Wednesday, June 24, 2020

News: AMRC engineers' time to shine


A watch-style bracelet made from "space glass" that has a custom, uncut diamond in its crown could be the centrepiece of a new luxury lifestyle brand, thanks to design and machining experts at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The sophisticated piece of jewellery is the brainchild of entrepreneur and open-banking specialist Steffan van Molendorff, who has taken his passion for motorcycles, engineering and diamonds and used them as inspirational fuel for his adventure lifestyle brand, 6ixt9 (pronounced sixty-nine).

The 50-year-old South African has big ambitions for the brand and one of the concepts he is currently developing is a bracelet which looks just like a regular watch except in the place of a clock face sits a raw, uncut diamond.

The idea was little more than a pencil drawing on a scrap of paper when AMRC machine tool partner Starrag put Steffan in touch with engineers at the AMRC in Rotherham, which is part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult network of world-leading research centres.

It is there that machining research engineer Emma Parkin, together with design and prototyping engineer Valdis Krumins, began work on turning the rough sketch into a reality.


Steffan (pictured), said: "I knew from early on that one of the products I wanted to do was something really unique and different and aimed at a very niche, sophisticated market. That's how I came up with the idea of taking a rough diamond and putting it inside a watch casing.

“I came to the AMRC and met Emma and Valdis, sharing with them an idea and a simple paper drawing. About two weeks later the first CAD designs came through from Valdis and they were amazing. At that stage I knew we were on to something special and unique.

“Emma spoke so enthusiastically about the machining process and the different materials we could make the watch-case from - that's when she told me about Zerodur, a type of glass-ceramic that can be machined and is used a lot in space applications. I loved the idea of having "space glass" as the material for the watch casing.

“The whole process has been fantastic. Emma and Valdis have been so supportive and creative in coming up with ideas. They have been wonderful to work with. The designs which Valdis completed have now been registered for design protection in the UK and EU and I’m very excited to work with the AMRC team on this project and look forward to an interesting future."

The machining work for the prototype is on hold due to coronavirus restrictions but the extra time has allowed Emma to carry out further investigation into UK suppliers of the material, which is manufactured by international technology group Schott. She is also exploring suitable cutting tools and machining strategies. Three to five prototypes will be made which Steffan can use to market his jewellery idea.

Emma said: "Part of the project will also involve documenting everything we do so we can create a knowledge transfer pack that can be shared with Steffan so he can take that information away with him and know what machines need to be used, which cutting tools, and have a detailed method of manufacture for his product."

With a price tag of between £10k-£12k, and even up to £100k depending on the level of customisation, Steffan's jewellery does not come cheap.

The project, paid for by the AMRC using funds from the High Value Manufacturing (HMV) Catapult, is part of the AMRC’s commitment to supporting smaller and medium sized businesses.

AMRC website

Images: AMRC


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