Arrow Ring Size 6 by Courtney, etc. in 14k rose gold, 14k white gold, and 18k gold

Cast metals at Shapeways combine the cutting-edge technology of 3D printing with the lost-wax casting process developed by humans thousands of years ago. Most cast-metal products from Shapeways are jewelry, given size constraints and the cost of materials.

When it comes to cast metals, 3D printing has the advantage of being able to make complex shapes with interlocking parts that would be impossible using traditional processes. That said, engraving will not be as fine what as a laser can do. Also, precious metals are softer than steel, so they might not be ideal for, say, a bottle opener.

Origami Elephant by Necora in Premium Silver

Here’s how metals are cast: A wax rendering of the 3D model comes out of the 3D printer, then plaster flows around the wax to make a mold. Once the plaster sets, the wax gets melted out of the mold and molten metal gets poured in. Once the metal cools, the plaster is broken away. The metal is will be polished and, if applicable, plated. This video featuring Lucas Goossens of the LucasPlus Shapeways shop, will give you a glimpse:


Shapeways casts 3D models in platinum and several types of gold plus silver, bronze, and brass in a variety of surface finishes. Brass can also be plated in gold or rhodium.

Happiness – Lady Signet Ring by Latte.A.L in Polished Bronze

Evelyn Leung, a jewelry designer who runs the Latte.A.L Shapeways shop, says that cast metals suit her design aesthetic better than steel or plastic. “I generally design with the plated metals’ printing guidelines in mind,” she says. ”In my experience, if the design passed the validation checks for plated metals, they will very likely pass for precious metals.“

Evelyn gives a few other reasons why she focuses first on plated precious metals:

  • gold-plated options are significantly less expensive than gold, “so you don’t have to spend a fortune to get some prototypes in hand”
  • plated metals come polished to a sheen, “so right out of the box it is picture ready, which saves a lot of time”
  • once you successfully order your product, it will be out of First to Try, which will help some customers decide to make a purchase

Evelyn likes how her designs look in solid metals, too. And some customers prefer the texture of raw brass or bronze.

What have you made in cast metals? Share your projects in the comments below for a chance to be featured on Shapeways Magazine.