CAD/CAM designer

,  27 November 2012

CAD/CAM designers use CAD (computer-aided design) to produce jewellery designs and CAM (computer-aided manufacture) to create a product.

The size and type of company will determine how involved you become in the production of the jewellery. Photo: Holts Academy
The size and type of company will determine how involved you become in the production of the jewellery. Photo: Holts Academy

What does a CAD/CAM designer do?

CAM may be used to produce:

  • individual prototypes as samples (including 'rapid prototyping')
  • models for casting
  • large-scale jewellery manufacturing.

CAD designers use a range of software. Basic imaging software they might use might include Illustrator and PhotoshopRhino is a 3D modelling software package.

You might use CAD to show customers animated representations of your designs.

There is also specialist design software for the jewellery industry. Titles include 3Design, Gemvision MatrixArtCAM Jewelsmith and JewelCAD

A few jewellery businesses use laser scanning to scan and produce models of physical objects. Rapid Prototyping technology can be used to make sample pieces, along with master models for casting.

CAD designs can be turned into CAM instructions. Known as CNC (computer numerical control), these instructions can drive cutting, milling, and grinding machines.

What is the job like?

As a CAD/CAM designer, you could work:

  • for a company which turns other designers’ ideas or sketches into CAD/CAM designs, if they do not have the time or skills to do their own
  • in-house for a jewellery manufacturing company
  • for a jewellery company, using CAD/CAM to design jewellery collections, which are manufactured elsewhere.

The size and type of company will determine how involved you become in the production of the jewellery.

As well as designing, employers may want you to be able to draw up specification sheets for manufacturers. They may even want you to take a design collection through the production process.

You may have contact with customers, either members of the public or business customers from other jewellery companies. You might use CAD to show them animated representations of your designs.

A CAD/CAM designer working for a jewellery company may travel to meet suppliers, in the UK and overseas. They may attend shows and exhibitions to keep in touch with the latest trends.

You could also choose to be self-employed. In this case, you may do a range of design work for companies or individuals. If you have jewellery making skills yourself, you may choose to make some of your own designs.

How do I become a CAD/CAM designer?

If you work for a jewellery or accessories company, you need to have a strong creative flair. The employer will be looking for an interest in fashion and new trends.

They will expect you to be able to inject fresh ideas into the company’s range. You may be expected to design entire collections, perhaps several times a year.

Employers may be looking for an interest in fashion and new trends.

Employers may also expect you to have knowledge of jewellery making techniques such as casting or gold/silversmithing.

As well as creativity, whether you work for a company or are self-employed, it’s important to:

  • have good commercial skills – you need to know what will sell
  • be able to work to budgets and deadlines
  • be a good communicator – you need to be able to describe your designs and get your ideas across to customers, whether they are commercial manufacturers, retail buyers or members of the public.

If you are self-employed, you need business skills so you can market your services, deal with finances and develop your business.

What qualifications and training do I need?

Courses in CAD/CAM are widely available.

The Diploma in Precious Metal CAD/CAM at Level 3 or 4 is intended specifically for jewellery design. Among other places, it's available at Holts Academy of Jewellery.

If you want to study jewellery design or jewellery making alongside CAD/CAM, there are courses at different levels.

Holts Academy offers apprenticeships in jewellery manufacture which include CAD design. Holts Academy also offers the Industry Certified CAD Diploma (ICCD) at Level 3 and Level 4. 

College courses include:

Degree courses are available throughout the UK, including: 

Some courses have entry requirements, such as two A levels (or equivalent) for degree courses. You will also need to show a portfolio of your work.

As well as English and maths, art and design, design and technology (resistant materials) and IT are relevant subjects.

There are also short courses in CAD techniques or in particular software. These are for CAD designers to update or add to their skills.

How much can I earn?

As a CAD designer for a jewellery and accessories company, your salary might well increase with experience.

After a few years in the industry, you could eventually earn up to £30,000 per year, increasing to greater amounts with experience and seniority.


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