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Articles from CAD / CAM SERVICES (60 Articles), CAD / CAM EQUIPMENT (50 Articles)


 










CAD/CAM comes full circle

Amid the ever-changing uncertainty of the jewellery trade, one thing is certain: CAD/CAM is no longer the exception; it’s the rule. CHRIS BOTHA reports.

Reality check: CAD/CAM has taken over the marketplace and is here to stay. With big ticket items like bespoke jewellery, Google-armed consumers are going to do as much research as possible to cut down the cost of their purchase and the rise in accessible technology is making this easier.

Who knows? Customers might soon walk into stores with their designs on a USB stick and a diamond purchased online. Indeed, there may be jewellers who’ve experienced this already.

The same technological advancements mean equipment that was once beyond the reach of the independent jeweller is now cheaper to buy and simpler to use. It’s therefore feasible that retailers can set up an entire CAD/CAM design and printing workshop in their own retail store.

Where do jewellery retailers stand now in the bigger picture of this changing world? How many could even handle a customer who arrives in store with a model of their very own ring?

The job has changed
Traditional “benchies” have, in the past, felt threatened by the growing CAD-sphere so there’s some irony that CAD/CAM may
help save the declining state of Australian jewellery manufacturing.

Jewellery workshops that don’t have CAD/CAM facilities need to outsource jobs when it is required. For bespoke jewellers, there’s been a massive paradigm shift in the industry towards CAD, especially involving complex customised designs that would be near impossible to do from scratch at a reasonable margin.

In such instances, CAD/CAM has helped jewellers with increased margins and speed of delivery. Most bench jewellers have now realised the importance of keeping up with technology at the risk of becoming redundant. New apprentices to the industry are now taught new world skills and CAD/CAM training is allowing the trade to move forward with a competitive and creative edge.

It’s very easy to blame those Asian imports for declines in business. Jewellers love to blame consumers for buying cheap imports when most of the gemstones, tools and equipment sitting on their benches are also purchased overseas!

The trick to overcoming this hypocrisy is finding balance. Firstly, one must understand how technology is changing the trade. Secondly, one must interlace these changes with their existing business model. It’s important to acknowledge that the trend of trade is shifting rapidly and that overseas competitors have already embraced these changes – getting with the times is imperative.

Software is cheaper, faster and better than ever before. Naturally, 3D printers are following suit.

Indeed, within 12 months there will be manufacturers lining up to release hobbyist 3D printers that will retail for well under $400.

With the advent of this technology on the horizon, CAD/CAM file-sharing websites are cropping up like daisies, aimed at people who are buying these printers.

In fact, for only $3,500, any retailer (and consumer) can buy a printer that is equipped to print quality files ready for jewellery casting. The same printer would have cost anywhere between $25,000-$70,000 just five years ago so this is an unprecedented change in the scales of affordability and obviously a wise investment for any business.

At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before the market sees direct metal printing becoming commercially achievable, which means the dream of printing Mokume Gane is around the corner.

High-resolution DLP (digital light processing) printers are anticipated to come under $2,000 in the next two years. Retailers who get into the game early will not only be able to offer this bright new service to their customers but can also establish their businesses as leaders in the field.

What customers want
It’s safe to say that most jewellery customers would still prefer that a bench jeweller hand-sets and finishes their special piece. They want to keep the bespoke allure of their engagement rings, which is why they’ll bring their internet-purchased stones and foraged CAD design files down to the store, instead of purchasing a ready-made ring online.

Faced with this, jewellers can go in one of two directions: they can turn this into a sales opportunity or they can reject the business and the new customer outright.

Instead of launching into a predictable tirade about how online diamond traders can’t be trusted, jewellers could instead put on their expert hats and load the CAD file at a workstation area created specifically to allow the customer to inspect the design. They can then serve the customer a cup of coffee (or champagne) and introduce them to the store’s clever CAD/CAM-trained expert who will enhance the existing design before their eyes. Take note here, that this intimate interaction between jewellers and customers won’t ever change as a result of technology.

This is an opportunity to build a relationship, to up-sell stones with extra flourishes and settings, and to generate more revenue. Frightening potential customers away with a rant on how the internet is ruining the jewellery trade would be the quickest way to go out of business. After all, they have come to the store seeking assistance. They want to purchase a service. The only question is whether jewellers want to provide that service.

DIY in-house CAD workshop
The world of CAD has been kind. Improvements in software development are making it so much simpler for entry-level businesses to use the technology, and entry-level players are now more able to learn the ropes and join in the fun.

Matrix and 3Design are currently the two leading software contenders in the jewellery industry, both with easy-to-use interfaces that are intuitive and that assist newcomers to get their heads around the technology.


Reality check: CAD/CAM has taken over the marketplace and is here to stay. With big ticket items like bespoke jewellery, Google-armed consumers are going to do as much research as possible to cut down the cost of their purchase and the rise in accessible technology is making this easier.

