Early in December of 2013, Sculpteo and Amazon announced that Amazon would host a Sculpteo gallery in Amazon’s jewelry department to offer 3D printed jewelry. It sounded interesting and very simple, so I gave it a try and ordered a bracelet made out of Alumide material. I placed the order on Jan 2, and it finally arrived on Jan 22. (That’s a long delivery time guys; you might want to speed it up.)
Now, I have a number of 3D printed objects on my desk, all made out of various materials. They are sturdy objects and can handle a good deal of touching without damage. So my expectations of a durable bracelet were high.
I could have chosen a number of materials for the bracelet, ranging from color nylon polyamide ($31 to $39) to Alumide. I chose the Alumide bracelet, which sold for $32 plus S&H.
The Alumide powder is a blend of polyamide and grey aluminum dust. According to Sculpteo’s website, it delivers a “strong, slightly flexible material that can withstand some pressure when bent. The surface has a grainy, sanded appearance and is slightly porous with shiny aluminum dust on it.”
The process used to make the bracelet was laser sintering, a process of using a laser to draw the object on the powder one layer at a time, heating the material to a melting point, where it then solidifies and bonds to the next layer drawn by the laser. Just about anything made through laser sintering is usually pretty durable, or at least that’s the expectation with laser sintering. Sculpteo says that layer thickness is 0.15 mm and the minimum size of visible details on most models is 0.5 mm. Minimum wall thickness for this technology is 1 mm. According to Sculpteo, “Alumide is more rigid than regular plastic. This material is convenient for complex models and moving parts.”
Well, not so much. I was able to put the bracelet on, but removing it from my wrist was a different matter. Applying light pressure to remove the bracelet resulted in the bracelet cracking in the middle. Cracking enough that it will probably break completely if worn again. For the price of $32 plus S&H, I expect better quality.
Granted the high temperatures of laser sintering may have altered the material’s properties, but if Sculpteo, or any 3D printing company, wants to build a market of satisfied 3D printed jewelry buyers, they better deliver better quality product. All it takes is one bad experience, and you have lost a customer. So far, this experience has been very disappointing, especially when compared to other 3D printing experiences I have had. So, caveat venditor!