One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is the freedom it affords today's designers and one industry that has benefited enormously from those unique capabilities is jewellery. From resin casts to direct metal printed pendants, 3D technologies have transformed the jeweller’s workbench into a multi-media workspace that combines traditional craft with digital skills.
Birmingham School of Jewellery (BSOJ) graduate, Rebecca Wilkes has been experimenting with exploiting the unique properties of selective laser sintering (SLS) in her most recent collection of jewellery called “Floral Focus”, a collection of interchangeable, nylon flowers that can be worn to suit the mood or style of the wearer. TCT spoke to the designer to find out more about her work and the role 3D printing is playing in the industry.
“The idea of having interchangeable parts really came from the trend and popularity of having interchangeable jewellery in which you can buy a base and then collect variations to change the look of a piece very easily,” Rebecca explained. “I also wanted to incorporate an element of fun into the collection which has definitely come across when I have interacted with people at exhibitions and showing them that the flowers and rings are magnetic: I’ve learned that people love magnets!
Rebecca’s use of SLS was inspired by a visit to London design and 3D printing service Digits2Widgets, a company that later went on to print all of the designer’s test and final pieces including an intricate presentation box.
“I chose 3D printing for this collection because I wanted to exploit the potential of 3D printing technology that is impacting the jewellery industry today,” Rebecca commented. “I only found out about laser sintering a few months into the course, the process just clicked with me and I became passionate about finding new ways to exploit the printing process. I also think that many people design jewellery for 3D printing and expect it to just work; I wanted to change that and design for the process instead and find new ways of being creative with it.”
The BSOJ has been flying the flag for 3D printing in the jewellery industry for several years, laying the foundations for young designers to get to grips with CAD and the various 3D printing technologies available to today’s jewellers in cutting-edge design courses and industry collaborations. Following six months of training, from initial sketches to designing in CAD, 3D printing, dying the parts and presenting the final collection, Rebecca's entire project took around three months.
“There was most definitely a learning curve with this process!” Rebecca explained. “I learn best from mistakes though, sometimes a bit costly, but you don’t know what you can achieve with Nylon SLS printing without a bit of experimentation. When it came to dyeing the Nylon SLS parts there was endless experimentation and tests in order to find the best way of achieving the unique ombre effect each bloom has.”
The collection includes a ring and neck collar, both of which allow the wearer to attach their favourite floral pieces via embedded magnets. Thanks to the detail made possible with SLS, the interlocking collar was printed in a single piece and the result is a beautiful chain mail-like statement necklace, which can be customised by the wearer.
“I like to think that this collection exploits so many of the joys that Nylon SLS has to offer. I’m quite passionate about this type of 3D printing and I want more people of share that passion because if used creatively, the possibilities are endless!
Rebecca's work will be exhibited at TCT Show on 28-29th September at NEC, Birmingham with Digits2Widgets (Stand C25). Register for FREE to attend.