In 2020 Synova, a Swiss company specializing in technology for cutting hard materials, introduced the “Da Vinci Diamond Factory,” an automated laser cutting and shaping system capable of transforming rough diamonds into fully polished 57-facet round brilliants.
Synova has continued to increase the instrument’s range and recently made it possible for rough diamond scans, used by many industry entities, to be incorporated into its planning and execution.
Watch: DaVinci Diamond Factory
The Implications of Automation
Most diamonds extracted today wind up in India for polishing. While the process begins with mechanical sawing and shaping, the industry employs a large human workforce; polishers who are responsible for cross-working and finishing the diamonds by hand. Abundant factories and affordable labor have made India a longstanding polishing destination for rough diamonds.
If Synova gets traction diamond miners may elect to bypass Bharata for closer DaVinci operations, or set up their own DaVinci factories adjacent to the mines. The implications may be even more significant for producers of lab grown diamonds, as the cost of human polishing has greater impact on their bottom line.
If the DaVinci movement gains momentum the impact would be felt most in polishing hubs like Surat, India, where disintermediation in the diamond sector could affect up to 7,000,000 workers.
Human Knowledge Transfer
DaVinci does not completely replace human intelligence. Some diamond material is notoriously challenging to polish, making it necessary for experienced rough planners to provide knowledge to new operators. According to Synova CEO Bernold Richerzhagen:
The intelligence is done in the plan. So we shift all the human intelligence that is needed into the plan. The machine executes the plan precisely. The plan has to be perfect, because you can’t change the plan anymore during the cutting.
Richerzhagen stated that a single operator can run up to 5 machines. Each machine is capable of polishing 12,000 carats per year at 100% usage, which means six days per week, 24 hours per day. Some human polishing will still be needed he said, but much less. Experienced human planning is what will continue to be needed.
Read more on Rapaport: The Man Trying to ‘Democratize’ Diamond Cutting