Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Will 3D Printing Affect The Watchmaking Industry?

There have been shocking developments in the 3D printing market. From where we stand, everything from food to flesh can now be 3D printed.

For example. a 3D printed watch:
Image found

This new technology completely disrupts classical manufacturing as we know it, and the best part is that 3D printers can now be purchased for as little as $400.

Here at Gray & Sons, our expert watch restorers and repairers could not be more excited for this technology. As an independent watchmaking establishment, we have a full team of watchrepairmen who spend hours and even days replicating the intricate insides of the luxury watches we are sworn to restore to Like New condition. It can be time-consuming, expensive, and even dangerous to hand manufacture these pieces, which cannot be purchased individually since upper-crust watch factories refuse to sell parts to smaller establishments. 3D printing will make these headaches and expenses a thing of the past.

To back up our excitement, consider this: The Economist just ran a lengthy special report on 3D printing, which it calls “A Third Industrial Revolution”.

What is 3D printing?

According to the Wall Street Journal, three-dimensional printing and other forms of what is known as 'additive manufacturing' use neither machines nor molds. They build an object from the bottom up by piling razor-thin layers of material on top of each other until a three-dimensional shape emerges. The computer-guided technologies enables individuals to create objects, particularly prototypes, without a shop full of metal presses, cutting lathes or plastic injection molds. In contrast, traditional methods like milling and drilling are subtractive - start with a large blank and whittle it down.

Consider the process of making a hammer. Traditionally, the head has to be moulded and cast and thousands would have to be made to amortise the cost of the mould, which can only make a hammer head and nothing else.

But a 3D printer can print the head and handle, just one of each, at the cost of the material only and the software programming. And then it can go on to print whatever else is desired.

3D printing can produce nearly anything from nothing but a 3D model, meaning the sky is the limit.

What will 3D printing mean for watchmaking?

3D printing has already found a home in major watch factories, where the process is used to make resin prototypes of watch cases to evaluate form and size. And the process can become so advanced, it can create designs out of metals, woods, and other natural materials and even the inner movements as well!

Gray & Son's own Expert In-House Watchmaker Junior Whyte believes 3D printing will be game-changing news for the watch industry. "In the watch industry now, most of the top of the line companies like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, etc, don't want to sell their watch parts to watchmakers. It will especially be great for watchmaking establishments who are not authorized dealers. Watch supply stores won't have to get their parts from the upper-hand watch houses like Cartier, Vacheron Constantine and other Swiss watchmakers who typically refuse to sell their parts to individual watchmakers. Overall, this would lessen the monopoly on luxury watches and repair."

Another side-effect is that watch designers can have more freedom to produce out-of-the-box ideas, no longer constrained by the molds and machinery at hand, since the printer can print out anything!

In short, emphasis will be placed on design rather than construction, making it possible for watches to become more detailed and interesting and at the same time easier to repair.


See How 3D Printing Works:

3-D printing is a revolutionary new technology unlocking a world of innovation in design. The WSJ's Diana Jou explores everything from high fashion dresses to medical models made from nothing but a printer.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home