Using 3D Software to Create Jewelry

Last year I started to teach myself a 3D design program called Rhinoceros. I’ve not worked with any other 3D design software, so I can’t say how this compares to others. Nor can I say whether it is easy to use or not! I have learnt what I know simply by playing with it and reading a few how tos. I do have a book and a DVD tutorial, but I’ve yet to delve into them (another thing to add to my never ending to do list – I now have sub categories of to do lists!).

I know that I am merely scratching the surface of its capabilities – all of my 3D work so far have been fairly flat (2D if you will!), but I’ve enjoyed playing around with it nevertheless.

I use a company called Shapeways to print my designs. They are based in Long Island City and have their headquarters in the Netherlands. Each month they have a factory tour, which I’ve been on, it was very interesting to see all the machines they have and if you’re in the New York area and interested in this type of thing, then you should definitely sign up for a tour.

Shapeways is great because you can upload your design and see how it will look from all angles and more importantly see if it will print. They have automated checks and also manual checks to ensure that your design will print ok, eg; the walls of your pieces should be no smaller than 0.6mm and your design will get rejected if that is the case.

Anyway, enough of Shapeways for now. I want to take you through Rhino by designing a simple necklace using my Silver Sculptor logo. I have taken screen shots of the process to show you. This is a very simple project, but one I've been meaning to do for a while. I like my logo and figured I should probably wear it when I'm at craft fairs etc!

First step (if you’re using a logo) is to import an image of the logo.

Importing Logo into Rhino

Then, (for this particular project) I used the T tool to use the font that my logo uses (Lucida Handwriting in this case). The neat thing about creating a design using fonts is that you can decide how tall and thick you want the letters to be in the Type toolbar. In this case, I wanted it to be 1cm tall by 1mm thick.

Adding text

I then moved the S over my logo, making sure it was in the right place.

Moving Text

I think created another S, but this time I needed to mirror it to make the other S in my logo.

Mirror text  Mirror Text

Once I had them placed in the right spot, I removed the background image/logo.


So that I don’t have to solder a jump ring to the necklace after it’s printed, I decided to add a loop into the design using the Tube tool.

Bail  Bail  Bail

Then it’s time to save, I save my files as .3DM (so that I can edit them later) and for printing purposes, I save them as .STLs.

Final  Saving

Then it’s over to Shapeways! I log in and select Upload Design, ensuring that I am selecting millimeters (as that is how I created the file).

Uploading File

There’s a nifty little tool on the top right that you can spin around to see what your design will look like.


You can then choose your material, I generally select castable wax, but you can choose from a wide variety of materials that they offer, they will even cast it into the metal you choose and polish it too! I find them to be more expensive than doing it myself, so I just choose the wax and then take the design into my local casters. At this point you will know if your design has passed their automated checks, if it has, you can add it to your cart and get it printed! It usually takes up to two weeks including shipping for your piece to arrive (then another 4 days or so to get it cast – then of course the finishing time).

And that’s it! Let me know if you have any questions or comments and I’ll be happy to answer them!




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