USA & Canada
USA & Canada
Clear lens.

Can you 3D print clear plastic?

aaron pearson
Aaron Pearson June 15, 2020
June 15, 2020
Many consumer products, from cell phone cases to kitchen appliances, use transparency to help with both functionality and appearance. But unlike other materials traditionally used in prototyping – foam, clay, fabric – fully transparent materials can be difficult to manipulate.

Now that 3D printing has been identified as a solution for design problems, you might be wondering if you can 3D print transparent materials the same way you can print opaque plastics and photopolymers.

The short answer? Yes!

Multi-material 3D printing technology makes creating custom translucent and transparent parts easier than ever. Read on to find out more about transparent materials, how 3D printing them works, and possible applications.

What's the difference between transparent, translucent, and opaque materials?

Opaque materials entirely block the passage of light, meaning nothing can be seen through them. The majority of materials, like colored plastics, wood, and metal, are opaque.

Translucent or semi-transparent materials allow some passage of light, but you usually can’t see clear shapes through them. Examples of common translucent materials include wax paper, sheer fabric, and frosted glass.

Transparent materials allow enough light to pass through so that objects on the other side of the material can be seen clearly. Clear glass, water, and cellophane are all examples of common transparent materials.

Designers use all of these types of materials – and every opacity in between – for product development. Certain applications may require semi-transparent materials, while others might need fully transparent components.

How can you 3D print transparent materials?

As with most 3D printing methods, it truly depends on the application. For rough prototypes or tooling, one option is FDM technology and transparent filament. With extensive sanding and/or coating, a degree of translucence can be achieved.

However, for high-fidelity models or final use parts, a smooth finish and true transparency may be required. Photopolymer materials like Stratasys VeroClear™ and VeroUltraClear™ are engineered for a smooth finish and high light transmission for excellent clarity.

Can you 3D print acrylic?

PMMA, also known as acrylic, is a transparent thermoplastic often used as a more durable alternative to glass. For 3D printing, VeroClear and VeroUltraClear simulate the physical properties of acrylic, and can be combined with thousands of opaque color options for a full range of colored transparencies.

VeroClear offers similar mechanical properties to acrylic, with good strength, stiffness, and impact resistance. VeroUltraClear provides excellent, improved clarity and a lower yellow index for truly transparent parts.
3d printed aquarium and fish

What are practical applications for transparent materials?

Consumer products.

For consumer products, the applications for 3D printed transparent materials are endless.

Incorporate transparency into prototypes for cosmetics packaging, kitchen products, and food and beverage containers. Tinted transparent components help build up model realism, helping designers see their ideas become reality.


Medical devices. 

For models that need to simulate glass or clear polymers for eyewear, VeroClear and VeroUltraClear are ideal choices. Nidek Technologies, an Italian company specializing in ophthalmology R&D, used VeroClear to prototype a special new optic device.


Medical models. 

For surgical training or preparation, anatomical models with transparent components or walls are useful when studying complex anatomies like vascular systems. Clear 3D printed materials allow the creation of custom, transparent geometries, opening up a range of possibilities for medical research and patient care.


3D printing clear plastics can provide a whole new way of designing, whether for consumer products or medical research. With the ability to create fully custom transparent parts, you can create models that show internal mechanisms, accurately represent a final product, or allow for functional, real-world testing.


To learn more about what you could do with transparent 3D printing, visit the material pages for VeroClear and VeroUltraClear.