August 8

From Tradition to Technology: Crafting Divinity with 3D Printing


The marriage of traditional craftsmanship with modern technology has brought about a remarkable transformation in the market for 3D-printed religious idols in India. By leveraging the capabilities of 3D printing, jewellery makers and idol manufacturers can now bring their imaginative designs to life with unprecedented precision and intricacy, surpassing the limitations of traditional fabrication methods. Envisioning this revolutionary technology, Imaginarium Jewel Tech has redefined the jewellery industry, offering a myriad of possibilities for crafting unique, personalised, and breathtaking pieces that cater to individual preferences and tastes. Imaginarium Jewel Tech provides a one-stop solution for on-demand tech-driven art through both CNC to 3D printing technologies.

The Demand for Intricate and Customised Idols

As the demand for intricate and customised idols continues to grow, the 3D printing industry stands at the forefront, providing a perfect solution for temples, households, and devotees seeking exquisitely detailed divine figurines. Moreover, the versatility of this technology goes beyond religious idols. 

It allows for the creation of a wide range of other products used in religious practices, such as intricately designed pooja thalis, accessories like diyas (oil lamps), incense holders, and bells. Additionally, religious artefacts, symbols, prayer beads (Mala), and decors like wall hangings, sculptures, and mandirs (shrines) find their intricate forms through this innovative manufacturing process. Furthermore, 3D printing plays a vital role in the preservation of heritage by creating replica artefacts that showcase cultural richness and significance.

Understanding 3D Printing for the Jewellery Industry

The process of 3D printing jewellery begins with creating a digital model of the desired design using specialised software. This model serves as a blueprint for the 3D printer to follow and print. Once the digital model is ready, it is sent to the available 3D printer, which works by adding thin layers of material, usually resin or metal, on top of each other to gradually build the desired shape. The printer analyses the digital model and precisely deposits the material, layer by layer. After the printing process is complete, the jewellery piece may or may not undergo a post-processing phase. If the part is meant for a master, post-processing is usually skipped.

Alternatively, if the part printed is for end use, it will involve removing any excess support structures or powder residue left from the printing process. The piece may also pass through additional treatments such as polishing or plating to achieve the desired finish and appearance.

Image 1.1: The printing process flow varies based on jewellery processing needs.

Master Printing for Scalability and Precision

Master casting refers to the process of creating a master model or prototype through 3D printing, which is then used to produce multiple copies of the same design through traditional casting techniques. Master casting allows for the efficient production of multiple identical copies of a design, enabling scalability and repeatability in jewellery manufacturing.

Image 1.2:- The idol printed in the Formlabs 3+ produced a detailed master (left) and the post-processed brass part without compromising on any features. (right)

Case 1: Crafting an Intricate Goddess Idol (Murti)

Image 1.3: The idol cast in brass was the centrepiece of the ‘Parikar’ setting.

As part of a bigger setting, Imaginarium embarked on the ambitious task of producing an intricate goddess idol (murti) using Formlabs’ high-wax content Castable Wax 40 resin. This particular project involved their onsite Form 3+ machine, which accomplished the printing process in 16 hours.

The Castable Wax 40 resin, a photopolymer resin by Formlabs, delivered the exceptional quality required for high-precision masters. It exhibited characteristics such as high dimensional accuracy, a smooth surface finish, and low ash content upon burnout. Additionally, its low viscosity and low shrinkage ensured the successful printing of delicate and intricate designs at resolutions as fine as 25-50 microns.

Image 1.4: The PreForm software suggests optimal orientation, supports, and layout, with the ability to manually refine as needed.

The goddess idol, now cast in wax resin, underwent post-processing to attain the desired brass finish. It became part of a traditional ‘Parikar’ piece, an altar base in Jainism where multiple religious deities are placed and worshipped. The successful integration of Formlabs’ 3D printing technology in this project demonstrated its capability to handle intricate and complex designs for religious artefacts.

Case 2: 3D Printing a 12-inch Ganesha Idol

Another avenue in 3D jewellery printing is end-use parts that are produced without the need for additional casting or manufacturing steps. End-use parts can be made from various materials, including precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum, as well as other materials like resin or ceramic. These end-use parts can include complex filigree patterns, delicate clasps, decorative elements, or even entire structures.

Imaginarium showcased another feat of 3D printing excellence by producing a 12-inch Ganesha idol using Formlabs' Form 3L printer. The process took just 40 hours of print time, and the layer thickness was an impressive 100 microns.

For this project, Formlabs' standard engineering black resin was used, highlighting intricate details with its matte finish, making it ready to use right off the printer. The engineering black resin proved to be an apt material, especially for presentation pieces and display models.

The Form 3L, with its large build volume of 33.5 x 20 x 30 cm (13.2 x 7.9 x 11.8 in), allowed for the seamless creation of this impressive 12-inch idol. Its meticulous precision of 0.35mm ensured that even the minutest feature of the Ganesha idol was accurately printed.

The large-format printer utilises not one but two powerful lasers to selectively cure liquid resin, resulting in highly-precise prints. Its advanced optical system ensures uniform laser exposure across the entire build area, maintaining consistent print quality throughout. Form 3L employs a cartridge-based system for resin management, ensuring hassle-free material handling and reducing the risk of spills or contamination. It also offers mid-print updates and alerts when the print is done, skipping 24x7 monitoring; enabling the team to focus on maximising productivity.

This 1-ft idol, along with intricate jewellery and other small-sized idols, became a highlight at multiple jewellery exhibitions and display pieces at Imaginarium’s gallery, where the beauty and precision of Formlabs' 3D printing technology garnered attention. 

Video 1.1:- The 12-inch Ganesha Idol printed exclusively for the IIJS 2021 using the Form 3L.

Imaginarium's partnership with Formlabs extends beyond just accessing their high-quality printers. Their integrated software, PreForm, works with STL or OBJ files and displays the ideal layout, orientation, and support for successful printing. This seamless workflow enables users to print without specialized training, and an integrated dashboard allows for remote monitoring and same-day turnaround in creating 3D printed jewellery and figurines. 

"We have witnessed a paradigm shift in the religious idol and jewellery manufacturing since incorporating Formlabs' 3D printers. The precision, scalability, versatility of materials and customer support offered, has elevated our craft to new heights, empowering us to deliver exquisite pieces. This technology allows us to celebrate the essence of divinity while embracing modernity and design freedom." - Kamlesh Parekh, Director at Imaginarium Jewel Tech.

The amalgamation of devotion and advanced technology has bestowed limitless creative possibilities upon the religious idol and jewellery industry. Formlabs' 3D printing ecosystem, under the visionary guidance of Imaginarium, has redefined craftsmanship, enabling the creation of intricate and personalized masterpieces that resonate with the spiritual and aesthetic aspirations of individuals. 

As the Indian market for 3D printing continues to burgeon, the journey of crafting divinity with technology is set to mesmerize the world with its innovative spirit and cultural reverence. The fusion of traditional faith with cutting-edge technology has opened a new chapter in the craft of crafting divinity.

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