In February, there was a story about a small watchmaker launching a Kickstarter campaign for his line of 3D-printed watches, which featured timepieces made from gold-plated steel. Hoptroff Ltd. of London, is going for the real 18 karat deal by 3D printing their watch cases from actual gold.
At the Hoptroff “Time Blog”, the manufacturer of luxury “future classic” watches details their experiments with 3D printing the cases for their timepieces. Beginning with producing a prototype from plastic, Hoptroff went on to figure out how to 3D print with gold. They first tested casting a 3D-printed wax model in metal with a lost-wax process. With a printer such as the $49,650 Solidscapes 3Z Max wax printer, it’s possible to create a 3D object out of wax and cast it in metal. Because there were limitations posed by the strength of their wax moulds, however, Hoptroff, instead, pursued the other method of printing in metal, direct metal laser sintering.
By fusing bits of gold powder together, DMLS gives Hoptroff the ability to produce more intricate shapes in 18 karat gold. And, after fine-tuning their design process, they were able to move from ruttier gold watch casings to something a little more refined.