Fast, lightweight, unique, sustainable – attributes that describe key advantages of 3D printing, especially with precious metals. But how can these properties be justified? Find out the most important facts about additive manufacturing with precious metal powders below.
Who should get involved with 3D printing?
Almost everyone! Especially with precious metals, additive manufacturing adds value to the product and efficiencies to the process. This benefit is evident both in unique goldsmiths and in industrial mass-produced products for various areas of applications, such as in jewelry, electrical, energy or medical technology – precisely those industries that rely on the special material properties of precious metals.
#1 Advantage: Speed
Thanks to new technology, for example, the time-to-market development phase can be reduced to as little as a few days. Ideas are implemented digitally and in just a few steps. Even complex design ideas can become a same-day reality in precious metal.
Production time is also shortened in series production since any shape can be produced directly from the qualified powdery starting material. The sometimes-time-consuming production of semi-finished products can be eliminated.
#2 Advantage: Material Savings
The significantly expanded design freedom provided by additive manufacturing leads to weight savings. Of course, this has a direct impact on significantly reducing the cost of the part, but it also increases the wearing comfort of jewelry. Typical weight savings realized to date have been between 25% and 40%.
Improved wearing comfort through weight saving: additively manufactured hollow watchband links made of platinum
#3 Advantage: Unique and Functional
3D printing enables geometries in the production of objects that would not be possible through classic manufacturing methods, such as extreme undercuts, hollow objects or the integration of functions and moving parts already in the production process.
This offers an almost limitless freedom of design which allows for the creation of extraordinary pieces of jewelry.
But functional features can also be integrated directly where assemblies are usually required. In the case of cufflinks, for example, the clasp mechanism has already been integrated into the individual part: the final constellation of the cuff head, bar, hinge and clasp is manufactured in one step, eliminating the need to assemble the head with multi-part fittings.
Extraordinary design and integrated function: additively manufactured cufflinks made of Platin Gold (design Silvia Weidenbach)
#4 Advantage: Exceptional Material Properties
At C.HAFNER, we rely on the Laser Metal Fusion (LMF) process, which uses lasers to melt layer after layer of the starting powder to create the three-dimensional body. This enables us to achieve densities above 99.9% and meet even the most demanding targets of our luxury goods customers. By optimizing the process accordingly, we can handle materials that cannot usually be processed at all or can only be processed with great effort using classic semi-finished products or investment casting. In addition, we also succeed in improving properties such as hardness, strength or polishability through the additively manufactured material structures.
Watch cases printed close to the final shape in red gold, yellow gold and platinum
#5 The most important global advantage of 3D printing: Sustainability
Sustainability plays an essential role for C.HAFNER. C.HAFNER is the first refinery to recycle scrap gold in a CO2-neutral way. Additive manufacturing is another important building block for sustainable production.
In addition to the already mentioned possibility of designing components more easily and thus saving material, the reduction of steps in the process chain is another important sustainability factor. For example, the final processing of additively manufactured blanks into high-precision finished parts on turning/milling centers results in components of the highest quality with minimal material expenditure. A minimum volume to be machined therefore also means short machining times.
This can be seen impressively in the example of watch cases. Instead of punching large-volume sheet metal with special punching tools, additive manufacturing already supplies near-net-shape blanks. The volume of chips to be reprocessed from finishing is only a fraction compared to the usual stamped grids.
The very high reusability of the non-melted powder has a particularly positive effect as almost the complete quantity of non-melted powder can be reused in the next printing process without any loss of quality.
C.HAFNER offers you a wide range of precious metal powders and possibilities to produce your components, and we would be happy to provide you with the targeted selection of materials you need or support you with the development of individual materials and components.
Do you have any questions or suggestions? We look forward to hearing from you!