Jewelry Studio Notes: 3D Scanning & Printing — Mousse the Cat Has a Litter of Kittens

We all thought Mousse the cat was a boy. And boy, were we wrong. Through the magic of 3D scanning and printing, an Ann Arbor, MI, company produced three identical kittens about a half inch tall.

Why is this important? These little guys will eventually be cast in sterling silver as multiples.

Here’s how it was done:
  • I carved Mousse the cat out of wax during a class with Kate Wolf in Portland, Maine. He was about 1.75 inches tall so I could see what I was doing under high magnification.
  • When I got home, I contacted an online 3D scanning and printing company in Ann Arbor and asked if they could reproduce my carving in a tiny size. Kate had suggested students try this.
  • I dropped him off with Anna Brown and Owen Tien at Thingsmiths. (There are probably companies like this in your community.) Anna, a sculptor by training, scanned Mousse with a laser several times, expertly moving him around and checking him for errors on her computer.
  • Prices vary, but this particular set up and scan cost me $100.
  • When the computer file was done, Thingsmiths’ Edward Burch used a 3D printer to create three tiny white kittens.

Anna gave me a copy of the file that I can send to other companies for printing if I want.

Next Step: Now that the hard part is over, I’ll get these little kittens cast in sterling, make molds and produce them in multiples. Then they will be used as original components in future jewelry projects. Stay tuned.


Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. Her story on Colorado diamonds appears in the September-October issue and she will do a step-by-step how-to article on scanning and printing in 2018. This entire adventure was made possible by a professional development grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and Art in the Loft. You can reach her at betsylehndorff@gmail.com.

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