Each human being is an individual. We have evolved from single-celled organisms over 200,000 years with our DNA carrying characteristics specific to every single one of us. We are all different, with no one person the same as another. Every organism, from an amoeba to a human being has a unique code passed down through generations, over 3 billion DNA pairs give us all our individual characteristics, by nature we all have different wants and needs.
So why do we all shop at the same brands, wear identical clothes, and buy the same household goods? Particularly as 3D printing has given each individual the tools to make their own custom-made decisions in manufacturing, beginning with printing plastic, to now printing, gold, silver, and other precious metals.
When you buy a new car, if you want a pink gear stick, why can’t you have one? When you buy your partner’s engagement ring you want it to be a one-off rarity that will be passed down from generation to generation, rather than the identikit Tiffany’s ring your female colleagues are already rocking.
It’s no fantasy: it’s already here. 3D printing is no longer restricted to plastic recreation; now all sorts of precious metal can be used. The days of identical high-street shopping habits are over – and leading the charge is bespoke 3D printers Sculpteo.
Sculpteo 3D are one of a handful of companies that are using 3D printing to create objects – not prototypes but the finished article – such as 3D figurines from photographs, as well as everyday products such as vases, electronic accessories, and a variety of tableware. Launched in 2009 by co-founders Eric Carreel and Clément Moreau, the French based company has just announced that it is moving on from plastics, using silver, and eventually gold and other precious metals.
“So what we have done is make 3D printing available for anyone to use this wonderful technology,” Sculpteo 3D co-founder Clément Moreau tells Humans Invent. “We believe that it is very unique because anyone can now create beautiful bespoke objects that can be used every day. These are functional, while also aesthetically pleasing. It is all about creating – the prototype stage is over, a customisable future is now a reality.”
“Suddenly the software that you need to create these objects is really easy and widely accessible. You can download any 3D software off the internet, we are surrounded by a 3D culture and different ways of creating 3D objects online.”
“We have now even started creating objects in silver and gold – which is very forward thinking. You can log on, and create your own custom jewellery for yourself or your partner, but in real silver, and gold very soon. This technology we hope will change the way consumers purchase jewellery.”
“In the first industrial revolution we got rid of using our hands for engineering, and we replaced our hands with machines,” Moreau explains. “Mass hand-craft across manufacturing disappeared, but this created a problem going forward: we all had exactly the same phone, the same laptop, the same car, the same accessories. I think this has become incredibly frustrating for the consumer, and I think everybody would ideally like their own mark on the products you buy.
And jewellery is just the start – all that matters is the shape. “You could customise the books you buy, your bike, your shoes, the bag you buy, a lot of things. With 3D printing we go past this, and you are customising material and shape – printing in gold and silver is simply groundbreaking.”
The platform of 3D printing has been in a prototype stage for almost 20 years, but the costs have fallen dramatically in the last two years allowing companies to put a new bespoke future into practice. It is is infinitely quicker than traditional methods of manufacturing, because making a change is easier as it requires only one simple click of a mouse rather than re-tooling and taking apart a large industrial machine at a cost of thousands of pounds.
The process works the same as any other printer, except instead of printing on paper, 3D printers use a fine powder that when it sets creates a hard, plaster finish, layer by layer. The process of building the project layer by layer means that less material is wasted than traditional manufacturing processes, and ultimately, with the printer taking instruction from a computer software, anyone can design a product that is truly unique to them.
Creating bespoke jewellery could not be easier on the Sculpteo 3D software: you simply follow the online instructions, and do not worry about making any design errors, as the software will correct any flaws in your creations, such as one side of an object being bigger than the other, or creating the spherical ring for your partner. Sculpteo’s 3D silver service has just been launched, meaning you could have your very own custom made silver jewellery in a matter of days.
“The engineering process from start to finish is remarkable: when a user wants to create an object he must create the 3D file first. He will then be able to upload the 3D file through our web platform, and on the web platform he will be given some assistance because we have to check if the 3D file is correct,” Moreau says.
“Our platform will fix this 3D file automatically, preventing any mistakes uploading the file. One part of the object could break because it is too fat or so on, but the software will try and fix any problems that could be encountered in the manufacturing process. From here you choose the material, and as soon as the user has paid by credit card, the object goes into production.”
3D printing has been used in the mainstream to create objects from two photographs, one front, and one back, with the 3D software creating a 3D image that forges figurines from resin via 3D plotting. This was then extended to household goods, tableware, and now jewellery, but the possibilities are endless. The aviation industry have already suggested the technology could be used to create aeroplane wings, while car manufacturers, such as BMW, are looking at allowing customers to create their own car parts, and interiors. The shift in consumer purchasing habits has begun.
“I don’t think we will produce a whole car, but 3D printing can allow you to customise certain areas or accessories to the car. Would you like this coloured wheel? Would you like your company logo? Would you like your name? The car manufacturer would then use the 3D printing software to make this happen – it is the future of of mass manufacturing and digital printing,” says Moreau.
“In the future 3D printing will be used in every place where a unique product is needed. For example everything which you have on you, such as accessories for your phone, men or women’s fashion accessories, or jewellery, everything you use every day people want to customise, and add their own bespoke touch. This is the way the consumer is heading – this idea is already firmly engrained in our purchasing habits.”
Thanks to Sculpteo’s unique process, people can currently create affordable items coated with silver, using the conjunction of Sculpteo’s online platform, its high quality 3D printers and Sculpteo’s silver solution. During the printing process each object is first manufactured via laser sintering then it is coated in a final layer of silver using Sculpteo’s silver process. For the first time you can create the piece of jewellery, online at a low cost (prices start at £21) and have it delivered to you in the post within a few days.
The company has not yet put precious metals into production, but the technology is close to being finalised. Gold is the next step, an exciting development that should change the way jewellery brands approach their customer experience.
Sitting in your living room, designing products made of gold and silver would have been considered a pipe dream only a short time ago, but the technology has moved quickly with the digital and design worlds working in tandem to influence just how we live, and how we think about purchasing goods in the future.
Sculpteo 3D’s founder believes that this is only the beginning for the technology, with the idea paving the way for the digital world to influence the way we design, create, and shop on a daily basis.
“This made to measure approach is crucial to how our environment is evolving and influencing our day to day life. On our website, there are no barriers between intangible data and real life objects thanks to easy its online 3D Printing technology.
“This ability to customise digital objects will definitely change the shape of the future of what everyday life objects will look like and how they will function.
“People can visualise what their object will look like in the virtual world and have it tailor made before it becomes a real life object through our 3D printing service. This revolutionary technology is already enabling the digital world to influence the real world in which we live.”
Printing gold and silver is a landmark for the technology, but what is next? We can print tools, household goods, and in theory parts for machinery such as cars and computers. If your wing mirror gets smashed, get online and print another. The possibilities are endless, with the shift in power firmly in the consumers hands. In a short space of time zombie like shopping habits could become a thing of the past, with each of us trying to out do each other with our very own design skills. The question is, are you ready to trust your own ideas? There is only way to find out.