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?
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?
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?
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.
What are practical applications for transparent materials?
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.
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.
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.