The art of jewellery making has been around for thousands of years and, through the generations, the methods of creation have been improved at various points. The most recent improvement comes in the form of CNC sheet metal machinery — a truly innovative and advanced metal fabrication method that combines geometrically accurate CAD conceptions and engineering with precise, software-driven fabrication processes. So how has CNC machining revolutionised jewellery making exactly?
1. Moulding jewellery models and casts
Jewellery casts are created using three primary materials — wax, plaster and metal. This is an old method known as lost wax casting. A model of the desired object is first created from wax and placed inside of a plaster block. The plaster block is then placed inside a kiln so the wax model can evaporate. This allows the jeweller to fill the plaster mould with liquid metal. Once the metal has cooled and hardened, the plaster can be dissolved in water — leaving a metal model.
This is a fairly lengthy process — but a tried and true one, nonetheless. This process can become even longer and more tedious when you consider that some jewellers calve the wax model by hand. Thanks to CNC sheet metal machinery, however, this process can be drastically shortened and optimised for a more efficient outcome. CNC machines can create both models from wax as well as moulds from plastics and metals — bypassing the kilning phase altogether.
The benefit here is that with the appropriately created CAD file, the process of creating the moulds is made more efficient in both speed and cost. One disadvantage to look out for, however, is whilst a CNC machine is either milling, drilling or turning it could accidentally deform or distort some parts because wax is such a soft material. If you are going to use your CNC machine for such a process — then we recommend you look into specialised cooling systems that are specifically designed to circumvent such occurrences.
2. Engraving jewellery
Jewellery can be engraved/decorated in two ways — by hand (which, when it comes to engraving, can occur at any point after it’s been created) or during the carving of the wax model. Now — there’s a third way. CNC machines have made it easier to engrave whilst creating the wax model or straight onto the metal mould itself. The best part is that the accuracy is uncanny as ultimately there’s no human error/variation involved (which is great for mass-produced engraving and decorations). There are five ways in which CNC machines can engrave jewellery:
- Milling — uses a metal tool that rotates at various speeds, carving away pieces of the material.
- Laser engraving — only melts the surface of the material.
- Deep engraving — utilises a laser to engrave deeper into the material, creating a tangible cavity.
- Colour engraving — uses acrylic powder or paints to laser contrasting colour onto the material.
- Sub-surface engraving — an interesting method used with glass to create an image below the surface without actually creating cavities on the surface.
3. Expanding the metal repertoire
CNC sheet metal machinery has made it possible for jewellery to be crafted from more materials than what was once possible thanks to the versatility of the machines which can shape, cut, bend and fabricate not just different types of metals, but other materials as well. This rings especially true for metals such as steel that are quite hard and more difficult to alter by hand.
This advantage has opened up a realm of possibilities to all sorts of jewellers and artists — especially in the watchmaking realm where unconventional materials such as ceramic tantalum and even sapphire crystal are being used to create cases in varying degrees. These incredible developments have allowed watchmakers to produce some outstanding and ground-breaking pieces that have not previously been possible due to technological limitations.
Are you looking for CNC sheet metal machinery in Melbourne?
If you’re looking to take your jewellery making to the next level or are simply in the market for a reliable and high-quality CNC metal fabrication machine, then ACRA Machinery have you covered. We are the Melbournian experts when it comes to sheet metal machinery, stocking various machines both new and used from internationally renowned brands such as Durma and Jorns.
Already have a machine that needs repairing or maintenance? We can handle that too with our premium repair and maintenance service available on-site, so you don’t have to worry about transportation. We also offer regular maintenance scheduling to ensure your machine runs optimally for many years to come.