If you've been around a while, you would know I spend my days working for a custom jewelry manufacturing company in downtown Chicago. For the last 2 years, I worked as a project coordinator helping small jewelry stores around the country develop custom pieces. I would guide them and their design through the jewelry manufacturing process from sketches to final pieces. Not only did I have to make sure it came out correctly, I had to make sure it came out on time. Surprisingly people can get extremely antsy about jewelry and apparently lots of people get married on a Wednesday??

In any case, I've learned a lot about the entire process of jewelry manufacturing and I genuinely enjoy it. However, the pressure from that position started to wear away at me. Customers can be a lot to handle! I was also ready for a new challenge. I was tired of knowing just an overview of the process. I wanted to learn more about the specifics. Well in the last month, I got what I wanted. I jumped on an opportunity to move into our CAM department and learn about the entire process of rapid prototyping.

In a nutshell, CAD design files are arranged onto a 'grow plate' using a computer program. Each brand of machine has their own program to work with. Once you layout the designs onto the plate, you upload that file to the appropriate machine. Then the machine starts to build/grow the designs layer by layer. Above you can see the plate has pieces hanging upside down on it. This plate lowers down into a liquid material where each layer is built onto itself. Once finished, you remove the plate, turn it around and ta daaaa! Prototypes! This is only how one type of machine grows/builds the models. Others have a slightly different process but the general idea is the same: building onto itself layer by layer. Below is a different machine hence the different color.

It's amazing what these machines can do! And the details they can create are so impressive. Once these prototypes are cleaned up, they are then used in the lost wax casting process, and from there onto finishing. Fascinating isn't it?? (nerding out).

On top of learning about the CAM process, I've also been continuing to practice my CAD design skills. Above is the CAD I created and below is the final piece. Oooo...ahhhh...isn't jewelry making cool??

Some days I really hate having a day job, but I have to say, I do appreciate being able to expand my knowledge. Thank you, day job, for being cool some of the time!