3D printing and 3D scanning experts crack the Ocean’s 8 diamond necklace heist

Ocean’s 8, the latest in the line of star-studded line of Hollywood heist movies, recently made its UK debut yesterday with a 3D printer in a starring role.

Sitting on a desktop in the back of the gang’s workshop, a MakerBot Replicator Z18 seamlessly creates a Cartier diamond necklace that convinces an unwitting Anne Hathaway (Daphne Kluger in the film) that it’s the real thing.

Now, where many tech enthusiasts might grimace at the idea of desktop 3D printer achieving such a remarkable feat, I decided to put together my own crack team of 3D experts and prove how exactly, you could 3D print your own diamond necklace.

3D scanning glasses

In the film, Helen Bonham Carter (playing Rose Weil) completes a 3D scan of the original Cartier necklace using a pair of regular-glass spectacles. The data, a blemish-free CAD file, is then wirelessly transmitted to the rest of the team ready to 3D print.

Though Bonham Carter has gone for a more classic Wayfairer style of frame in the film, the 3D scanning glasses did remind me of something…

Playing around with the new Artec Leo at TCT 2017. Photo by Michael Petch
The Artec Leo 3D scanner at TCT 2017. Photo by Michael Petch

The Leo is a handheld 3D scanner made by Artec3D. According to Andrei Vakulenko, Artec’s Chief Business Development Officer, the solution is simple: “All that is left to do is to reduce our Artec Leo handheld 3D scanner to the size of a pair of glasses and develop a way of sending the file over WiFi at a speed of hundreds of gigabytes per minute,” he explains. “At the moment this takes several hours. But all is coming soon.”

Florian Bommier, application engineer at SHINING 3D, suggests a plan for the design of the glasses; “2 cameras would be on the side of the glasses,” i.e. hidden in the classic pins either side of Wayfarer glasses, “and the projector on the center.” However he points out, “We would need to change the projector to work with infrared to make the projected pattern invisible to human eye.”

Helena Bonham Carter and her high-tech scanning specs in Ocean's 8. Image copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Helena Bonham Carter and her high-tech scanning specs in Ocean’s 8. Image copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Hang on, what about the shine?

The inherent sparkle of diamonds certainly does pose a steep challenge to our 3D scanner makers. Short of dusting necklace with a fine powder to dull the luster, Bommier also suggests photogrammetry as a suitable approach.

“This process is commonly used in art and for large scans,” Bommier explains, “Google uses this process [to produce] 3D data of cities.”

CAD sculptor and jewelry designer Morgan Morey, winner of the 2017 3D Printing Industry Awards trophy design competition, also backs the idea. Making a CAD model of a diamond necklace according to Morey, “takes a matter of hours and would only need a half decent picture or diagram.”

Official drawing of the original Cartier replicated in Ocean's 8. Image via Cartier Archives Londres/Cartier
Official drawing of the original Cartier replicated in Ocean’s 8. Image via Cartier Archives Londres/Cartier

3D printed diamonds

Though detonation nanodiamonds (produced from an explosive mix of TNT and RDX) may have proved to be a 3D printer’s best friend when added to medical implants, achieving an optically clear and shiny stone on an FFF/FDM 3D printer isn’t technically feasible due to the material’s layers, and plasticity.

Morey explains;

“3D printed stones wouldn’t reflect /refract right even if you foil backed the stones.”

The most effective means of replicating diamonds, at least to an untrained eye, is to use cubic zirconia – a fact picked up on by the use of zirconium in the film. Cubic zirconia stones, Morey points out, can be picked up for “pennies” online.

Making the necklace settings

With the CAD data, photos, diagrams and diamonds in place, all that would be left to do at this is to make the settings for the stones. In a process often performed by CAD jewelry makers, the settings would be 3D printed to the exact specifications, cast in a metal, and plated – a job that could take trained technician/jeweler, like Mindy Kaling/Amita in the film, just a few days to complete.

Et voila! Your 3D printed Cartier diamond necklace is complete.

A replica diamond necklace as used in the Ocean's 8 film. Photo via 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Cartier
A replica, non 3D printer, diamond necklace as used in Ocean’s 8. Photo via 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Cartier

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Featured image shows Anna Hathaway (Daphne Kluger) wearing the Cartier diamond necklace in Ocean’s 8. Photo by Barry Wetcher © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.