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Dream Machines
What's on a custom jeweler's wish list? Here are tools that bench gurus swear are worth every penny.


MILL: “WIDE-OPEN BOUNDARIES”

What it does: Although “mill” is used to refer to a lot of equipment, what we’re talking about here is a machine that outputs CAD designs into models. In this case, it’s a multiple-axis mill that can quickly cut three-dimensional wax models from a CAD-generated design.

Why have one: Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) is the almost inevitable next step after CAD. Because of the speed and exactness with which a mill can produce wax models, it can significantly increase bench and factory efficiency. Faster output means more satisfied customers and the ability to process increased orders.

“We took on milling sooner than we had anticipated because of the volume of orders we were receiving. It became too expensive to subcontract it,” says Eric Riddlespurger at Liberty Jewelry Co. “We decided on the Revo mill from Gemvision. We did a lot of homework before buying it, and found that it matched well with our CAD. It wasn’t the only choice out there and it wasn’t the least expensive, but it fit our needs.”

What he likes best about it is that there’s no need to flip materials manually to set up for other cuts—it does so automatically. “We’ve also expanded its tasks to include doing flatware. As a result, we’ve created a niche by reproducing old Kirk Stieff patterns. Its ability to cut to exact tolerances allows us to work confidently, producing intricate things like watch cases and backings. The machine gives us wide-open boundaries.”

LASER: “DAYS WITHOUT TURNING N A TORCH”

What it does: Unlike torches, which create an intense, diffuse heat that affects everything near it, laser welders can focus heat on a pinpoint-sized target while leaving the surrounding area relatively cool.

Why have one: Quick spot welds save bench workers a lot of fumbling (and cursing). Lasers also allow designers to work more easily with difficult metals like platinum and silver, and to avoid accidentally heating and altering gemstones. The result is faster, cleaner work that bumps up the bottom line.





CAD Matrix software from Gemvision Corporation

Virtual design: CAD Matrix software from Gemvision Corporation, (800) 357-6272, www.gemvision.com.

Paul Lubitz of Holly Yashi

Paul Lubitz of Holly Yashi shows a sample of the types of patterns the OMAX waterjet can cut.

Photo: Humboldt State University/Kellie Jo Brown.


bracelet by Holly Yashi

This “Vashti” bracelet by Holly Yashi is an example of the work that can be created with an abrasive waterjet machine, (800) 274-2714, www.hollyyashi.com.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg., Timonium, Maryland, at work with the CAD Matrix software by Gemvision.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg.

Eric Riddlespurger of Liberty Jewelry Mfg., Timonium, Maryland, demonstrates CAM manufacturing with the Revo mill from Gemvision.

Rofin StarWeld jewelry laser microwelder

Rofin StarWeld jewelry laser microwelder available from Stuller, which recently released volume 73 of its tools catalog, (800) 877-7777, www.stuller.com.

iWeld laser system by Crafford-LaserStar Technologies

The iWeld laser system by Crafford-LaserStar Technologies, (401) 438-1500, www.laserstar.net.

Signature 8080 Super model engraving machine from Signature Engraving Systems

Signature 8080 Super model engraving machine from Signature Engraving Systems, (800) 323-3283, www.signature-engravers.com.