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Articles from CAD / CAM EQUIPMENT (103 Articles), CAD / CAM SERVICES (65 Articles), CASTING SERVICES (27 Articles)

Image courtesy: Palloys
Image courtesy: Palloys

Raising the bar for Aussie casting

The Australian casting industry is evolving at rapid pace due to significant investments from local suppliers. COLEBY NICHOLSON reports on exciting new developments for manufacturing jewellers.

There have been improvements in casting technology over recent years but the major changes taking place in the local industry have surrounded casting-related services.

Automated job quoting, faster turnaround times, more advanced and cheaper equipment – all these are examples of ways in which the casting industry is helping jewellers gain a competitive advantage.

Adelaide designer Geoff Mitchell believes stronger public acceptance of CAD/CAM design has thrown the doors of innovation wide open.

“I have seen a rapid increase in public awareness and acceptance of CAD/CAM design, which has flowed through to casting,” he says. “When it comes to finding that perfect design, CAD is fast and low cost. Also, rendered designs that are able to show work ‘as if finished’ are great selling tools and the best way to clarify concepts in the minds of customers.”

Image courtesy: Palloys
Image courtesy: Palloys

Mitchell says such benefits have flowed through to casting. ”The rapid turnaround from concept to casting is brilliant and these technologies are really moving fast – they offer better detail and finer finishes, which means faster turnaround on designs and a higher quality result.”

Mitchell, who specialises in art objects, has been using Peter W Beck for years when it comes to his casting work.

Another supplier that has focused heavily on delivery efficiencies is Sydney-based Rapid Prototyping.

“We have a big focus on CAD/CAM and information technology to streamline our service. Our instant online quoting and ordering website has been a benchmark in the industry since 2009,” production manager Ben Farago says. “We have also created an online design portal where each customer has access to their account. Customers can upload images and sketches as well as use it as a way to communicate directly with the designer and view design reviews. We try to use this as a tool for roughing out and obtaining all the information/specs we need to accurately CAD the customer’s design.”

James Anson, a client of Chemgold who has been hand-making jewellery for 14 years, says new casting developments are helping him achieve the high quality his bespoke business requires.

“Casting technology, along with learning and applying CAD, has been a wonderful addition to our creations and business,” he explains. “Our designs require a very fussy, very passionate artisan to reach their finish line and the quality we hand over to our guests is a dominant factor; it must be great. Therefore the casting technology must be the finest quality because custom designing is a very personal process.”

Sydney-based Pure Casting director Craig Long has been turning his attention towards resin printers, which offer a number of advantages.

“We have listened to the customer and now have the latest and one of the best resin machines on the market, which offers a smoother finish. For us, it’s about a faster turnaround but for the customer, it’s all about surface finish. With a good finish, jewellers can clean up the casting a lot easier and the customer ultimately gets a far better product,” Long explains.

He believes many people these days are favouring resin but notes, “Some ?pieces just can’t be done on a resin machine and for this reason we also have wax printers.”

Peter W Beck marketing manager Laura Sawade says suppliers must embrace new technologies to avoid being left behind. “Technology in this area is moving at a rapid rate and the Australian industry will have to keep up with the latest and greatest being developed overseas,” she says.

Sawade highlights 3D printing as an example of a fairly new service at Peter W Beck, implemented to allow customers to work with the company right through the entire casting journey – from concept design to finished cast product.

“Casting and 3D printing really will be an increasingly important feature of the jewellery industry as it allows jewellers to create and show unique designs to their customer quickly before going ahead with the actual piece.

Image courtesy: Palloys
Image courtesy: Palloys

Customers are wanting more immediate results and so the ability to show them a render or a printed wax before casting will be advantageous to many.”

Long says 3D printing has benefitted from a large number of advancements over the past two years.

“There are small printers coming along that are like printers I used to buy for $50,000 to $100,000. These new machines are great and are selling for $5,000,” he exclaims. However, he adds that the technology is not without shortcomings: “The surface finish isn’t as good, and castability has been an issue because the resin doesn’t burn out properly.”

