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Integrating metal casting and 3D printing

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Klipfel's 3D-printed necklace cast in bronze

Klipfel’s 3D-printed necklace cast in bronze

Kris Klipfel is no stranger to the I2P Lab. Last year he designed and printed a mouthpiece for his trumpet to make it easier to play the instrument in the cold, but recently he has been experimenting with a new application of 3D printing – jewelry making.

“The main purpose for creating 3D printed jewelry was really to experiment with the metal casting process. I wanted to learn how it would be possible to turn my cheap plastic creations that come off the printer into beautiful metallic works of art,” Klipfel said.

Unlike sculptors Mark Hopkins and David Anderson (see “The modern artist’s creative extension”), Klipfel created his jewelry digitally, 3D printed the model, and then cast it in bronze through an interesting process called investment casting.

Through the investment casting process, the plastic jewelry is put into a vacuum chamber where investment, a waxy material, surrounds it and creates a mold. The mold is then heated and the plastic is burned out so metal can be poured in. Finally, the investment is cleaned away revealing perfectly casted metal jewelry that Klipfel sands and polishes to perfection. While the jewelry may have started as a 3D-printed plastic part, by the end of this transformative process, the jewelry is made entirely of metal.

“Within the next few years I believe we will start seeing all types of amazing jewelry that will only have been possible to create with the use of a 3D printer,” Klipfel said.