Jewelry technology has evolved so rapidly since the ‘90s, it’s easy to feel like yesterday’s technology will be outdated tomorrow. Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), however, are here for the long haul, so learning to use them is critical to moving your business forward. Although there’s no master key to immediate expertise, building a foundation using these general bits of advice will put you on the path to CAD/CAM success.
CAD Best Practices
Here are 7 easy tricks to master CAD best practices
Learn to draw
Traditional drawing skills improve creativity and strengthen your ability to conceptualize designs. Even if you currently consider yourself a bad artist, you’ll grow with routine practice. Focus on one aspect of art at a time to avoid being overwhelmed or rotate what you practice each week. Focus on learning to “think on paper”—not creating the next Mona Lisa.
Follow production standards
When you know the jewelry creation process and assembly limitations, you’re more likely to design something that can be created. This saves time tweaking designs, and over time, knowing what can or can’t be created becomes second nature. Focus on learning what’s doable.
Attend a class (or two)
Although users can teach themselves, you may have a slower learning curve without help and not realize the full power or limitations of CAD/CAM until someone explains it. Leave class knowing your support system, be it the vendor or class leader. Consider attending one of Stuller's training events in the months to come.
Model your design with the end product in mind
Always make sure the model is drawn correctly. A piece that is 1mm in the software will be 0.7mm after preparation and polishing. Follow Stuller’s CAD/CAM production standards (attached) to ensure your model is achievable from ideation to creation.
Save, then save again and again
Computer and software crashes are inevitable when dealing with technology in any industry. Don’t lose hours of work on an expensive piece due to a power outage or computer malfunction. Watch for vendor notices and updates to stay informed about your machines and software.
Join a CAD/CAM community
Forging connections with other CAD/CAM users provides motivation to push through the learning curve. This will also give more insider tips and tricks from those who know the full power of CAD best practices. You’ll also have a support network when unable to contact your vendor or class instructor, cutting down your time spent troubleshooting. Try joining Jewelers Helping Jewelers on Facebook, for starters.
Practice, practice, practice
Perhaps the most important lesson of all: No master CAD/CAM user gained their skills overnight. The more you practice, the quicker you’ll improve. Official training can give you a solid foundation for CAD/CAM success, but nothing beats experience, perseverance, and a love for learning.
CAD/CAM can be intimidating to jewelers beginning their digital journey. Easing yourself into the process clears the fear and ends the need to outsource all design and manufacturing work. When competing with those who do know the technology, committing yourself to CAD/CAM means you’ll be on the level of your competitors and impress consumers who may go elsewhere with their vision. So take a chance learning CAD/CAM. You might find your business reaching milestones you never thought imaginable.
Download Stuller's Production Standards Guide Below for more CAD best practices
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