A Comparison of Transparent AM Materials

Today, there are a number of AM processes that can produce transparent materials. Which is best for your application?

Creating perfectly transparent products is rather difficult with 3D printing. Several materials and technologies are available on the market. But what are the differences between these technologies and what does your product look like after printing?

3d printing, material, transparency, lens

The image shows that there are different gradients of transparency. From the left to the right different 3D printing technologies are displayed: Printoptical Technology, Stereolithography (SLA), Multi Jet Modeling (MJM) and Polyjet printing. Transparent 3D printing is difficult to achieve and with most of the used technologies layers are inevitable.

What are suitable 3D printing technologies for transparent 3D printing?

As a showcase example different reference samples of a variety of additive manufacturing services were ordered. The image displays products of several 3D printing services which manufacture transparent 3D printed products.

3d printing, material, transparency, lens

Printoptical Technology

Printoptical Technology is a proprietary digital additive manufacturing process to 3D-print transparent products without layering. A UV-curable acrylic ink is used to print transparent products by flowing and merging droplets before curing them. Printoptical Technology by LUXeXceL does not require any additional post-processing like grinding or polishing. The printed product is immediately ready for use out straight out of the printer. Transparency without post-processing.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) makes use of a laser which cures the material. Photopolymer resins are used for 3D printing. This material reacts to a laser and is therefore cured. The material is solidified layer by layer to create your 3D printed transparent product. This technology will display some layers which could lead to some additional post-processes like sanding or polishing.

Multi Jet Modeling (MJM)

Multi Jet Modeling makes use of a support structure of wax. This technology makes use of an industrial print head which jets material layer by layer. It is quite similar to the SLA 3D printing technology. After printing the wax support material is melted away which leaves a finished end-product. Multi Jet Modeling is known for its accuracy. However, in order to be fully transparent it needs to be polished after printing.

Polyjet (Objet)

Polyjet 3D printing is a technology which makes use of a photopolymer which is cured with UV-light. It makes use of two jetting heads to print the model and the support structure. The model is build layer by layer and afterwards the printed material is rinsed away. The printed model has to be polished in order to become more smooth and transparent.

These different Additive Manufacturing technologies have a different transparency grade. The definition of transparent is quite broad within the 3D printing community.

Source: LuXeXcel