Metal 3D Printing and Its Polishing

Traditional metal sculpturing methods such as grinding, machining and milling are known as subtractive metal manufacturing. Metal 3D printing however, is additive metal manufacturing. By layering the material to slowly form the complete shape of the design, it magnificently saves  metal material.

While we have seldom heard about metal printing, it is actually been used in many areas such as space exploration, aerospace, and healthcare. For example:(see also :

“In space exploration, for example, industry leaders such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA have fully embraced metal 3D printing as a way to produce rocket ship parts that have drastically lowered costs while highly improving performance. SpaceX, for example, relied heavily on the custom metal parts for the combustion chamber of the SpaceX SuperDraco engine.

NASA was able to develop a turbopump for their rocket engine that was put together with 45 percent fewer parts than pumps made through conventional manufacturing processes. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before an entire rocket engine is capable of being 3D printed.”(from TechCrunch, last access 9th Feb 2017)

In healthcare:

“the American Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of 3D-printed metal implants for medical procedures.

Recent successful applications of metal 3D printing in the medical sector include a titanium 3D-printed skull implant and a 3D-printed rib cage — both of which were custom tailored for cancer patients using digital scans after tumor removal surgeries.”(From TechCrunch, last access 9th Feb 2017)


3D metal Printing is a rising trend:

“Still, even marginal improvements in speed might give the right company a toehold in the growing market for metal 3D printers. While the numbers of printer sales are paltry—just 348 metal 3D printers were sold in 2013, according to Wohlers Report 2014—metals, and the concomitant printers, are the fastest growing sector of a 3D-printing field expected to be worth more than $17 billion by 2020.” (from FORTUNE.COM, last access 9th Feb 2017)

As the trend grows, metal printing would be more prevalent and the cost for it is very likely to reduce further in the future. As such, metal 3D printing can be a possible way to cut cost and save materials.

Beside the conventional way of sanding surface of 3D printed parts with sand paper or sanding machines(large or handhold turning machine), there is an alternative way–Bead blasting, or bead abrasive blasting, sand blasting.

What is sandblasting and why is it used?

“Sandblasting is an effective cleaning process for hard surfaces with the use of high pressure air. The sandblasting method can be used for smoothing, shaping and cleaning hard surfaces, debarring, blending and stress relieving of any part that is hard. This process also removes slag, rust, and imperfections in steel as a preparation for various coatings. The effect of sandblasting is similar to that of using sandpaper, but provides a more even finish.

Where is Sandblasting used?

The sandblasting process can be used effectively on steel, iron, copper, brass, aluminum and glass. Sandblasting can be used to clean up fabricated parts, structural steel, castings, pipes (inside and out) pipe fittings, auto body parts and machine parts. This process can also be used on new materials to remove rust, paints, stains and glues. Sand blasting works for automotive restoration. It helps avoid a lot of hard labor, especially when working with deeply convoluted surfaces like a rusty wheel rim.”(from CompetitiveEdgeCoating ;ast access 9th Feb 2017)


What is Glass Bead Blasting?

“Glass bead blasting is a metal cleaning process that creates a clean, bright, uniform matte texture. The glass beads are applied to a surface using low air pressure. This process removes paint, rust and corrosion from all types of metals, from autos, trucks, equipment, machinery engine blocks, heads and intakes. Using the bead blasting process a surface can be cleaned without any damage. The beads come in a variety of sizes. The smaller the glass beads, the smoother the surface, larger beads produce a more textured finish.

Where is Glass Bead Blasting used?

Glass Bead blasting can be used on a wide range of materials including aluminum, stainless steel, copper, steel, brass, titanium, sterling silver, bronze, metal, glass, plastic and rubber. It can be used in the restoration processes of cars and trucks. Glass bead blasting is also an effective cleaning process on equipment, machinery engine blocks, heads and intakes. Bead blasting is a low cost process and can be used on decorative parts including: custom auto parts and custom motorcycle parts.” (from CompetitiveEdgeCoating last access 9th Feb 2017)

Bead blasting is not necessarily manual. It can be done automatically with machines. ( last access 9th Feb 2017)

reference video: from Youtube Channel Jeffrey Santo

posted on 3rd April 2013

last access 9th Feb 2017

here is another video showing automated sandblasting machine for glass frames, which can relate to jewelries

from Youtube Channel norblastsrl, posted on 5th April 2016, last access 9th Feb 2017



Phoenix and its category-Which bird to depict and why?

Phoenix(凤凰feng huang) are a mythological birds in Chinese history  that reign over other birds.

Originally, Feng Huang are two different birds of same breed. Feng is the male and Huang is the female. Later, during Yuan Dynasty, the two words are combined to one Fenghuang as the king of birds. As the image of dragon is slowly accepted to describe male emperor,phoenix is then used to portray females empresses.  

