In February, I covered 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:
On the Time Blog, the watchmakers show a side by side comparison between a watch that has been 3D printed and a watch that has been cast using traditional subtractive manufacturing, with the details printed into the sides of the watch face attesting to the possibilities of refinement that can be achieved with 3D printing.
As if being the first watchmaker to 3D print a gold watch wasn’t enough, Hopstroff has gone one step further into the future classic with its limited line (only 12 will be made) of watches powered by a caesium gas chamber-powered atomic clock. Produced in partnership with the Department of Defense, the atomic pocket watch will be released in November, not that you’re ever likely to see one.
Source: Hoptroff Ltd.