Who knows? Customers might soon walk into stores with their designs on a USB stick and a diamond purchased online. Indeed, there may be jewellers who’ve experienced this already.

The same technological advancements mean equipment that was once beyond the reach of the independent jeweller is now cheaper to buy and simpler to use. It’s therefore feasible that retailers can set up an entire CAD/CAM design and printing workshop in their own retail store.

Where do jewellery retailers stand now in the bigger picture of this changing world? How many could even handle a customer who arrives in store with a model of their very own ring?

The job has changed
Traditional “benchies” have, in the past, felt threatened by the growing CAD-sphere so there’s some irony that CAD/CAM may
help save the declining state of Australian jewellery manufacturing.

Jewellery workshops that don’t have CAD/CAM facilities need to outsource jobs when it is required. For bespoke jewellers, there’s been a massive paradigm shift in the industry towards CAD, especially involving complex customised designs that would be near impossible to do from scratch at a reasonable margin.

In such instances, CAD/CAM has helped jewellers with increased margins and speed of delivery. Most bench jewellers have now realised the importance of keeping up with technology at the risk of becoming redundant. New apprentices to the industry are now taught new world skills and CAD/CAM training is allowing the trade to move forward with a competitive and creative edge.

It’s very easy to blame those Asian imports for declines in business. Jewellers love to blame consumers for buying cheap imports when most of the gemstones, tools and equipment sitting on their benches are also purchased overseas!

The trick to overcoming this hypocrisy is finding balance. Firstly, one must understand how technology is changing the trade. Secondly, one must interlace these changes with their existing business model. It’s important to acknowledge that the trend of trade is shifting rapidly and that overseas competitors have already embraced these changes – getting with the times is imperative.

Software is cheaper, faster and better than ever before. Naturally, 3D printers are following suit.

Indeed, within 12 months there will be manufacturers lining up to release hobbyist 3D printers that will retail for well under $400.

With the advent of this technology on the horizon, CAD/CAM file-sharing websites are cropping up like daisies, aimed at people who are buying these printers.

In fact, for only $3,500, any retailer (and consumer) can buy a printer that is equipped to print quality files ready for jewellery casting. The same printer would have cost anywhere between $25,000-$70,000 just five years ago so this is an unprecedented change in the scales of affordability and obviously a wise investment for any business.

At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before the market sees direct metal printing becoming commercially achievable, which means the dream of printing Mokume Gane is around the corner.

High-resolution DLP (digital light processing) printers are anticipated to come under $2,000 in the next two years. Retailers who get into the game early will not only be able to offer this bright new service to their customers but can also establish their businesses as leaders in the field.

What customers want
It’s safe to say that most jewellery customers would still prefer that a bench jeweller hand-sets and finishes their special piece. They want to keep the bespoke allure of their engagement rings, which is why they’ll bring their internet-purchased stones and foraged CAD design files down to the store, instead of purchasing a ready-made ring online.

Faced with this, jewellers can go in one of two directions: they can turn this into a sales opportunity or they can reject the business and the new customer outright.

Instead of launching into a predictable tirade about how online diamond traders can’t be trusted, jewellers could instead put on their expert hats and load the CAD file at a workstation area created specifically to allow the customer to inspect the design. They can then serve the customer a cup of coffee (or champagne) and introduce them to the store’s clever CAD/CAM-trained expert who will enhance the existing design before their eyes. Take note here, that this intimate interaction between jewellers and customers won’t ever change as a result of technology.

This is an opportunity to build a relationship, to up-sell stones with extra flourishes and settings, and to generate more revenue. Frightening potential customers away with a rant on how the internet is ruining the jewellery trade would be the quickest way to go out of business. After all, they have come to the store seeking assistance. They want to purchase a service. The only question is whether jewellers want to provide that service.

DIY in-house CAD workshop
The world of CAD has been kind. Improvements in software development are making it so much simpler for entry-level businesses to use the technology, and entry-level players are now more able to learn the ropes and join in the fun.

Matrix and 3Design are currently the two leading software contenders in the jewellery industry, both with easy-to-use interfaces that are intuitive and that assist newcomers to get their heads around the technology.

Once a store has the software, buying (or even obtaining for free) a base inventory of CAD files is also simple. There are dozens of design websites that make these files available for download. From there, jewellers can run the design as is or customise it with their own flourishes. With this basic setup in place, stores can assess whether they wish to invest in 3D printers and other hardware to take the operation to the next level.

The average small business owner can now afford a complete software/ hardware solution for under $20,000. The benefit is that these reductions in setup costs have been so profound that the industry may even see a return to cottage industry workshops, as business owners reclaim full in-house manufacturing from start to scratch.

