3D printing just keeps getting better and better, and while the printers themselves seem to be gradually overcoming their resolution and speed limitations, materials continue to be the bigger challenge. Now, there is yet another way to enhance 3D printing, and it is awesome.
What you’re looking at here wasn’t actually printed on a 3D printer though – these gold-plated brass pieces are cast from 3D-printed models. The guys at Shapeways are now offering this material for outputting your digital models, and it’s quite spectacular.
The process involves printing a wax model with a hi-res 3D printer. Then the wax is placed into plaster to form a mold, after which the wax is melted out. This plaster mold is then used for casting the 3D model out of molten brass. Once cooled, the piece is polished, and then electroplated with nickel and then 24K gold. So while the latter stages are traditional jewelry-making processes, it’s the first step that creates truly innovative forms.
Sure, it would be cool if you could 3D print directly with precious metals, but we’re not there yet. For now, this process results in impressively detailed and shiny models which would be nearly impossible to envision being hand-sculpted in wax, resulting in unique works of art and jewelry.
Shapeways’ gold-plated brass material sells for $35(USD) per cubic centimeter, and can currently produce objects measuring up to 100mm x 100mm x 30mm.