ZPC blog

3D Printed Jewelry Not Just About Style

Functional is officially taking over in the 3D printed jewelry market. In fact, new gold watches made using 3D printing tech are getting an official launch, offering classy design and simple function married into one stunning package.

The level of detail achieved using 3D printing goes well beyond what’s capable with traditional milling.

Made by Hoptroff Ltd. of London, this watch was actually first introduced to the world by means of a Kickstarter campaign. The watches are made from 18 karat gold, which sets them apart from other 3D printing projects as of late. It’s actually the result of some complex experiments.

Hoptroff tried all different methods to produce their watches. The initial prototype was made using plastic. This gave them an idea of what the finished product would look like. From there, the company used different methods to attempt to print using gold. First, they placed a 3D printed wax model in metal using a lost-wax process. This is achieved using a wax printer but after evaluation, it was found the wax molds were lacking in strength.

The company eventually landed on direct metal laser sintering to create the cases for their watches. This process, often referred to as DMLS for short, granted Hoptroff more flexibility in the production of their timepieces. Quite simply, this process allows for more complex shapes and designs, which if they wanted to remain true to their original plastic cast, this was the way to go.

The DMLS process involves fusing gold powder together until it forms the desired shape. The initial castings were a bit rough around the edges but after further experimentation and refinement, the finished product is worthy of display in a high end retailer, to be certain. Made from 18 karat gold, the casing is highly polished and features a distinct design along its edge. When compared to what can be produced using traditional milling, this 3D printed watch casing is much more complex and sophisticated. It’s truly a sight to behold and just another example of how 3D printed jewelry is catching the attention of the mainstream media.

Additionally, this watch is going to be a part of a very limited run. Only 12 are going to be made, and for good reason. Dubbed the “future classic,” the watch will feature a caesium gas chamber-powered atomic clock. Yeah, that’s a mouthful and some serious technology. So serious, Hoptroff is in partnership with the Department of Defense on this one. It’s a legit, real-deal atomic watch, if you can believe it. Which sort of drowns out the gold part, in all reality. Still, it’s pretty cool that Hoptroff has managed to be the first to 3D print a gold watch casing. They’ll go down in history for the effort and are sure to keep 3D printing buffs waiting for the next big thing.

The relevance of this story isn’t limited just to the individual achievements of one company. It’s relevant because it shows 3D printing is about more than just creating simple baubles. By shifting from just decorative items to functional items, 3D printing in the jewelry space stands to attract even more attention from designers, timepiece enthusiasts, tech lovers, and high fashionistas. It stands to bring in more media coverage, which means expanded interest, and greater retail value. It also means bringing down the price a bit on 3D printer equipment and broadening the marketplace for designers looking to get a foothold in this burgeoning industry.

While only 12 of these gold printed watches will be available--and we imagine their price tags will be sky-high--there is the promise for greater accessibility of 3D printing technology thanks to this innovation. And we can definitely get on board with that.