I remember doing several projects in elementary school that involved “stained glass” – e.g., tissue paper dyed with watercolors, or other clever simulations. Of course, no one would ever mistake these childhood projects for anything close to actual stained glass, but they were still pretty, and fun to do. Stained glass itself is a complex and difficult art, but there’s nothing quite like it. A Toronto-based 3D printing service bureau, however, has come pretty close to replicating the actual look of stained glass – with 3D printed plastic.
In December, the team at Custom Prototypes shared a story with us about how they transformed a beloved cartoon character into a 3D printed figurine for a young girl. The company loves a unique challenge, and shortly after they presented young Makayla with her lumberjack figurine for Christmas, they turned their focus to coming up with an entry for the technical competition at the recently-concluded Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) 2017 conference.
Last year, Custom Prototypes took first place in the Advanced Finishing Category of the AMUG technical competition with a stunning 3D printed reproduction of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Determined to hold on to the title this year, the team decided to challenge themselves and their SLA 3D printers further by attempting to create a full-sized stained “glass” window from plastic.
The window was designed in SOLIDWORKS software and printed in four separate pieces. Then the real challenge came – figuring out a way to impart the delicate jewel tones of stained glass to the printed plastic. Creating the appearance of colored glass was difficult to do without losing the transparency of the resin, and several ideas were tried and scrapped after practicing on pieces of spare plastic. Paint was too opaque, so a dye was used, which took a great deal of time and care to keep the different colors from bleeding into each other. After the dyeing was complete, a thick coat of clear gloss was applied. Lead lines were then added by laying down a metallic spray, adding a black top coat, and texturing it with steel wool.
The finished image, of a golden-haired angel in a rose-colored gown, serenely playing a violin, is virtually indistinguishable from a true stained glass window – especially after it was mounted to an ornate, arch-shaped frame, also 3D printed with an SL600 3D printer from ZRapid. The stone look of the frame was achieved by applying different types of aerosol paints with a sandstone coating on top.
“Overall I feel it come across as pretty unique as dyed transparent materials are not commonly seen amongst the community,” Hagerman told 3DPrint.com.
We’ve seen a couple of other artists take on the challenge of creating stained glass effects with 3D printing, but not to the scale or complexity level of Custom Prototypes’ piece. We have yet to see actual 3D printed stained glass, but as glass 3D printers get closer to becoming actually accessible, I suspect it won’t be long before someone tries it. The AMUG 2017 conference wrapped on on March 23, but the winners of the technical competition haven’t been announced yet. I’d say that Custom Prototypes has a pretty good shot at reprising their victory, though. The team has also been busy creating other art lately, including a beautiful 3D printed reproduction of another van Gogh classic, “Self-portrait with Grey Felt Hat.” Discuss in the Custom Prototypes forum at 3DPB.com.
You can see the stained glass process for yourself below: