3D Printing is Reinventing Jewelry Making – Mount Desert Islander


Robert Coppage uses a computer program called Rhino 3D to design his jewelry.

SOUTH-WEST PORT — Robert Coppage, owner of Three Pines Fine Jewelry, will use a 3D printer in February to design and produce enough inventory for Valentine’s Day sales.

Coppage and his wife Madeline took over the Aylen & Son Jewelers location on Main Street in Southwest Harbor in 2017 and recently renamed the business. “We wanted to focus more on our work rather than Peter and Judy Aylen’s business. We wanted a smoother transition because I was taking over a business that was a staple,” Coppage said.

Before realizing that using a 3D printer could save him time, Coppage was making everything by hand. “It takes me about two hours to get 20-30 rings of different sizes and caps [for beads] which I can very easily screw up by hand, whereas on a full bed with the 3D printer I can print 30 to 40, which allows me to do other things,” he says.

Under computer control, a 3D printer can deposit, assemble and solidify materials such as plastics, liquids or grains of powder which are fused together, layer by layer. Spools of plastic, metal or even carbon fiber “filament” are loaded and spit on top of each other. “It’s basically like a hot glue gun on an arm that’s controlled, and the products are built from there,” Coppage said.

An original prototype file that Robert Copage digitally created to fashion his ring.

About 10 years ago, Coppage bought an FDM (fusion deposition modeling) printer for $200, which he says is the most common and cheapest 3D printer used to make larger objects with less. details, such as toys. He quickly switched to a high-quality SLA (stereolithography) printer for his jewelry. The SLA printer uses a light emitter to cure multiple layers which are coated multiple times with a resin base. “The (SLA) printer hardens every layer of the mould. It goes up and down and hardens, it’s the print style you see in my ads that’s the most advanced,” Coppage said.

Coppage uses a computer program called Rhino 3D that designs files to print ring bands, ring pins, and other metal items for her jewelry. With his wax injector, the printer makes a vulcanized rubber mold of his designs which is then coated thousands of times with a filament of plaster to add structure. He then puts the product in an oven until the wax is completely burnt off. Rare elements are then poured into the empty casting, creating a 3D printed gold or silver object. In the last step of this process, Coppage polishes and finishes the article manually. Depending on the product, it sometimes sets gemstones.

An emerald ring designed by Robert Coppage.

During the winter months, Coppage prints figurines and toys. At the end of January, he posted on the Facebook group Bar Harbor Barter & Swap to offer his printing services. “If someone wants to get into 3D printing, I don’t mind helping them. People can either send me a file and I’ll just print it out for them, or I can do something custom for them,” he said.

Coppage’s work is on sale at her boutique at 322 Main St. in Southwest Harbor or by visiting www.threepinesfinejewelry.com.

Ninah Rene

MDI native Ninah Rein covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is happy to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor’s degree in San Diego from the University of California.

Ninah Rene

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