hi Jo,

Now if you are talking about non jewelry items, I'd love to be
able to print out a new spine and knees for myself:-) Have fun and
make lots of jewelry. 

I’m definitely with you on the whole body transplant thing…


Well put: There are so many machines with such a vast range of
capabilities already. s I can only imagine what is to come. In the
next 10 years. As a proponent of (read: collector of!!!) non-electric
hand tools I must admit I find the promise of a solar powered 3D
printer with 5 axis probable and very attractive but Oh to have a
laser sintering model with at least 4 axis makes me dream of the hand
tools I could make !Which brings me to wishing for spools of Delrin
material as well as spools of 18-22 kt gold, nichrome,and.999 Ag all
in a range of gauges or better yet the capability to pour my own
coloured golds and have them extruded & drawn to the gauge I desire
at a given moment ! In a culture bent on immediate gratification, it
is really hard to think “practicality” and for many, simply imagining
life without electrical everything probably never crosses most
people’s minds- but after living on solar and hydro for more than 25
years I’m always looking for tooling that is useful (not just a dust
collection device!) AND fully human powered or that can be adapted
to accept a simple DC solar ‘module’ (in which power generated isn’t
inverted or stored in a battery) for those days when my hands rebel
against excessive exertion - conversely, I am quite attracted to the
notion of an advanced 3D printer that will facilitate fabrication of
any raw materials imaginable with which I can then use my hand tools
to translate design idea(l)s into tangible objects ! …rer


You are most welcome to come to India. You can see the whole range
of the tools which operate in production & craftsmen who work with
them. I wonder what will happen to them with advent of all these


Regarding the 3D printers, I was astonished to see a small one
operating in our Carroll County, MD branch library! All the county
libraries now have one, available to anyone. They tell you where to
find free software, and you bring in a flash drive for them to print.
From a jeweler’s standpoint, it is unfortunate that they print a
plastic object - no wax. The charge is by the gram, and the main
library has a bigger unit. Not sure where this is going, but a sign
of the future, at least.


While not new, 3d printers at the desktop level is a game changer.
They used to be very expensive and a unique piece of design hardware
that took up lots of space. The first patent was 1984 I believe. And
wax cnc has been around for a while. It is just easier for anyone to
get access to the equipment.

Now, you have a fresh plastic bobble that you printed out at the
library, what next? Well, I’d suggest one of three options…

If it is in PLA, I think it can still be burned out. One of the
plastics can be, I think it is the PLA plastic. It leaves a bit ash,
so blowing out the mold is a must. A design considerations when

Or, use the object like a master to make a rubber mold to make a
working wax if you insist on having a wax. That is then good for
smoothing out those lines and defects caused by the steroliphography

Or, send it out to a third party company to print it in wax or some
will print directly into a sintered metal!

This is really not new in the commercial jewelry world, they have
been using cad software for years to design, build and make
production pieces.

The real revolution is now the kids can design their own, put that
design online and then somebody can purchase the piece to be printed
in almost any material or metal type. So high school kids can
generate an income from their homework in that cad class they have to
take at school. Maybe a designer can source multiple income streams
from variations on a theme.

Maybe a stay-at-home dad can make his rent by selling his cast
bobbles at the local weekend art fair.

Think of the early computers at radio shack. That is where we are on
the timeline of the future with 3d printers.

Now, software, that’s the real revolution. The software used to be
so expensive that a cheap machine wasn’t needed because it was
useless without software. Better software, easier to work and design
with. Now some is free, making even better access for the masses to

But, they won’t replace a hand fabricated piece. Yet…


Hi Noralie,

It is quite possible to use plastic patterns instead of wax to
invest and cast. The primary issue is whether the polymer can burn
out cleanly without residue. A related issue is whether it releases
noxious fumes during burnout. Many 3D printers can print with
polylactic acid (PLA) which burns out cleanly without noxious fumes.
ABS can burn out cleanly but the fumes are problematic. However you
need to remember that the “wax” used to make casting patterns,
particularly the injection waxes contain something of a chemical
cocktail and produce some nasty fumes. I run my kiln in a well
ventilated outside shed and keep fairly clear while it is in the
early stages of burnout around 400C.

The crucial issue for me with 3D printers is resolution. At the
moment the printer that I could afford have a resolution of 200
microns while for jewellery we really need something closer to 20
microns. Recently I heard of an affordable machine that can handle 50
microns so I am starting to get interested.

For the moment I will confine my 3D modelling to working directly in

All the best
Jennifer Gow

for prototyping and general modelling work - especially sculpture,
extrusion type are just fine…

For fine scale work, you really need to go to photo lithography -
laser curing liquid polymers where resolution is in the 10’s of
microns or less.

  • remembering that light has a resolution between 0.5 and 10
    microns, so anything smaller than this litterally cannot be seen with
    the naked eye.

I suspect the standard UV cured materials can still be burned out,
but with more difficulty.

Then there are the powder types - where a laser is used to sinter a
powder - be it plastic, wax, starch (with water and or glue) or metal

I’ve seen a few 3D printers investigating wax as a material but
nothing concrete… (pun intended. there are 3D printers for

certainly for simple designs making a master for a latex mould for
wax is certainly viable and a good way to scale up…

Hi Stephen,

I largely agree with most of your points about 3D printing with a
couple of issues. 3D CAD rendering and printing is already for
jewellery making and I have seen some impressive examples but the
equipment is expensive and the learning curve steep. Last year on a
trip to Vietnam I saw a retail jewellery store offering custom design
with a fast turnaround time using 3D printing and investment casting
in Hanoi.

