Laser melting for creative gold work

Lichtenfels, Germany – Concept Laser has developed the Mlab cusing compact laser-melting machine for the generative production of jewelry, bracelets, and watch elements. This machine can introduce additive manufacturing within these industries. Unique products and small batches can be manufactured overnight from original stainless steel or precious metal powders.

In contrast to the traditional casting process, the metal laser melting method allows not only denser surfaces, but also the creation of geometries that have not previously been feasible. Creative design turns these precious pieces of jewelry into really eye-catching products.

The Mlab cusing machine allows the market segment for small intricate components to be "tapped into" in an economically viable way, with the further benefit that the additive method can also help to enhance the quality of the product. Cavity formation, rejects, and extensive reworking, as can arise with the casting method, are vastly reduced by employing laser additive manufacturing.

The Mlab cusing machine combines a high degree of freedom of geometry with high quality standards. Metal laser melting is also a very contemporary method. In contrast to the traditional casting method, it offers the advantage that the fully automatic production process can be allowed to run at all times, including through the night. This means that an order can be processed and delivered to the customer the very next day. Spontaneous requests, which are quite common from customers in these sectors, can be processed promptly. Metal laser melting means going directly from the idea to the piece of jewelry.

The concept behind the Mlab cusing machine is ideally suited to the production of components with delicate and intricate structures. It is perfect when high surface quality and the finest component structures are what really matter. Collaboration with customers from the jewelry and dental sectors in designing the machine means that the product works well in application. The Mlab cusing has extremely compact dimensions, measuring just 705 x 1833 x 955 mm (WxHxD).

Concept Laser is launching the new Mlab range with certified materials: cobalt-chromium alloy (remanium star CL), stainless steel alloy CL 20ES (1.4404), and 18 carat yellow gold. The company has already announced that silver and other precious metal alloys will be available in 2012. The robust and powerful laser at the heart of the system operates with a focus diameter of less than 25 µm in order to reproduce supreme surface qualities and intricate and delicate component structures.

Anyone wishing to switch from conventional cast production to generative production can enjoy new horizons when it comes to freedom of geometry, calculation, and order throughput thanks to the Mlab cusing from Concept Laser. Pieces of jewelry can now be produced with unusual geometries. It is also worth mentioning that the higher material density, which for high mechanical loads, offers advantages over cast parts. Cavity formation and large amounts of rework are now things of the past. The generative pieces of jewelry simply have to be separated from the construction plate; the supporting geometry is removed and finally polished.

Examples of the use of Concept Laser’s metal laser melting technology:

Spring watch clasp
These watch clasps are made from stainless steel CL20ES (1.4404) and manufactured by Concept Laser’s customer Eichenberger Casting in Switzerland. As well as the savings on time and costs, there was also a reduction in the number of production steps required. The two-part watch clasp is then fused using the laser. The density of the stainless steel allows the desired spring effect to be achieved.

Juan Franco, operations manager at Eichenberger Casting AG, says: "The parts display the necessary tension and therefore snap into place very well. Using conventional means, this effect can only be achieved with elaborate punching and forging."

Link bracelets
Eichenberger Casting has already made link bracelets that have links connected to lugs. Thanks to a design which is adapted to the laser-melting process, the flexible link bracelets can be produced in one piece. The previous working steps, such as welding and fitting together, are now no longer required.

The creative design freedom, quality benefits, and single process lights out manufacturing capability, combined with the compact size of the Mlab cusing system, will inspire the adoption of this technology within many jewelry workshops and dental laboratories in the near future.

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