Here is a flash rundown of some low-cost solutions to consider once jewellers have implemented their software/hardware:

The entry-level setup
For businesses that do not yet have in-house CAD designers, it’s easy to download a series of unique designs and upload them again to the store’s website, allowing customers to choose from the gallery of unique designs. Going one step further, stores could even commission a professional CAD designer to come up with specialty ranges.

All it takes is a few sourced design files and rendered images of the final pieces, and jewellers will have their own virtual workshops and online galleries of specially-curated jewellery pieces that can be adjusted by the frontline staff and then printed in the store’s own workshop.

The intermediate setup
For the store that already has an in-house designer with intermediate CAD skills, moving up from the entry-level solution is easy. Use the downloaded files as the basis to create an entirely new series of in-house specialty designs. For example, download one of the hundreds of uploaded versions of the Tiffany setting and create something completely unique using the basis of that shank for an entirely new concept.

Unlike the entry-level solution, having an in-house designer allows a store more control and customisation with each design. Once the design files have been enhanced enough for them to be unique, they can be uploaded and resold to other designers for a small licensing fee. This way, a store’s design doesn’t only sit on its own shelf but also upon the shelves of other retailers, making money even while it is not being used in-store.

The advanced setup
Like a master jeweller, a master CAD user will be able to create designs that are complex, using advanced skills that have taken a long time to learn and perfect. The rewards of having an on-premises master CAD user is that businesses can offer customers the ultimate flexibility and top-level feed of the previous two tiers.


Once the time arrives that basic designs are so easy to download and the market is saturated with entry-level and intermediate CAD/CAMers, an advanced store should be able to swiftly shift and adapt its designs to maintain a point of difference and create exactly what clients want, no matter how seemingly impossible the request – no outsourcing; no waiting; immediate origin of creation in front of the customer’s eyes. Along with this flexibility and innovation is the ability to completely brand and control designs. Should a store wish to share its files, it can do so by charging a premium-licensing fee for others to access and reuse the designs.

A step into the future
It remains an inarguable truth that all jewellery businesses now must embrace some form of CAD. A look back at the past five years acknowledges this change. Customers who previously knew nothing about jewellery manufacture are today using words like “vector”, “wax prototyping” and “render” while standing inside jewellery stores. The language has evolved. Are jewellers also using it?

CAD/CAM is a critical technology that presents jewellers with easy and cost-effective ways of injecting life into their retail businesses but the decision to enter into the CAD/CAM world still requires some basic analysis.

How much money and time are jewellers currently spending on outsourcing CAD/CAM related requests? Which tier of investment would be most appropriate for their business? Are staff ready for the learning curve or is there already a preferred candidate within the organisation who can become the CAD/CAM expert?

It is normal that complicated questions arise when change challenges the direction of any industry. This is all part of progress; however, while most other industries have been swallowed whole by technology, jewellers now face an interesting and promising future where they may be able to keep their manufacturing processes in-house.

For example, shoe stores no longer have their own cobblers down the back and most other consumer items are manufactured overseas; however, the magic in the jewellery industry that stands the test of time is the way the jeweller leans over his bench as he lovingly and ever so carefully sets that stone. The stone may have been purchased online and the design may have been downloaded, but jewellers can continue to set like they have for decades as the customer looks on in absolute awe and excitement.

 

CAD/CAM Supplement - more reading
Part 1: The peaceful revolution
Part 2: Movers and shakers

 

VISIT THE cad/cam playgroundS

Here are four online platforms that enable jewellers and other CAD/CAM enthusiasts (some that could be your customers!) to download, upload and share design files.

• Shapeways
www.shapeways.com
An open marketplace where CAD designers are able to share and sell their designs, from wedding rings to prototypes of engineering parts. Shapeways has adopted a social media format whereby other designers and users can leave feedback about ideas and design.

• GrabCAD
www.grabcad.com

Designed initially for engineers to develop products faster, this archive has over 460,000 free CAD models to download and over 1.3 million engineers that form an open community to share design ideas, tutorials and challenges.

• Thingiverse
www.thingiverse.com

Thingiverse works on the philosophy that anyone anywhere should be able to experiment and share 3D modeling and CAD design. With a strong social integration, this could be considered the Facebook of the 3D modeling world. Users of all experience are welcome. 

• TurboSquid
www.turbosquid.com

A more professional community of designers – from game development to architecture –that upload and sell renders and models of their CAD. TurboSquid focuses on more professional designers from niche markets. _

 

CAD/Cam Experts have their say

As part of Jeweller’s 2014 CAD/CAM Report, the leading equipment and service suppliers explain how digitised manufacturing can improve a business’s competitiveness and also offer it a strategic point of difference.

Click on a supplier to view their full profile:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Botha

Contributor • CAD/CAM Expert


Chris Botha is a manufacturing bench jeweller with more than 20 years experience in handmade, luxury platinum and diamond goods. He has used CAD in every possible tier of the industry as well as providing design services and training.

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Saturday, 21 September, 2019 02:42am
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