As for the issue of ash residues I can draw upon my own experiences
of casting. A great deal of my work involves burning out and casting
organic materials such as leaves and seed pods. When burnt out these
leave some unburnt residue or ash. This consists oxides of the
minerals in the plant, most particularly of potassium, sodium,
calcium and silicon. I have never found it necessary to clear these
residues from the mould before casting.

The issue has always been to get a clean burnout so no organic
residues remain. To do so I hold my soak temperature of 650C in the
burnout cycle for an additional hour when doing such castings. I’m
not sure what happens to the inorganic residue which by this stage
would be a fine powder. Perhaps it floats up during the metal pour.
It certainly has not caused any casting flaws. Earlier in the
learning process I did experience flaws in this form of casting but
problems were solved by accurate investment mixing and timing,
ensuring that the surfaces of the patterns were sealed, thickening
leaves with a wax backing and of course extending the burnout to
ensure a clean burnout.

This takes us to the issue of the use of plastics in casting
patterns. Both PLA and ABS polymers molecules contain carbon,
hydrogen and oxygen. In addition ABS has nitrogen in its molecular
structure. Neither contain any minerals in their molecular structure
so that under the appropriate conditions shy should be able burn out
without leaving any inorganic residue. PLA is to be preferred for
making patterns because it can burn out more cleanly generating only
carbon dioxide. ABS is more problematic in this respect because the
nitrogen during burn off can produce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and
possibly hydrogen cyanide (HCN) which are more than somewhat toxic.
Whether this a practical concern depends on how much you are burning
and how well ventilated is your kiln space. Mine is well ventilated
in an outside shed and in any case I keep largely away during the
400-500C stages of burnout. The point is that even if ash is a
problem, neither of these materials will leave any if properly burnt
out, but I would still choose to use PLA because there enough NOx in
the atmosphere produced by internal combustion engines.

All the best
Jennifer Gow

Many 3D printers can print with polylactic acid (PLA) which burns
out cleanly without noxious fumes. 

Fumes from PLA are toxic as are ABS and carving wax which is
actually polyethylene and not a wax at all. All burnout fumes should
be treated as toxic and good ventilation is a must.

I have been learning-CAD (computer assisted design) using Gemvision
Matrix for 3 years and am still learning. After 30 years at the
bench best thing I have ever done. The freedom to create with
traditional training combined with this tech is for me truly the
most fun I have ever had. It inspires me and has rejuvenated my

It took some years for me to take the leap due mostly to cost and
also it was a huge time commitment. But in looking back I wish I had
done so much sooner.

Last February I purchased a printer-CAM (computer aided
manufacturing). It was originally a kickstarter funded and open
sourced with a great forum to support users. And I was not pleased
with the services who had been printing for me. It is a B9 v1.2 and
I love it. Currently printing in 30 um xyz and it will print at 25
um z. I using cherry resin which i directly cast with some
modifications with most outstanding results. This printer needs some
tinkering to get best results, but that has made me understand how
it works, how it breaks and how and how to fix. Many thanks to the
forum users who lent support. I try to give back.

To be sure there were many sleepless nights during this odyssey.



The comment about using PLA because there are enough noxious
substances already degrading our air quality (and I am
paraphrasing), brought up an issue for me.

Almost everything we do as jewelers adds some ‘nasty’ to the
environment, and here’s the list: precious and base metals mining
processes; gemstone mining; plating of metals, soldering of metals,
casting of metals; enameling; the manufacture and use of epoxy
resins; freshwater pearl farming; electroforming; patination;
refining of metals; etc.

As a community/industry we have a huge carbon footprint.

Do I go to bed at night feeling guilty? No, but I do try to limit
the ‘stuff’ I pass on to the planet. And, yes, I ventilate where
necessary, and protect myself at the bench.

Linda Kaye-Moses

The thermal decomposition of these polymers is quite complex. Most
plastics are not purely the main resin, there are pigments and other
chemicals added for a variety of reasons. A simple first order test
is to take some of the resin and place it in a new crucible or
melting dish and run it through your burnout cycle. Observe what if
any residue is left behind. This is only a rough idea of how
castable the resin is. Because it is enclosed by the investment the
breakdown process is different than when in the open air where there
is plenty of oxygen available, the major difference is that due to
the lack of oxygen much of the carbon ends up forming solid char
rather than just turning into CO and CO2. One of the common problems
with the 3d printed casting resins is small chunks of char left in
the mold cavity that become embedded in the cast pieces surface. The
biggest problems in the 3D printing of castable items for jewelry is
the residue left behind and the degradation of the mold cavity in
the process of burning out the resin. This degradation is partially
due to the difference as opposed to wax in how the plastic
decomposes, it never turns to a low viscosity liquid like wax does.
It has a much greater thermal expansion factor than wax so greater
pressure is placed on the mold wall. There are a few other things
going on that effect the mold wall as well. There are a lot of
people working on these problem and maybe we will have new resin
formulations that will work better but for now there is generally
way more cleanup and many more rejects on direct cast 3D printed
resin models than on wax models.