5 types of phoenix: 五凤 

太史令蔡衡曰:凡像凤者有五色,多赤者凤,多青者鸾,多黄者鵷雏,多紫者鸑鷟,多白者鸿鹄-ref  夜航船 卷十七 四灵部 by 张岱

Loosely translate:

“There are 5 types of bird look like phoenix:

With feather mainly in scarlet, it is a phoenix凤,

red phoenix image source:
red phoenix
image source:


mainly in Blue, it is a Luan鸾 

luan-blue phoenix image source:
luan-blue phoenix
image source:


mainly in yellow, it is a Yuan Chu鵷雏

yuanchu-yellow phoenix image source:
yuanchu-yellow phoenix
image source:


mainly in purple, it is a Yue Zhuo鸑鷟

yuezhuo-purple phoenix image source:
yuezhuo-purple phoenix
image source:


mainly in white, it is a Hong Hu 鸿鹄 ”

honghu-white phoenix image source:
honghu-white phoenix
image source:

In fact they are all categorized under phoenix, but only the scarlet phoenix is of the highest status and purest of them all.

There is other version of explanation regarding the types of phoenix. From <Classic of mountain and Sea>:There are three multicolored birds, one is Huang皇, one is Luan鸾, one is Feng凤 .《山海经》曰:有五采鸟三名,一曰皇鸟,一曰鸾鸟,一曰凤鸟。

Some versions say that Luan鸾 is actually the same breed with 凤 feng and 凰 huang, just it is not an adult bird. As Luan grows up, it will become Feng or Huang. Nevertheless, all these are fairy tales and there isn’t a scientific way to verify as they are made up of people’s imagination.  





Here come back to my jewelries. I need to decide which bird to depict on each jewelry:

Choker as Queen Consort/Empress Consort–one bird 皇后

Ring as Imperial Noble Consort–one bird 皇贵妃

Cuff as Consort–4 birds 妃

Spectacle chain as Dame-6 birds 嫔 

Necklace pendant as Noble Lady-feather/wing 贵人

Hairpin as Xiunv-feather 秀女

There is no doubt that phoenix will be depicting Queen Consort皇后.

red phoenix image source:
red phoenix
image source:

As for Imperial Noble Consort皇贵妃, since it is also a single bird, there must be a different meaning of the bird, which is why I research on the breed of phoenix.  The position of Imperial Noble Consort is very close to Queen Consort, as such choosing a breed of phoenix that is inferior than pure phoenix would be ideal. However, if the phoenix only varies by colors, it is pretty difficult to reflect in the jewelry as the material would most likely be in the same color(unless adding crystals). I realize among the 5 breeds of phoenix, the white-color breed, 鸿鹄 hong hu, has both mythological meaning and daily-life meaning. the rest 3 breeds: 鸾luan, 鵷雏yuan chu , 鸑鷟yue zhuo are seldom heard nowadays and probably most Chinese cannot even read the words. 鸿鹄 Hong Hu can be explained as the type of bird that fly very high and very far, such as eagle, Dayan, swan, crane. It is in modern context used to describe people  with great ambitions. There is one idiom as 燕雀安知鸿鹄之志(How can swallows and sparrows understand the ambition of a Hong Hu), means “How can a common fellow read the mind of a great man?” As such, it is very suitable to use the bird hong hu on Imperial Noble Consort because she has the great ambition to defeat substitute the current Queen Consort.

honghu-non-mythological image source:
image source:

4 birds are used for the cuff as Consort妃. As it comes down to consort, the bird is less prestigious. The first bird came into my mind is peacock. Why? Because usually the 4 consorts are always openly or secretly competing with each other, on who is the prettiest, who wears the most luxuries, or who are more favored by the emperor. It is just like peacocks showing of their feather and attracting the opposite sex. Although the fanned peacocks are males in nature, this metaphor is still applicable to the consorts and their jealousy.

peacock image source:
image source:

6 birds are used for spectacle chain for Dame嫔. Cuckoos could be the choice. Cuckoo bird is famous for their zygodactyl feet and laying eggs in other birds’ nest or other members’s nest from the same breed. The cuckoo egg hatches earlier than the host’s, and the cuckoo chick grows faster; in most cases the chick evicts the eggs or young of the host species. The chick has no time to learn this behavior, so it must be an instinct passed on genetically. This instinct for competition and eliminating enemy reminds me of the rivals of concubines and their kids.

Fun fact:Cuckoos have various strategies for getting their egg into a host nest. Different species use different strategies based on host defensive strategies. Female cuckoos have secretive and fast laying behaviors, but in some cases, males have been shown to lure host adults away from their nests so that the female can lay her egg in the nest.[23] Some host species may directly try to prevent cuckoos laying eggs in their nest in the first place – birds whose nests are at high risk of cuckoo-contamination are known to ‘mob’ cuckoos to drive them out of the area.[24] Parasitic cuckoos are grouped into gentes, with each gens specializing in a particular host. There is some evidence that the gentes are genetically different from one another.

Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) perched by birch leaves
Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) perched by birch leaves


Noble Lady-unlimited vacancies, Thus I would only use wings in the necklace pendant. Wings means they are at a position to get ready to depart to a higher status. They are polishing themselves to get ready in the game.


