Metal 3D printing in the luxury and jewelry industry

Categories: Article|Published On: October 8th, 2021|6.7 min read|

Luxury is the world of dreams where it is essential to know how to differentiate oneself. It is now a question of responding to a designer’s design while being able to produce the object industrially in millions of copies. To create new opportunities, the luxury industry has found a new growth lever: metal 3D printing.

3D printing applied to the luxury sector: rare and precious advantages…

Luxury is often associated with the manufacture of high-end, beautiful, elegant, and unattainable products, crafted with time-honored skills. This sector has conquered new markets, making a major transformation from a craft production to an industrial world. Thanks to technological innovation, luxury has become more democratic while retaining its specific characteristics: rarity, aestheticism, refinement, and exclusivity.

While the luxury industry still relies mainly on manual and traditional methods, additive manufacturing has quickly become the symbol of custom production.

How does PBF work?

The 3D printing process known as laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) consists of producing parts in successive layers, each layer being obtained by spreading a bed of metal powder and then solidifying the desired areas using a laser.

There are many advantages:

  • Savings in raw materials
  • Geometric complexity
  • Improved part performance (better heat exchange, for example)

Metal 3D printing: a major ally for the luxury industry

Unlike traditional design methods, additive manufacturing makes it possible to create parts with complex geometries. From a designer’s drawing, it is possible to produce a part that will resemble the designer’s design. The technology is additive: material is added where it is needed to produce the metal part. It is possible to create internal channels, curves, empty spaces on a part, to lighten the part so that it is easier to wear… at will. There are no limits to creativity. Not to mention the savings in raw materials that are achieved compared to traditional techniques that consist of removing existing material. Finally, all the powder is recycled for reuse in other industrial projects.

The digitization of the project allows ideas to be quickly materialized when in the creative phase to share an idea with a team or to show the finished product to the client. 3D printing is therefore a valuable tool in the product development and customization phases: a significant asset in the world of luxury goods where customization is essential.

Art and technology

DS Crossback Louvre Edition

Within the framework of a partnership with the prestigious Louvre Museum, DS Automobile wished to develop its DS line by producing a limited edition car, the “DS7 CROSSBACK LOUVRE”. Inscribing this car as a product marked by innovation and art, DS Automobile has opted for additive manufacturing to produce parts with a complex design by calling on AddUp. Additive metal manufacturing is here a real vector of artistic thought, giving designers the freedom to create creative and innovative parts that cannot be manufactured by conventional processes. Metal 3D printing is a disruptive technology, unleashing artistic thinking and structural optimization.

At first glance, it is very easy to draw a parallel between the design of the 3D printed aerator ornament and the pyramid guarding the Louvre Museum. 200 parts are printed on a single platform in a FormUp 350. This number has been established to achieve a production of one tray coupled with machine preparation and output of the parts in less than 24 hours, allowing for logistical optimization on a serial production.

Small batch productivity… to stand out from the crowd

Offering the possibility of producing several small parts – even of different shapes – on the same printing plate, metal 3D printing is ideal to produce small batches of objects, as is the case for jewelry. It saves production time, especially when printing parts without a support. The post-processing phase is therefore shortened, with the resulting significant savings. In addition, it is possible to print a piece of jewelry consisting of several small parts, such as a bracelet or necklace, in one go. The risk of alteration or breakage of these parts is reduced. The quality control of the final piece is simplified and shortened.

The brilliance of innovative materials in jewelry

The range of printable materials is constantly evolving. In addition to non-precious metals, plastics, or resins, it is also possible to work with precious metals such as gold, platinum, silver-plated brass and bronze in additive manufacturing. Various surface treatment options such as plating, anodizing and others are also possible. Parts in all colors of the rainbow can be obtained.

At AddUp the most used materials are:

  • 316L stainless steel:  ideal to produce jewelry because it can be worked to obtain interesting surface finishes.
  • Titanium alloy: it’s balance between lightness and hardness makes TA6V an interesting alloy for applications in the watchmaking and jewelry sectors.

Its low density reduces the mass of the watch and its hardness limits the appearance of scratches.

Additive manufacturing in the luxury sector: two examples of AddUp achievements

AddUp and Decayeux: the production of rare objects…

AddUp, a provider of metal additive manufacturing solutions, has partnered with Decayeux STI, a specialist in metal transformation that has been working for more than four decades for the great French and European names in luxury leather goods and jewelry. Together, they have set up a 3D metal printing offer specific to the luxury sector. The parts are manufactured on AddUp machines, then subjected to finishing processes specifically developed by Decayeux STI. Their objective: to offer the luxury industry (almost) total freedom of design to create original and unique objects. Today, the two companies offer complete support solutions including the modelling of parts, the creation of prototypes, industrialization, and mass production. To highlight their value proposition, they have created “La Mallette”.

La Malette - Luxury metal 3D printing“La Malette” is a suitcase containing a collection of original objects, created especially to illustrate the possibilities offered by metal additive manufacturing in the world of luxury, and to demonstrate the industrial feasibility of this type of application. It includes ten objects designed by the stylist Raphaëlle Hanley: belt buckles, chains, clasps, snap hooks, or even a pump heel. “All these products, which meet the demanding criteria of luxury in terms of aesthetics, are perfectly reproducible, with a level of quality that is constant and identical to the prototype, whatever the volume of the series to be manufactured,” assures Dr. Maria Averyanova, in charge of luxury market development at AddUp.

Discover La Malette (FR)

AddUp and Kif Parechoc: Micromechanics and 3D printing

Kif Parechoc, a company specialized in micromechanics for the watchmaking sector of the Acrotec group and a specialist in precision components for the watchmaking industry has signed a partnership agreement with AddUp. The companies will share their know-how in microtechnology and watchmaking applications to develop together innovative part designs and the realization of new mechanical functions. From the precision of the design and printing of the parts to the meticulousness of the finishing and control, this partnership will meet the highest requirements of the customers.

The first project resulting from this collaboration is a watch clasp. “For this project, we started with a classic product but integrated new aspects, such as lattice structures, organic shapes, or indented markings,” explains Yoann Canon, industrial director of Kif Parechoc. “We are now working on the development of new post-treatment processes, adapted to the requirements of our industry and our production volumes. At each stage of this project, we see the value of the collaboration with AddUp, and the complementarity between their mastery of the printing process and our knowledge of the products, their industrialization, and the finishing operations.

The watch clasp is made of low-carbon 316L stainless steel. This material, commonly used in the watch industry, is known for its good mechanical properties as well as its high resistance to corrosion, both of which are essential in the making of a watch. From an aesthetic point of view, 316L steel does not lose its shine or tarnish over time, and it has the added advantage of being fully recyclable.

Moreover, if Kif Parechoc has partnered with AddUp, it is also because the French specialist in metal additive manufacturing has developed the new generation FormUp 350™, a machine capable of using metal powders of fine granulometry. These fine powders make it possible to produce complex parts without supports (these structures that hold the parts during printing, but which must be machined after manufacture) and to obtain precise parts, with less rough surfaces than with most machines on the market.

3D printing for luxury

Luxury has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the health crisis of 2020. The luxury industry will have to innovate and reshape itself to return to growth. And for this, it can count on metal additive manufacturing.

Contact us