Put 3D Metal Printing Services To The Test, By Making A Watch

Have you ever been tempted by those metal 3D printing services? [Carter Hurd] has, and puts them to the test with a wristwatch. (Video, embedded below.)

It’s fair to say that among Hackaday readers you will find a very high percentage of 3D printer ownership compared to the general population, but for most of us that means an FDM or perhaps even an SLA printer. These two technologies have both effectively delivered polymer printing at the affordable end of the market, but as readers will also be aware they are only the tip of the 3D printing iceberg. We know the awesomeness of your industrial 3D printer is defined by the size of your wallet, and while our wallets are small, we are offered a chance at the big time through the services of rapid prototyping companies that will print our models on these high-end machines. Thus [Carter]’s project video is as much about using these services as it is about making a wristwatch.

The watch movement comes off-the-shelf, but we’re treated to the production of an enamel watch face on a sheet of copper, and the testing phase of trying an impressive range of designs in polymer print before selecting one for metal printing. The metal parts are SLS printed, and he gives them a polish on some parts. The crown takes some very careful assembly, with an o-ring for an attempt at water resistance.

The result is a very nice timepiece which would make this a fascinating video in itself, but we think that the investigation of metal printing services makes this an essential piece of viewing for anyone.

17 thoughts on “Put 3D Metal Printing Services To The Test, By Making A Watch

  1. Bloody clickbait :P

    You printed a WATCH CASE… NOT A WATCH. World of difference. Even an entry level SLA printer can manage a super high quaity watch case (Albeit in resin,but castable resins mean you can actually go further and make everything in metal :P )

    1. It doesn’t say “3D Printing a watch”. I can see how somebody could jump to your conclusion, but the titles of the HaD article and youtube video are not inaccurate, and don’t seem clickbaity to me.

      Then again, I did know somebody who has been (self taught) building there own watches, so probably have more idea of what to expect when somebody says “making a watch” or “DIY watch”.

    2. Hi,

      Sorry that you felt my video title is clickbait.

      Even some large established watch companies with plenty of R&D aren’t able to design their own in-house movements. I can’t 3D print a compact watch movement, but neither can anyone else.

      1. Citation need that any watch companies do ‘R&D’.

        Market research on how idiots are trying to impress each other is not R&D.

        They buy movements because that’s the cheap way and they know the whole deal is a solved problem.

        Aside: Any uncomplicated mechanical watch movement with more than 13 jewels is just a hangover of an old flex…they competed on how many unused jewels they could shove into there. More better! The more things change the more they stay the same.

        I bet some mechanical watch movements are laser cut from sheet chinesium.

        1. Citation requested? Sure,

          Here is an article that estimates the cost of developing an in-house movement to be between 8.3 million to 20.8 million USD: https://www.europastar.com/the-watch-files/those-who-innovate/1004092132-a-swiss-r-d-team-introduces-hosted-watch.html

          Also the swatch group R&D lab (asulab) filed 202 patents in 2021… that sounds like R&D to me! https://www.swatchgroup.com/sites/default/files/media-files/pr_key_figures_2021_en.pdf

          The watch industry does have lots of issues, but it’s not like it’s 100% bedazzling old tech… there are advancements. Check out the silicon oscillator in the Frederique Constant Slimline Monolithic as an example: that is new tech that took R&D. What an odd hill to die on…

          1. Those are idiots trying to impress each other.

            None of those movements do anything new or better.

            The problem is there ground is so fully explored it’s hard to do anything new. Doing something new and better is damn near impossible. So ‘new’ things for bragging rights is all they’ve got.

            Swatch makes disposable quartz watches.

            Developing an in house movement involves reading expired patents and examining 100 year old watches. But it’s cheaper just to buy and concentrate on cosmetics.

            When it’s been more than 50 years since the last open watch accuracy competition, it’s over, just fashion now.

            Show me a mechanical watch that keeps Islamic time (12 hours light, 12 hours dark, every day’s day/night hours different length, needs long/lat). I’ll be impressed. Still useless fashion.

  2. Numbers and prices for “high end” metal printers seem to be a TS/SCI.

    I only found one number for the EOS M 100, entry level printer, build volume Ø 100 mm x 95 mm, 200 W color laser, need 1,7 kW and hard air, 350.000 USD without anything else.

    Can someone fill the void? Other devices? What do I pay for 1 kg titan for EOS?

    Asking for a friend, kidney for sale!

  3. It is really compelling that you could 3D print, as he has here, features that would be impossible or incredibly difficult to CNC and therefore graduates this from reproduction to original art.

    I’ll have to think about that for my next steampunk project.

  4. Hey Carter,

    This is an awesome little project, thank you very much for sharing. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I’m a watchmaker and what HaHa says is very true, as well as the dats points you shared.

    Great job man!

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