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3D Printing the Perfect Proposal

Arena engagement 3D printed ring

Richard Arena is a Mechanical Engineer from Virginia who wanted to create a unique engagement ring for his fiancée Christine. Taking inspiration from her Pinterest account (we approve!), he set out to design an extra special ring. He collaborated with Scott Bailey, a custom jewelry designer, to make sure everything went smoothly.

The Process
We bought our Form 1+ 3D printer at Spark Product Development just as Formlabs was introducing Castable Resin. I have come to really trust the machine's reliability to quickly set up the file, press print, leave a job for hours on end and come in the next morning to an accurate and beautiful printed part.

Richard Arena designing an engagement ring
I spent many long nights at the office bringing the engagement ring through the rapid prototyping process.

Scott and I started with sketches I had made of stone arrangements and band shapes I thought Christine would like, and narrowed it down to a select few designs. The three stone design has been used many times before, so we wanted to be unique by creating an inverse arch pattern along with “plant leaf” inspired ledges to retain the sapphires. When I had the stones, we really began to make progress, as each stone has its own geometry and you want to make sure the prongs of your ring have a tight fit for a lifelong hold.

Richard Arena proposing to fiancee Christine

The Proposal
When I proposed on April 12, 2015, I chose to use a ring printed in Clear Resin as the one to pop the question, as the platinum version wasn’t ready yet. I painted the band and setting in silver and clear coated it, dyed the 3D printed sapphire stones blue, and used the Novus 1 polish to shine everything up. I used tiny dabs of epoxy to “set” each stone in place and then clear coated everything again. It was most definitely a prototype, but it certainly got the job done and Christine loved it!

Ring box 3d printed on the Form 1+

The suitcase ring box I used to propose is a scaled replica of this massive suitcase Christine used for grad school when I helped her move out to Illinois and back. We lived long distance for quite some time in our relationship building up to our engagement, so traveling has been a big part of making time to see each other as well as going off to explore different places.

Using the Form 1+ Desktop 3D printer
I've tinkered and printed with FDM, everybody touts layer height and that's great for curvature, but for feature resolution one is still bound by the geometry of the extrusion nozzle, and it's very difficult to print features less than 0.030 inches. For the Form 1+ 3D Printer, these smaller features are not only printed with ease, but the reliability and capability to repeat the same print over and over again made the ring iterations so informative, but more importantly, so much fun.

Rendering of engagement ring designed by Richard Arena
A rendering of the final ring design.

Advice for 3D Printing a Custom Engagement Ring
The first few models we made using Grey Resin served many purposes such as finger sizing, stone fitting, surface blending and inspection. The best advice I can give if you want to create your own engagement ring would include the following:

  • UV curing is key.

  • Oversize the ring per the shrink rates during molding/casting for the material of your choice.

  • Make your ring prongs at least 2 mm longer than you think you need. It makes the jeweler's job much easier when setting the stones as they have more to work with to clip and fold over to retain the stones.

Go behind the scenes with Golden Century Casting to see how fine jewelry is created. This family-owned casting house fuses new technology with age-old craftsmanship to create beautiful designs.

Read the story of how Formlabs CEO and cofounder Max Lobovsky created a custom engagement ring with 3D printing, featuring tips on how to create one yourself.