Last but no least, Xiunv as a hair pin. Xiunv are merely the candidates for the beauty pageant. Their status is low and they might not end up the Emperor’s concubine. So their fate is unpredictable. I would like to use feather to depict them as feather is the most common thing in birds and it can be found in any bird. Whether it is a feather of phoenix or a feather of sparrow, depends on fate and their effort. Also,  the shape of feather is coherent to the shape of hair pin, which makes it easier for the design process.


To depict each breed of bird, I am not going to design in a very realistic way. The birds are just references to give each piece of jewelry better meaning.



Queen Consort-1 phoenix, on choker

Imperial Noble Consort-1 Honghu, on ring

Consort-4 peacocks, on hand cuff

Dame-6 cuckoos, on spectacle chain

Noble Lady-wing shape necklace pendant

Xiunv-Feather shaped hair pin


Hong Hu鸿鹄



Some references are from Chinese classics, poems and tales.

6 pieces of jewelries and their rankings

This post mainly discuss:

How to depict status through each piece of jewelry


What are the 6 jewelries I am making

To show the rankings/status of the jewelries, there must be some easy-to-understand symbols or metaphors.  Now let’s look back at the rankings of concubines in Chinese History.   Refer to previous post:

皇后 Queen Consort x 1

皇贵妃 Imperial Noble Consort x 1

贵妃 Noble Consort x 2

妃 Consort x 4

嫔 Dame x 6

贵人 Noble Lady x unlimited

常在 Attendant x unlimited

答应 Repliant x unlimited

Similar to officials, concubines also their rankings corresponding to political status. In ancient China, officials are ranked from 1 pin(一品) to 9 pin(九品), with 1 pin as the highest position and 9 pin the lowest. Traditionally, 1 pin is first class minister, equivalent to nowadays the prime minister, who is only inferior to the emperor. For concubines, 1 pin is Imperial Noble Consort, while Queen Consort being the female emperor in the ranking.  Pin system is very complicated as each pin can be further divided into sub rankings. More detailed information can be found here:(In Chinese)

The rankings of the concubines are:

Imperial 1 pin: 皇后 Queen Consort x 1

1 pin:皇贵妃 Imperial Noble Consort x 1

2 pin: 贵妃 Noble Consort x 2

3 pin: 妃 Consort x 4

6 pin: 嫔 Dame x 6

7 pin: 贵人 Noble Lady x unlimited

sub 8 pin: 常在 Attendant x unlimited

9 pin: 答应 Repliant x unlimited

This ranking is according to . HOWEVER, each dynasty has its own titles and ranking system for the ladies ,even for the same title, it might have different ranking or pin in the system. Researching on it, I have also came across many variations of the system. The fact is there were SO MANY concubines and concubines-to-be in the palace that the number of positions became so complicated. As such, it is difficult to clearly define the ranking of a concubine unless she is the Queen Consort or Imperial Noble Consort.

SO here comes two sets of numbers in the system:1, the pin number; 2, the number of vacancies available for a specific title(1 Queen consorts, 2 noble consorts, 4 consorts, etc).

Using pin number can cause confusions as it is not clearly defined. On the other hand, using vacancy number can depict the preciousness of the position and show the competition at that status.

For example. Queen Consort is the highest, one and only position. With One and only major feature(most likely phoenix) indicate that she sits on the most precious seat reign the imperial household. While depicting a Consort status, 4 same or similar features can be put tgt on one piece of jewelry, symbolizing that at the position there are 4 ladies altogether competing and balancing the power. The more features are depicted, the lower the status is. It is like climbing the corporate ladder in modern society, the higher you get, the lonelier you  become.

About the birds.

There is a Chinese phrase百鸟朝凤 bai niao chao feng, means hundred birds worshiping the phoenix/hundred birds paying homage to the phoenix. Phoenix is the leader/king of birds. So to emphasize its importance, it is better to depict only one adult phoenix in the jewelry set, on the most important piece for the Queen Consort. For other pieces that prior to the ascending of Queen Consort, other species of birds can be portrayed. For minor positions, only feather or wing are necessary.

Artist: Qian Xingjian钱行健 124 x 232 cm Chinese ink on rice paper image source:
Hundred Birds Worshiping the Phoenix
Artist: Qian Xingjian钱行健
124 x 232 cm, year 1951
Chinese ink on rice paper
image source:

So to conclude the idea of this post:

1> Using the difference in bird species to distinguish the status

2>Using the number of birds to show the power and competition for each status. The higher the status, the less birds are depicted. The number goes according to the number of concubines allowed for such position in Chinese history.  1 Queen Consort,  4 Consorts, etc. 

6 pieces of jewelries are:(Most important to least important)

Choker x 1-Queen Consort

Ring x 1-Imperial Noble Consort

Cuff x 1-Consort

Spectacle chain x 1-Dame

Necklace pendants x 1-Noble Lady

Hair pin x 1-Xiunv


Instead of depicting several characters in the story, now I am more focused on depicting only one character and her ladder to power. It is easier to understand and clearly demonstrate the ranking in the story.