TechForm Advanced Casting Technology began in aerospace and medical casting, where technological innovation, extreme precision, and quality requirements were standard.
In the 90s, the demand for platinum jewelry collided with the difficulty of casting platinum alloys, presenting challenges to the jewelry industry and opportunities for TechForm’s newly-created high-temperature casting process.
“In 1995, we were approached by Heraeus Precious Metals after they heard about our success with high-temperature alloys,” says Sarah Loveland, Vice President of TechForm. “Our first platinum castings were actually human bone staples, the only small wax patterns we had on hand for the test pour! They turned out beautifully. Our proprietary shell casting process that was designed for other high-temperature metals was perfect for platinum.”
Shortly after the initial bone staple castings were produced, TechForm entered the jewelry industry and has continued to perform research and share technical information on the casting of platinum group metals with the jewelry trade.
Published research over the last 28 years has included the groundbreaking effects of Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) on platinum alloy castings, wear testing, and comparative analysis of gold and platinum jewelry alloys, correcting of common platinum casting defects, and platinum casting techniques when working with resin-based models. In 2010, after several years of testing and development, TechForm began offering HIP.
“HIP is a densification process that virtually eliminates sub-surface porosity that is present in all platinum castings,” explains Sarah. “This technology is widely used in industrial castings but only became available as an added service to the general jewelry trade when we began offering it. HIP remains the only method to achieve a fully dense platinum casting.”
What advantages does TechForm’s use of HIP bring to the durability of the end product and the security of stone settings in platinum castings?
“A bench jeweler will notice immediately that HIP has eliminated internal porosity as they settle in to finish a piece because it is so much faster to work. Increased stone security is an additional and somewhat invisible benefit.” Sarah adds, “When a setting has been through the HIP process, you can rest assured that internal porosity that could cause a prong to fail has been essentially eliminated. HIP also greatly improves the ductility of platinum alloys without sacrificing any strength. A more dense and ductile prong results in a highly resilient and secure setting over the long life of a jewelry piece.”
After TechForm’s 2021 collaborative research project with fellow American Gem Society (AGS) member Platinum Guild International on the comparative wear resistance of gold and platinum jewelry alloys, they had the opportunity to perform in-house research on 3D-printed platinum. Sarah tells us more about the results of their study.
“In 2022, we published and presented research on our experiences printing and testing jewelry designs. In Mechanical Properties and Microstructures of Additively Manufactured 950 Platinum Ruthenium Alloy, their initial findings indicate that 950 platinum ruthenium parts produced through 3D printing (using the Laser Powder Bed Fusion method) have superior strength and hardness over the same alloy as a casting.” TechForm presented these results at PowderMet 2022, a conference by The Metal Powder Industries Federation, and the newly founded Jewelry Symposium in Minneapolis this year.
To learn more about TechForm, visit techformcasting.com.