Delcam's ArtCAM software helps save time and money
Marc Williams Goldsmiths designs pieces solely for sale in its stores. Marc works in gold, some sterling silver, other precious metals, and fine gemstones diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. "Our business is built around artistry and craftsmanship rather than manufacturing,” said Marc, some of whose pieces have sold for nearly $300,000. "We don’t do any costume jewelry.”
Marc bought ArtCAM around a year ago as part of the turnkey Art2Part system from ModelMaster. He thinks the benefits for jewelry retailing from ArtCAM are amazing. "Basically we get a third pair of earrings in the time we previously needed to produce two pair,” he said. "And because ArtCAM gives us much more precise control of the metal volume, that third pair is essentially free. This is a great plus in a retail business” where pieces may languish for weeks in display cabinets.
The many processes in modifying designs are drastically simplified. "With traditional engraving and modeling methods, you needed about 100 pieces to recoup that time across the piece’s ranges of sizes and design modifications,” Marc explained. "ArtCAM’s ability to quickly modify, resize and mirror a new design sharply lowers the break-even point on new families of pieces. The sizing functions allow us to very quickly transfer a design from a brooch to earrings, then a necklace, then a belt buckle,” he added, "To make a range of sizes in earrings, we just reset the ArtCAM parameters and, bingo, you’re right there whether it’s 5, 7, 9 or 11 millimeters."
Best of all are bracelets and rings. "For a five-link or seven-link bracelet, we only have to design one link. After that, the software duplicates them,” Marc said. With rings, he creates a design and adds a border; the software creates the size ranges. "The beauty of ArtCAM is the gains in time in making different sizes and multiple pieces, all of which helps lower break-even points.”
Sometimes this precision is used in subtle ways. In cuff links, for example, the left and right links have precisely angled backs and an elliptical shape on each stud where it slips through the cuff of the shirt. "When it’s done right each cufflink seems to pop into place,” he said. "But getting it just right requires extreme tolerances. No human can work to those tolerances, but they are essential.”
In the first three months after getting ArtCAM, the team had created about 90 designs and made about 400 individual pieces from those designs. "Making the duplicate pieces is really easy with ArtCAM because the only differences are sizes and thickness’,” Marc noted. Typically he will make a set of six pieces in five sizes, 30 in all.
"We began making money back right away with ArtCAM,” he added. "But the really important point is that ArtCAM helps us keep the money. That’s always the problem in any business. On the other hand, we make pieces that sell for six figures. When that’s taken into consideration, the ROI on ArtCAM is essentially meaningless.”
Marc came to ArtCAM as equal parts artist and businessman. He was classically trained in drawing and sculpture at the Philadelphia College of Art, "back when computers were for physics students.” As a businessman, he read the ArtCAM textbook through twice, cover to cover. "I did that because I did not need another tool not being used, gathering dust.”
After that, and ArtCAM training from ModelMaster, the learning curve was easy. "I am graphics oriented and draw all day long,” Williams said. "I had been designing things on a Mac for years. There were no real problems with transitioning back and forth” between the Mac and the PC on which ArtCAM runs. Williams uses ArtCAM primarily to makemodels for investment casting. Most milling is done in a highdensity urethane plastic. "Cutting the average piece takes 30 to 40 minutes,” he said. "The longest cut is a few hours if we have a 5x7 inch blank full of, say, eight pieces. I cut the quick jobs during the day, in between designing new pieces and waiting on customers.” Longer jobs are started just before going home at night.
"I am really addicted to ArtCAM,” Williams summarized. "It is rapidly changing the way I build my pieces. Many jewelry retailers seem to think, ‘This is not for me because it’s CAD/CAM and I am not in manufacturing or engineering.’ They are making a big mistake.”
Goldsmith Website: www.webgoldsmith.com