Scaling Beyond Shapeways: Manufacturing 3D Printed Jewelry
Hey Jewelry Lovers,
Late in 2018 I went from software engineering to helping my dad Shashi out with the Museum of Jewelry. And I started designing my own line - BoneNE Artifacts. My comfortability with CAD software (and the ability to use companies like Shapeways and Materialise to handle the heavy lifting) made the transition pretty easy.
In February, I started working with a casting house (Carrera Casting in New York). Most of my products are priced a bit higher than I would like, and my margins are not super flush. Initially my motivation was to make items in a more affordable manner which gives me room to lower my pricing. And that worked for gold items, but Carrera charged quite a bit to 3d print models into wax, thus wasn't viable for silver or brass.
And then, a year and a few months in, Covid-19 happened.
In early March, just as Covid started shutting down Texas, I bought a new 3d printer. I have four already but they are in various states of disrepair, and none of them do the level of detail required for jewelry. Also I wanted an excuse to add an SLA/resin printer to the mix. I went with a lower end model that mostly fit my needs (Anycubic Photon S) instead of something more fancy.
My timing could not have been more fortuitous. Both Shapeways and Carrera have facilities in New York. Carrera was considered non-essential and has shut down for a bit. Shapeways was granted an exemption and stayed open, but processing of metals ground to a halt. A few orders placed in March and originally set to be manufactured in two weeks time lingered. My orders piled up, a few items shipped while others sat indefinitely without much of a discernible pattern. To further complicate matters my vendor dropped the ball on communicating the delays, and in turn I was bad about passing them onto customers.
Suffice it to say, coronavirus has been a bit rough for our made-to-order line, and I am still buried and working on getting caught up, particularly on gold-plated pieces which I can't do at a foundry quite yet. If you are waiting for your order thank you so much for your patience.
But when life gives you lemons...sometimes you learn to make things yourself in house. I'm on the tail end of solving my manufacturing woes. Between learning to 3d print in castable resin, and working with new vendors (Killean with JR Casting in San Francisco has stepped up in a big way to help) I am getting things untangled. A handful of the stuck orders are in the mail headed my way, and wax models for the rest are in a box on my desk which, with a bit of luck, will head in JR Casting's direction late today.
The extra fun part though, is that this process had pushed me to get serious with my line. The prices for foundry casting items I 3d print in house are quite affordable, which allows me to start stocking some of my better selling designs. I am working on a run of The Ring of Priest Sienamun (shown) in silver and brass. In the next few weeks if all goes according to plan all of my entire line of ancient Egyptian jewelry will ship the same day you order.
Thank ya'll so much for the support and patronage. It's been an awesome year and a half and I'm really looking forward to the future.