Page 1 of 2: CAD and 3D Scanning
Tech and Tradition
If you're familiar with jewelry making, you probably know that lost-wax casting is the primary process for creating most metal jewelry. Just as the name implies, wax is the material around which foundries and casters build up a ceramic mold into which they pour molten metal.
While jewelry can be sculpted in just about any material and molded, traditionally hand carved waxes have served as the staple, preferred form. If you're unfamiliar, the process is painstakingly involved, and can require a tremendous investment of time with little to no room for error. In fact, no matter the skill of the carver some designs may not even be hand-carvable due to delicacy, geometry, or ultra fine detail.
CAD, or Computer Aided Design, opens up entirely new doors, not only increasing the speed at which a designs can be produced, but the precision of design, and complexity of the forms that can be created. While there's no disputing the fact that traditional carving takes truly masterful skill, digital jewelry design isn't the thoughtless pressing of buttons some tend to mistakenly believe it is. CAD represents a very different approach than carving by hand, but it's merely a new set of tools. Great CAD still requires the same eye for aesthetics and a talented designer. Amazing jewelry designed digitally isn't amazing because it was made with ease by a computer, but because it was created by a great designer.
CAD and Digital Sculpting
So how do you produce a piece of jewelry that can't be handmade? Computer Aided Design actually follows a similar approach to traditional methods. Forms have to be developed, worked, and refined into a finished piece.
The greatest differences in the process come from the workability of forms, the fluidity with which they can be changed, and the scale at which a designer can manipulate them. CAD can be a reductive or additive process and changes can be made quickly and drastically or slowly and subtly.
Art imitates life, and with good reason. As such, the 3D industry has seen an increasing number of designers integrating 3D scans into their jewelry as a parallel and component of CAD. Some serve as literal representations on rings, necklaces, or earrings while others are more subtly, or even abstractly, integrated.
Once an object has been scanned, the 3D model can either be reverse engineered for use in traditional CAD programs, or imported directly into any modeler designed for free form design, or digital sculpting.
3D Scanning is simply another step in the process and another tool in the in toolkit that can reduce the overall time of creating a design, or enhance one beyond what would otherwise be possible.