Despite this, Long expects the material to become more castable in the short term.

Angelo Andronis is another manufacturing jeweller and designer championing CAD technology that benefits casting.

“Advancements in CAD, which continues to improve year after year, not only means more precise casting and components – often resulting in more efficient gem setting and assembly time – but also a limitless scope for design,” he explains.

“By using a considered combination of traditional handmade techniques and casting CAD-created components, we can create pieces that were either not previously possible to make or would have taken so long that they would have been inefficient to create at all.”

Larry Sher, director of Chemgold, believes there are many other important issues than just equipment advances. He explains that it is not only vital for suppliers to stay up-to-date with the latest international equipment but also imperative for local casters to marry investments in new technology with improved services and their own research.

“In the last two years we’ve invested in a new state-of-the-art production facility with leading technology,” he says. “We’ve installed the latest-generation casting equipment, which features variable vibration technology, and our research department has also further developed our controlled-flow technology system, which enables the correct flow of molten metal to each piece being cast. The grain structure of our castings is smaller and denser, which makes our product easier to work with – especially our platinum.”

Sher says these two major implementations have resulted in a higher-quality product for Chemgold clients, along with improved reliability; however, he stresses the need for investment in local research and development across every aspect of the industry.  “Our research department is continuously developing new alloys for jewellery production that have better wear resistance and are brighter and more reflective than others on the market. One of the alloys is our Platinum Puro alloy, which doesn’t contain allergic metals such as cobalt. This alloy won’t oxidise and can be fused and polished very easily while maintaining high levels of strength.”

Another Sydney company that has invested heavily in the local industry over the past two years is Pallion. Managing director Andrew Cochineas explains that the introduction of Palloys Finishing Services has enabled the business to cater to their clients’ every need – from raw cast to semi and fully-finished items.

“The continued investment in our rapid prototyping capability means Palloys offers the highest-resolution direct cast jewellery prints and also the largest print capacity available in the market today,” Cochineas says. “We are Australia’s only casting house to offer both ProWax and ProResin prints, ensuring the fastest, smoothest and best jewellery casting results. We are the jeweller’s partner at every point along the value chain.”

Image courtesy: Palloys
Image courtesy: Palloys

John Schultz from Marc Gregory Jewellers says recent improvements means that his work is cleaner and neater with far fewer pit holes and fracturing. As a manufacturing jeweller with 40 years’ experience, Schultz says his post-casting work has been greatly reduced and, with the 24-hour turnaround times offered by Pure Casting, he has more work and happier customers.

Pallion client James Thredgold can’t emphasise enough the benefits that CAD-enhanced casting has brought to his business.

“The casting processes have changed everything. I remember when we used cuttlefish in the workshop to do something quickly. Now with CAD and different printing media, there seem to be no boundaries, from the finest of rings to the most intricate of design,” he says.

Thredgold believes the best advice for jewellers is to look for a service provider that has “fast turnaround, quality metals and a CAD designer with good design skill”.

“Sprue size also differs from company to company – some seem to leave more on – and consistency of colour and quality in their metal can also differ,” he warns.

Perhaps the major consideration facing the local casting industry is how it fits within ever-changing environmental laws and increased corporate responsibility requirements, especially given the chemicals and processes used.

Sher says that Chemgold has just completed major improvements in those areas that will help clients feel more at ease.

“We are very proud to announce that we output zero pollution into the environment,” he declares. “Our new furnaces all are designed with after burners, which eliminate unwanted pollution before extraction from our factory. This benefits clients who want to deal with a casting company that has a very low impact on the environment.”

With so many advancements in casting, the ability of jewellers to cut manufacture time and cost should directly improve their ability to generate new sales – and that’s good news for everyone. 

Casting report

Part 2: Casting for new customers

• Read how Australia’s leading casting suppliers are developing new services


Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.


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