Understanding the CAD/CAM Process

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In last month’s blog post, we introduced you to the CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) process at Jeff Johnson & Co. As we pointed out, Johnson started using CAD/CAM software to design jewelry while he was still working at the Diamond Cellar. In the years since then, he’s become even more knowledgeable about the process, and today CAD/CAM design is a mainstay at Jeff Johnson & Co.

“The best thing about CAD/CAM is that it allows for the visualization of a finished product before anything is physically made. The ability for a customer to visualize things ranges from not at all (in some people) to a complete understanding just by talking about it,” Johnson explained. “Regardless, it’s a great, new, first checkpoint in the process to make sure we’re on the right track for the customer’s expectations and what they envision.

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Custom Design

Johnson makes an important distinction between custom design and CAD/CAM. “Custom design can be anything from a hand-carved wax to fabricating something new out of old pieces to using the CAD/CAM technology,” he explained. “It kind of depends on whether the customer already has something to start with and how he or she envisions the piece.” But custom design, he said, is not just putting a stone in a new mounting, although that’s the simplest take on it. “At Jeff Johnson & Co., we can help people with a custom design that is as simple as a solitaire ring all the way up to an antique reproduction.”

What’s the best thing about the CAD/CAM process—or custom design in general? It’s the fact that the customer can share an image or concept, or a collection of different design images, and then pull small details from each and combine them into one piece of jewelry. “Having a general idea of what the customer wants, at a minimum, is helpful for getting started,” Johnson said. “Without at least a tiny bit of guidance from the customer, we may spend a lot of time going in the wrong direction.”

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Listening to the Customer

Naturally, customers change their minds. But thanks to the CAD/CAM process, the customer can see what the design looks like on the computer. If it’s not quite right, making the necessary changes is not a big deal. This is best accomplished by forming a working relationship between the goldsmith and the customer, and that’s something that the professionals at Jeff Johnson & Co. do quite well. “It’s about forming relationships and being a good listener,” Johnson said. “We listen and interpret what the customer is trying to convey.”

Choosing the Right Approach

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The decision about whether to use computer-aided design or a handcrafted wax often depends on the piece of jewelry. Hand-carved pieces are still the best way to create organic designs of items with complex flowing curves and shapes, like the petals of a flower. “In this case, (CAD/CAM) might be worth it for a production piece, but if you’re doing just one, a master wax carver can do it much faster,” Johnson explained.

The CAD/CAM process has been growing in popularity mostly during the last five years. It gives customers the opportunity to visualize a piece of jewelry before making a wax or without making a wax, and it allows for changes in the design. But it’s also useful for customers who live out of town and aren’t able to see the wax design in person. Nevertheless, a wax model is still an easier way to experience the scale of a piece. Because the wax model is tangible, the customer can see firsthand how big or small it is. And, a wax model creates excitement as the process of designing and making a piece of custom jewelry evolves.

Either way, the goldsmiths at Jeff Johnson & Co. have the knowledge and experience to adopt the custom design process that is right for your piece of jewelry. Talk to us today about your custom project, and we’ll share some additional insights based on our years of experience.

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Jeff Johnson & Co. is a full-service jeweler located in Upper Arlington, Ohio. We specialize in custom engagement rings, keepsakes for significant moments, and giving new life to family heirlooms. Our gemologists are trained by the Gemological Institute of America, and they work closely with each customer to ensure that we meet your vision and beyond. Stop by our showroom at 5025 Arlington Centre Blvd. (off Henderson Road), call 614-459-8890, orjjandcompany.com. You can also follow us on Facebook at Jeff Johnson & Co.