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How 3-D Printing in Silver Works

From Your Brain to Wax Image to Silver Jewelery

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Cube of metal and splash water
Yuji Kotani/Digital Vision/Getty Images
3-D printing company Shapeways can now print items in silver--or almost, anyway. I needed to get some clarification as to how that could really work, and Shapeways has kindly provided an in-depth look at how this process works. If you've got any interest in printing out your own 3-D silver jewelry, read on and find out what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks to Shapeways for the following, very interesting description of how the process works.

"Shapeways enables people to design custom objects in silver by printing a wax model layer by layer, then using the wax model to cast in silver. The wax printer deposits droplets of wax one layer at a time. The printer also deposits support material to help overhanging sections and sections that cannot stand up by itself during the printing process. The printer can achieve accuracy of down to 25 micrometer, which is the width of the finest human hair.

After the model is finished, the support material is dissolved in heated oil. Plaster is poured over the models and solidifies around the models, making the mold. The wax is then burnt out, leaving hollow cavities in the mold. The caster then pours molten silver into the mold and waits for the silver to solidify. Afterwards, the mold is cracked open and the silver pieces are removed. The pieces are then placed in a tumbling machine which polishes the models. We also offer our customers the option to have their pieces hand-polished, which results in a higher level of shine. Through this process, we are able to offer custom designed silver products."

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