ArtCAM has always been at the cutting edge of relief modeling for CNC machining. Some of you may also have seen ArtSTL on the installation options and wondered what it is for. This is an add-on module for ArtCAM to take a relief and convert it into an STL format model. An STL model is a solid computer mesh of triangular patches; these models can be produced by integrating rapid prototyping technology with ArtCAM. This technology particularly lends itself to making wax models for jewelry manufacture. Here we shall discuss the benefits of this.
Typically you have to machine the wax to create a model for casting from, this is an acceptable method in a lot of cases. However it does have some issues due to limited axis travel of most CNC machines and also on high volume pieces the time constraints of making many waxes.
In these cases by switching to Rapid prototyping machines you can expect to significantly reduce production time and cost for the completion of any project. The process works by using ArtSTL to convert any of your existing ArtCAM relief files, (including wrapped rings), into Stereo Lithography (STL) format. The STL file is then transferred over to the Rapid prototyping machines (or 3D printer).
Modelmaster have found that the 3D Thermojet from 3D Systems is a fast low cost solution for producing these. The ThermoJet has a "printer" head producing a flow of hot wax built up layer-by-layer and in a matter of minutes gives you an accurate wax model of your ArtCAM relief.
In using this method of model production, there is no need for programming toolpaths, setting material thickness, running toolpath simulations, or setting up tools and fixtures on the machine.
Using this technology jewelry designers are able to produce 40 rings (generated in ArtCAM) in less than 4 hours machine time. This could be 40 individual files or 40 copies of the same design. The work area of the ThermoJet is 10 x 7.5 x 8 in., which allows you to produce many designs simultaneously.
This is a viable tool for generating working models from ArtCAM and the equipment can be fully integrated and understood in a matter of a few hours. The cross design (pictured w/ article) was reproduced from a photograph. By using ArtCAM, we were able to replicate the design without compromising the elaborate detail of the piece. The finished part measures a mere 60 x 50 mm and by using a milling machine to create this model we end up with a 3.25 hour toolpath to keep the detail. The same ArtCAM file, converted with ArtSTL, was sent to the ThermoJet. We were able to produce 6 copies of the cross, 4 at original size and 2 scaled down to 75%, in 50 minutes.