By using 3D design and 3D printing, Finnish jeweller Narsakka OY has slashed lead times when producing moulds for lost wax casting.
Finnish jeweller Narsakka is an old traditional goldsmith company founded four generations ago. The current owner and CEO, Thomas Narsakka, is a third generation, his son Elias Narsakka, now studying to become a designer, is the fourth generation. Historically, the company has had a diverse production, but since the last 25 years, they have specialized in diamond rings, often used as wedding bands.
Traditionally, the jewellery industry relies a lot on manual labour. Many jewellers and goldsmiths use a process called lost wax casting. With this method, there are several time consuming and manual processes before you end up with a sparkly piece of jewellery. First, you need a perfect, handcrafted master from which you make a rubber mould. From this rubber mould you make a set of wax parts, depending on production volume. The wax parts are then used to create gypsum moulds, the final stage before you can actually start producing your rings, necklaces or earrings. The wax inside the gypsum is then burnt away when you pour molten metal in the mould. Needless to say, errors of margin are plentiful throughout this workflow.
Another major challenge for Narsakka is customer behaviour. It is not one size fits all anymore, as there is so much more to choose from with online shopping.
“We produced each item in larger quantities in the past and had fewer designs”, says Thomas Narsakka. “Nowadays, customers want more specific items, and have more individual taste.”
This change in consumption has led many retailers, which are Narsakka’s customers, to keep only a few sizes of rings and other items in stock. If a customer needs a different size, then this needs to be produced on demand.
Luckily, the solution to Narsakka’s challenges was right before their eyes. Having used 3D design software for over 20 years, the concept of 3D was a familiar one. Three years ago, the company started using 3D printing as a service for prototyping, which lead them to believe the technology could also cater to other, more business-critical needs.
“We realized that there were 3D printers on the market that could match our demands for build size, printing speed and quality”, says Thomas Narsakka. “As we had prior knowledge in 3d printing, it was an obvious choice for us, not least when we saw that we could produce hundreds of wax parts in a couple of hours.”
Using a 3D Systems ProJet MJP 2500 W, Narsakka can now shorten lead times from weeks to days. By 3D printing wax parts, they cut the process of creating a master and rubber mould out of their already laborious workflow. In just four hours, the company can produce 60-100 wax parts. So, their 3D printer is a perfect tool for shorter runs and more specialized production, or bespoke jewellery.
“Also, with the quality of the wax material we print with, we get a 100% success rate – every part comes out perfect”, says Thomas Narsakka.
Investing in 3D printing has been life changing for Narsakka. It has also opened up for new business opportunities, many of which were unimaginable just a couple of years ago.
“It’s also easier for us to calculate lead times and production cost. 3D printing basically gives us more control of our business”, ends Thomas Narsakka.