I like to print test samples of the items in my Kickin’ Wiccan shop on Shapeways. I realized recently that I’d printed in enough materials that I could share a visual story of how a polished-metal item is printed by Shapeways.
The process begins with a model created in 3D software. Here’s how my large pentacle ring looks to me in my 3D program, Cheetah3D:
I sent this computer model to Shapeways. Their first step on the road to a polished-metal version of the model is to 3D-print the model in castable wax:
The next step after the wax print is to make a mold from the print and use it to cast the metal. Shapeways has a video of the process:
The result is a mechanically polished version of the piece. Here’s that version of the ring, in what Shapeways calls “raw brass”:
Next comes the hand polishing. Here’s the ring after that step. This material is called “polished brass”:
Shapeways offers a variety of materials to plate over the polished brass. For my test prints, I like to get rhodium plating: its color is distinct from polished brass; gold plating looks similar to polished brass. Also, rhodium is shinier than silver and creates nice reflection effects as I photograph the jewelry for my shop.
That’s the story of how polished-metal items are printed. Like all good stories, I hope this one ends: And they all lived happily ever after.