Custom Jeweler Provides its Clients with their Dream Pieces Through the Use of EnvisionTEC 3D Printers
Whitehurst Associated Galleries Inc. (Whitehurst Gallery) is a specialist jewelry manufacturer based in Tarpon Springs, Florida, USA. The business consists of a team of highly skilled craftsmen who create ideas and manufacture intricate custom jewelry pieces for clients around the world.
With a career in jewelry spanning over 50 years, Gareth Whitehurst, founder of Whitehurst Gallery, experienced his first spark of interest in the industry when he worked part time in a jewelry store in 1968 (whilst also teaching high school math and playing keyboard in a band!).
Being initially drawn to the business aspects of the trade, he has since embraced the creative elements: enjoying the process of idea generation, translating ideas into designs and eventually into physical objects.
Why 3D printing?
Gareth had long been looking at ways to translate his creative ideas, as well as those of his customers and his team accurately into the real world. Designs can include a wide variety of styles and ideas taken from throughout the history of jewelry.
Being aware of his own skills, he knew that as long as he studied, he was never going to be a master of everything. Equally, employing a team vast enough to encompass all of the skills that he desired would also never be possible. However, with the advent of CAD/CAM technology, the skills shortfall was no longer an issue. CAD/CAM technology removes the need for specific specialist skills and effectively allows anyone who masters the computer software to produce the most complex and intricate jewelry pieces.
The integration of CAD/CAM technology into the business has resulted in the ability to produce far more complex and intricate designs than would have been possible through the use of traditional methods.
Both 3D printing technology and materials technology for jewelry manufacturing have improved dramatically in recent years. The improvements in castable materials in particular has resulted in more freedom of design, with models casting cleanly every time and retaining the detail.
EnvisionTEC provides a combination of materials for a variety of end uses within the jewelry industry. The Easy Cast material, as an example, has the highest wax content of any premium castable material in the market. Specifically built for the EnvisionTEC cDLM series printers, it provides the ability to work and finish by hand as with traditional waxes. Other materials provide different properties and burnout characteristics depending upon the raw material being cast.
The materials are only one part of the story. The production of accurate models relies on not only the use of a quality material, but also requires a machine capable of producing models with the finest details and smooth surface finish. When searching for machines this was a primary concern to Gareth and his team.
They knew that the production of beautiful models in the computer was pointless if this was not reflected and reproduced accurately by the printer. After seeing the options from EnvisionTEC, it was clear that the machines and materials were the best available.
The team settled initially on a Perfactory Series printer, which allowed for the production of large numbers of models simultaneously. The printer provided high resolution and accurate reproduction of models. As a bonus, the printer was fast and provided the ability to quickly switch materials to match the needs of that particular customer.
Later the team saw demonstrations of the EnvisionTEC cDLM continuous printing technology with its superior speed. After seeing demonstrations of the Easy Cast material, the team at Whitehurst Gallery knew they needed to invest in the new technology.
Adding an EnvisonTEC Micro cDLM has resulted in the ability to turn around small batches of high wax, castable ring models in a few hours.
The Team use the machines constantly. The combination of EnvisionTEC 3D printers and materials allows for the rapid production of large models or large numbers of smaller ones for either casting, molding or prototyping. The cDLM high speed printer allows for intricate castable and moldable parts to be printed in a few hours. This reduces overall production time and waiting time for customers.