3D printing has opened a range of opportunities for a lot of sectors, improving the efficiency of the manufacturing and production process.
Talking about her business, Shoes by Shaherazad, which specialises in jewellery for shoes, Shaherazad Umbreen says: “I’ve experimented with 3D printing a lot, as it allows low-cost testing of product designs. In the past, going directly to metal-bashing techniques meant that if a design didn’t look right, then precious time (and costly metals) were lost.
“Now, I design in CAD, print in 3D, and only then when the design is just right do I then use the 3D mould to create a piece of jewellery. Many of my designs are in 22 carat gold, so this new process has saved me thousands of pounds and hours of time.”
In the jewellery industry, 3D printing works by using CAD to create 3D printed wax or resin models of jewellery. These are then used to cast delicate pieces with the fine metals — 3D printing with precious metals to begin with would be overly costly. These moulds mean that separate sections of metal don’t need to be soldered together, creating a more solid and complex piece of jewellery.
“With this simple software extension, we’re offering brands the opportunity to empower their customers to create truly one-of-a-kind products at affordable prices.”
3D printing online marketplace Shapeways has unveiled its first in-house product line, a fully customisable range of 3D printed jewellery called Spring & Wonder.
Customers can personalise the design and material of each piece from three collections, ‘Signature,’ ‘Celestial,’ and ‘Geometric’ in silver, 14K gold, 14K rose gold, brass and bronze. Pricing currently ranges from $45 USD to $350 USD.
With the growing introduction and use of 3D printing, the jewelry industry has seized the opportunity to produce quality and customizable designs at more affordable prices. According to the National Jeweler, 956 retail jewelers, wholesalers, and manufacturers closed in 2015. This number increased to 1,564 in 2016, marking a 64% decline in jewelers throughout North America. 3D printing can benefit the changing industry, since the technology enables jewelers, manufacturers, and designers to test with patterns, colors, and designs, which, in the past, was a more timely process. 3D printing offers a new way to produce jewelry that is not as expensive or time-consuming, but that still maintains a high level of quality. With substantially reduced retail distributors, new 3D printer-based jewelry can sell directly to consumers via the internet.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- New or improved products, processes, or software
- Technological in nature
- Elimination of uncertainty
- Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
In 2013 researchers at Princeton University created a “bionic ear” – capable of detecting frequencies a million times higher than a human’s hearing range, and manufactured by blending biological tissues with electronics via a 3D printer. First invented in 1984, 3D printing is now capable of producing human organs and limbs, NASA rocket engine parts, car chassis, entire five-storey concrete houses and more. The possibilities are mind-boggling.
The design world has cottoned on to the possibilities of 3D printing too, using it to create everything from crockery to lampshades, while watchmakers have used the precision it affords to create intricate mechanisms and entire watch cases. But while there is a clutch of jewellers championing this new technology, others are disparaging about its use.