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FEATURE: How Freeform Fabrication’s ‘exciting’ robot tech is revolutionising jewellery manufacture facilities

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Despite the challenges of the past year, the pandemic actually helped accelerate Paul and Elena Ivanov’s ambitions to create a jewellery factory that would become a European hub of design, development and innovation.

Here, the owners of Romanian-based Smarald talk to PJ about how, with the invaluable support of Freeform Fabrication, the company was able to see their dream through to reality.

Paul and Elena Ivanov are a husband and wife team with huge drive and an unstoppable ambition.

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Taking over from his father after five decades working as a jeweller, Paul resumed the helm of Romanian-based Smarald in 2017 with the aim of transforming the business into an international jewellery manufacturer.

He recognised the need to combine arts and crafts with new technologies to allow people to focus more time on the creative aspect of jewellery design and development. In 2018, Paul started to build an internationally-skilled team that would help the company reach its goals of becoming a business with a wide-range, reaching across the world.

This year during lockdown, they have accelerated this ambition and invested time and money into building a new jewellery factory to take business to the next level. The extensive factory will be able to produce high quality jewellery of any kind, including intricate items such as chains, and operate manufacturing services.

Developing a project such as this during the peak of Covid was, understandably, not an easy task. Challenges such as bureaucracy and understaffed authorities caused delays, while travelling for meetings and training was tough due to restrictions.

As a result, the group had to apply for special permission to leave the country and move about to be allowed to return.

New relationships
After coming up with initial designs, Freeform Fabrication kitted out the new factory with the majority of the machines needed for the couple to see their dream come to life.

After meeting at Vicenza trade show in Italy 2020, Paul and Freeform developed a steadfast relationship that saw Freeform supply the new factory with vital equipment such as chain machines, laser welders, 3D printing machines, design software and more, with future technology already in the pipeline, as the development continues apace.

Paul says: “Freeform is a very professional reseller for jewellery equipment in Europe, giving the best consultancy for technologies and for suppliers. They helped us make the right decision for our projects, supplying us with what we needed to make the idea a success.

“They were open to such an ambitious project and made it possible to secure excellent product packages from various countries and suppliers that we could not have done by ourselves,” he adds.

As well as ensuring the new factory was up to scratch from an equipment perspective, Paul was keen to find a solution to labour-intensive tasks throughout the manufacturing process that took up a lot of manual time.

His idea was that staff would then be free to put their skills to better use.

By bringing in a team of robots with the help of Freeform, Paul realised that the bots could be programmed to carry out repetitive jobs and service tasks, leaving employees to concentrate on more intricate parts of the development.

Whilst Paul admits it was challenging – ‘but exciting’ – to combine robots with the equipment, he now sees it as an invaluable part of the manufacturing process.

There is a very high motivation to promote Romania and specifically companies such as Paul and Elena’s as a European alternative to manufacturing.”

“We had to make sure the robots and equipment could work through one order process and communicate all together in the network,” Paul explains. “Then we used machine learning algorithms to develop artificial intelligence that can hold years’ of production methods to optimise more.”

The robots were such a success that they have the task of pouring drinks and serving caviar at the factory’s launch in June.

Last year, the relationship with Freeform went from strength to strength for Paul and Elena. Freeform Fabrication even arranged a visit to the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry for the pair to see what could be possible with further investment and innovation.

Paul says: “We were blown away. The variety of projects and technology presented under one roof is hard to take in. It ignited our interest in upcoming technology for our operation, to take it to the next level and open it up to projects outside the jewellery trade into industrial and other creative sectors. There is definitely more in the pipeline for us at the moment.

“Our focus for the future is to develop a new generation of jewellery that is able to combine new technology with art, whilst preserving the skill of human creation,” he adds.

Project evolution
Paul is the driving force and has endless energy. Constantly on the go and continually pushing, he knows how to connect and how to excite people with his ideas and dreams.

Elena takes care of the legal compliance of their Shipping business and she has many qualifications relating to the jewellery operation, from marketing to finance, management and the most recent qualification she achieved in London in Gemology.

While some people spent their time during lockdown strategising for survival or refurbishing their homes, this super-charged couple kept busy building an empire of jewellery manufacturing. When it was possible, they sent their staff to Germany, Italy and UK to meet the manufacturers and take the required training to be ready for the launch.

Despite the pandemic, the timing was good in that respect because the factories were able to deliver training with normal production interrupted and factory staff forced to stay local.

This year during lockdown, they have accelerated their ambition and invested time and money into building a new jewellery factory to take the business to the next level.”

Paul is also CEO at The Trading Line Group, an inland waterway transport provider for dry and liquid cargo. The Vessel shipping business helped fund the new jewellery manufacturing operation.

The Trading Line Group utilises an IT platform to manage its fleet, including 360 camera systems and various controls that give the company a major advantage over competitors. The company operates a vessel fleet of a 57 million euro market value focused on Danube Transport & Trading activities.

This business is favourable specifically in the local region for its advancement and involvement with local universities and corporates such as Orange Romania to test and improve telecom for remote sailing. This benefits many other users and companies locally and globally.

There is a very high motivation to promote Romania and specifically companies such as Paul and Elena’s as a European alternative to manufacturing and the new factory will be a progressive step in the right direction.

For more information on Freeform Fabrication and how it can help your business:
Call: +44 (0) 1438 900190
Visit: www.freeformfabrication.co.uk

Meet the team

The management team for Smarald’s new factory is made up of:

• Paul Ivanov – son of master in jewellery with IT background.
• Elena Izabela Cotae – background in economics become gemmologist
• Sandu – background in innovation and IT
• Ionut – background in 3D modelling as 3D design
• Constantin – jewellery production and handmade art
• Alexandra – logistics

Tags : Freeform Fabrication
Sam Lewis

The author Sam Lewis

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