From CAD to Jewelry

Professions and professional skills change over the years. In this context, it is an undeniable fact that computers have revolutionized the world of communication. So people still unfamiliar with basic handling of a mouse and software programs have a rocky path ahead.

Although jewelry design by goldsmiths and designers is characterized by unique pieces, unlike the industrial production of jewelry, ever greater numbers of jewelry designers are starting to tap the possibilities of computer-assisted design technology. This does not take away any of the value of the unique item of jewelry, but it does offer a clear increase in the methods of designing innovative jewelry.

Watch design and the matching case by Atelier Simon in Rhinos
A curvy jewelry design by Till Baacke
The rendered model and wire model by Horst Meinzer

There is a widespread opinion that CAD is only a solution for jewelry firms with series production. The high investment costs that an individual goldsmith or designer cannot capitalize are certainly important arguments. For some years now, various manufacturers have offered 3D software versions for PCs under Windows. Large workstations with high volume memory capacities and an expensive graphics card do not have to be purchased. However, the user should boast basic computer literacy skills. Going straight from zero to a modeling system is barely conceivable. Software that provides the desired result at the push of a button is simply not available. Many systems offer integrated learning programs in order to acquire the initial skills. Working through the manual is laborious, so a course appears to be the most suitable method in this respect.

User forums by the software providers are good sources of information concerning the current version and software features. But how can a goldsmith get hold of a CAD system and which investments are necessary? Most of the users decided to purchase a CAD system due to the necessity of presenting their designs in a better form. Smaller series will also reap the rewards of having the model ready as a data set for rapid prototyping. It can also be advantageous to use the CAD system for individual items of jewelry, provided that the presentation is deemed very significant. Subsequent saving of the data means that subsequent changes or a redesign are possible in a more precise fashion than would be the case in changing a basic model made of wax. The 3D design enables a more precise and realistic presentation of the model than any drawing would normally be able to.

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The icing on the cake in this context is the possibility to present scenes depicting an entire collection or a comprehensive design, as this can also be used as a marketing instrument. The groundwork of modeling is found in three-dimensional space, so as to speak. Within a 3D system, the users can choose between four viewing windows. The models can be examined with the utmost precision using the frontal, lateral and overhead views in a perspective window.

An object created from a data model by Monica Suner
A ring model by Corinna Adams
A complex model by Barbara Trede in Auto Studio by Alias

In the perspective view, the model can be moved freely in space from side to side and up and down. The most important tool ranges are integrated in the working interface; these differ in scope, depending on the software provider. Their basic functions are all the same, however, all 3D software programs offer basic bodies in order to create a model.

Basic bodies are prefabricated objects and can be selected by simply clicking on the tool range. The proportions can be defined using coded numbers or directly the size scale in one or all dimensions. Basic bodies can also join to create a new form if they are altered using the tools. But the transition points between the basic bodies can cause problems. At the latest during the first trial rendering, the light falls in unaesthetic waves and angles. Accordingly, the next important stage is constructing using curves.

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Free form modelers are considerably more difficult in the application of curves and their parameters. This kind of modeling applies 3D NURBS curves. NURBS are mathematical depictions that provide a very precise model of any given form, from simple 2D lines, circles, arches or rectangles through to organic, 3D free form surfaces or voluminous bodies. In this, NURBS are controlled by points. The NURBS curve does not pass through the specified points that are used to calculate the tangent gradient. Instead, the NURBS curve nestles against the tangents. The significant advantage of this at first glance apparently complicated style is the continuity in the course of the curve, even after individual points are displaced. This is a good way to define precise, organically soft and flowing surfaces. The NURBS curves preserve their characteristics, even when combined with a surface.

The “Wire Flower” stickpin by Renee Tovar
Jurgen Schoner constructs and renders his jewelry objects in Cinema 4D
Jurgen Schoner constructs and renders his jewelry objects in Cinema 4D

For some time now, there have been 3D scanners and readers on the market in order to register a model without having to build it. In this technology, a laser scans a figure or an object. Even if you are entirely clueless concerning modeling a lot of work has to be carried out touching up the data set; this requires the services of a professional. Users should take care when purchasing a CAD system that the generated, digital model can be issued in STL format in order to then realize it by 3D printer or a rapid prototyping system.

Compatibility with other 2D and 3D systems is an advantage. A rendering program or a render plug-in is necessary for scenic designs; they should be available for various modes, for simple and rapid rendering and for high quality levels Software libraries offer virtual gemstones or textures in different sizes and colors specifically for the jewelry industry. Users can also add their own designs to the library.

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by Susanne Heuer - © GZ ART + DESIGN - Issue 1, February 2005
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