And so last year, Andre Bosmans made the decision to bring all of his 3D printing work in house to make certain that his clients' designs remained firmly within the confines of his control.
"I switched to 3D design myself because I couldn't find anyone who could exactly transfer a drawing in 3D," Bosmans says. "They did what they could do, but they didn't fully understand the exact process of jewelry manufacturing. To design jewelry, you need bench experience, I have 30 years experience of that. We save 3 to 5 days – per model – in production time. And more than 50% over the cost of outsourced master patterns."
Bosmans added that he's gained a significant amount of new business due the fact that his company has complete control of the design, prototyping and 3D printing of their product.
"The first time I saw a 3D printer at work was two years ago when I started to design jewelry with a computer," Bosmans says. "I'm a big fan of computer design, and I spend a lot of time on the ZBrush community website where I discovered the work of Tomas Wittelsbach. He's a great artist and creates very high quality work. Most of the work we do now is via 3D printers, and 80% of our production is computer-generated jewelry right now."
With very limited time "to deliver the goods," Bosmans said that as a number of his clients are web-based shops, they don't carry any stock – only images of their jewelry. With a delivery time of just two weeks, Bosmans is required to design a particular piece, generate the necessary files, print out a master, cast the piece, finish it and set the stones, polish it and then send it to the company in question.
"The roles of the artist is to design a beautiful piece," Bosmans said. "But the businessman wants a low production price, and for me, that's the most challenging part of the work. It's clear that 3D printing for jewelry is the future. You can, for instance, use the mirror tool to make earrings and you only have to design one piece. You can also make design changes while you're working, and that's quite impossible when you work with your hands."
Another benefit which comes with 3D processes? The comfort level his client have with the process itself is increased.
"You can change the color of the gold or the stones directly, and the client can see different variations and choose the most pleasing version," Bosmans said. "Printers with a resolution of 25µ are fantastic, and that level of resolution is very high and provides intricate detail. I can also send preliminary versions of the work via e-mail instantly."
"I like their new vision of jewelry, I would love to meet one or both of them," Bosmans said.
Bosmans uses the EnvisonTec Perfactory Micro line of 3D printers, and they produce between 6 and 9 pieces every day. The parts are often 3D printed in wax filled resin and cast following a normal casting process, and a wide variety of materials can be used including Platinum. Patterns for rubber molds are sometimes created using the high temperature resin, HTM140.
In addition to his work as a jeweler, Bosmans is also an accomplished nature photographer. His work in photography won him a spot as a finalist in the running for the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010, his photos were featured in a 30-page booklet focused on Asian tigers and edited by the European Commission and his work is regularly shown at various exhibitions throughout Europe.