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  • Writer's pictureShafiq x mēkā

Navigating Through The Quintessential Part Of Jewellery Designing And Manufacturing- CAD

Note: This article was also published in the Feb-March edition of GJF Gems and Jewellery Times magazine.

Over the years a number of things have changed in the jewellery manufacturing industry. With technology advancing at such pace, it’s no surprise that any design, irrespective of the level of complication is as easy to manufacture as it is to draw. Call it the power of 3D printing or another revolution in the manufacturing market, computer-aided technologies have taken to rule the market and continue to gain importance in the gems and jewellery sector, globally.

CAD/CAM as you’d be aware of is a two-part process of designing three dimensional objects on a computer (Computer Aided Designing) and manufacturing them with a computerized machine (Computer Aided Manufacturing).

The Evolution

The history of computer aided design procedure can be traced back to the 1950s, wherein the system served as merely a drawing board. The design engineers would work in 2D to create technical drawings from 2D wireframe primitives such as arcs, B-splines etc. The first 3D wireframe features were developed soon, and by the late 1960s a solid modeler program was made commercially available. It took the design industry to go through a number of iterations to produce a CAD software that would meet the requisites of the engineering industry.

I-DEAS (Integrated design and Engineering Analysis Software), as they call it, was developed in the early 1980s for the automotive industry. While the software was only used for engineering purposes, the complications of jewellery design industry made them take an attempt at modifying the software to break down the limitations, and broaden the capabilities of jewellery designing.

It wasn’t long ago when anyone wanting to get involved in CAD could choose only from software built for product design engineers. The training available was comprehensive and not very accessible. However, things have changed now. The demand for jewellery-specific CAD software led to the inauguration of a number of CAD training workshops and courses, which in turn opened up job opportunities for they who wished to take up designing right after HSC.

As an epitome of jewellery industry

Often referred to as the primary and skeletal process of jewellery design and manufacturing, CAD initially stood for computer-aided drafting, since it was a tool to create conventional engineering drawings using a monitor. However, the evolution of technology made it possible to create 3D models in a computerized environment. These ‘virtual models’ can be manipulated onscreen, examined from any angle, built up and cut away the same as a physical model, even weighed before they are constructed. Technically, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there is no field of product design which does not use some form of CAD for manufacturing.

Though the main features of all CAD softwares remain unaltered, you cannot use the same software to design any product you wish to. At the most basic level all the 3D CAD packages are capable of the same sort of things. It’s only when you get to more advanced type of design, do the key differences start getting distinct. Technically, there’s no CAD software that excels at everything. Because there are a number of geometry types, every CAD software has its specific area of efficiency and purpose. Here’s a comparison chart of a few softwares the jewellery industry mostly uses for designing.

For fast modification and reworking of existing models you’d generally want to refer to the history or earlier saved models on the software. That apart you’d also want a few extra features so as to provide the necessary changes to the existing models, hence the usage of 3Design.

Speaking of evolution, one of the most common questions faced by designers is why can’t they just 3D scan a ring and make copies on a 3D printer. Technically speaking, 3D scanners can be used! However, they have their own technical limitations, such as chances of design duplication and modification. Moreover, an output out of a 3D scanner does not totally adhere to the precise size of the model.

Quite a number of times, designers are required to combine more than two softwares to achieve the precise model. CAD software developers have come up with many different approaches to creating a 3D object; all based upon different CAD geometry types. Often they discover that the advantages found in the design philosophies of one particular program can complement their main software package, or sometimes even offset the weakness of the other completely. Grouped below is a list of softwares to suit your requirements for a complex CAD design.

Please note that this is only a list of tools which we believe makes work more convenient. Imaginarium does not hold any of these combinations superior to others, or market any of them specifically.

The process of combining of any of the softwares depends on the design, as each software is to be used for a specific purpose. You could be doubtful regarding different softwares being utilized for the same purpose; however most of the tools used are different from each other. Even for tools which are used for a same/ highly similar purpose, they operate in different ways and were built from different design philosophies.

Learning CAD

As hard-to-believe as it may sound, there should be no illusions regarding the difficulty level of learning CAD. The softwares are without doubt user friendly, but unlike many consumer-level software programs where a user turns productive right after learning about the functionality, CAD requires the user to learn more than 70% functionality to begin with even the simplest of the models. The user should be able to pick the best out of various softwares that would suit the requirements of a particular designing procedure.

Availability: Apart from Rhino that’s available online, almost all of the mentioned softwares is to be purchased directly from the software developers. The cost for each software remains more or less the same; however it might change depending on the region, promotions or other factors.


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