For 3D printing, think of clear as the new black. But keep in mind it might not be quite so easy getting the desired result unless you are aware of what your best options are regarding the newest technology.
Choosing a particular style for your 3D print can be challenging with so many materials and finishes available in the 3D printing marketplace today, but you can rarely go wrong with the classic sophistication and clean lines of a clear, transparent 3D print. And while the transparent look is aesthetically pleasing, it can also be challenging to produce in 3D printing, with layers being difficult to avoid, as well as the inconvenience of having to finish it further afterward.
- Printoptical Technology
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Multi-Jet Modeling (MJM)
- Polyjet (Objet)
According to the LUXeXceL team, “the definition of transparent is quite broad within the 3D printing community.” Their Printoptical technology, a proprietary 3D method, is unique in that it is meant to produce transparent 3D prints without any layering whatsoever. It also requires no maintenance afterward, arriving hot off the 3D printer with no post-processing requirements like grinding or polishing. The key is a UV-curable acrylic ink. Droplets are allowed to “flow and merge” before they are cured.
SLA is the original 3D printing process. With this method, some layering can be expected, logically, as the process works by solidifying one layer after another on top of one another repetitively until the model or prototype is complete. Resin is cured with a laser generally, and post-production work is usually required of the user to finish the 3D printed model.
Multi-jet modeling makes use of wax support structures. An industrial print head prints layer after layer of the transparent wax model by jetting heated droplets that dry and harden on impact just like when you spill hot wax from a candle onto a surface. Layer after layer, a concept model is created and upon finishing, the wax support material is melted away. MJM offers good resolution for smaller 3D models. For transparent 3D printing though, the quality can be even lesser than with SLA so layering is expected to be even more of a challenge. With this method of 3D printing, polishing is also required at the end.
Polyjet (Objet) 3D printing is a powerful technology that offers high resolution, accuracy, and can work with a wide range of materials as layers of liquid photopolymer are layered and cured using UV light, with the capability — layer after layer — to form complex geometries. Again though, the finished 3D model does require post-production work in that it requires polishing to reach the sought-after effect in transparency.
The award-winning LUXeXceL team has a solid focus on 3D printing in transparency, and created their Printoptical Technology for the 3D printing of optical components like lenses, prisms, fresnels, and decorative designs. Headquartered in Goes, the Netherlands, LUXeXceL was founded in 2009 and caters to clientele involved in development of optical software, materials, and research. They have also 3D printed the first pair of fully functional, 3D printed eyeglasses.
Are you interested in 3D printing in transparency? What do you think are the benefits of producing a transparent 3D print? Tell us your thoughts in the 3D Printing in Transparency forum thread over at 3DPB.com.