Let’s make something clear

Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team

We’re taking a look at how to 3D print with a high level of transparency. Our latest material, colorFabb_HT, is highly suited for this because of its high-flow characteristics. More information will be published later once we have it, we’re still very much in the testing-phase. But here are the basics so you can try it yourselves.

colorfabb_HT-6 You can find the model of this print designed by Walter Hsiao on Thingiverse here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:854360

 

colorFabb_HT

Due to the process of 3D printing, there is always a limit to how clear your print will become. With most materials the small gaps in between the 3D printed lines never really gets filled, resulting in a milky look when printing with transparent filaments. colorFabb_HT manages to fully close these gaps, resulting in a fully solid and transparent part. Printing transparent not only means new and exciting optical applications, but it also means maximum toughness as the material is fully fused together.
For more information about the _HT material, take a look here: http://ht.colorfabb.com/

 

Material and heat

Printing clear products mainly relies on two key aspects: extruding enough material and getting enough heat (energy) into the new material. The easiest way to start is by locking in some settings and only play with temperature, speed and flow.

We’ve started with a 0,8mm nozzle; no cooling; 0,1mm layerheight; 20mm/s and of course 100% infill. In terms of temperature, set your heated bed to the max get your hotend up to at least 260°c. Using this as a starting point, we’ve found settings to print transparent on a few different machines already. But with so much variation between printers (even from the same type!) you will always have to find the best settings for yourself. Also, the bed material has a big influence on the transparency straight out of the printer, the smoother the bed material the better. A coat of 3DLAC on a glass plate seems to work the best for us so far.

Looking at the two key components, first start with getting the right amount of heat into the material. This is a combination of volume per second and nozzle temperature. If your printer has a maximum of 260°c than your stuck playing with speed, otherwise you could try printing a bit hotter to allow for more speed.
Printing too hot will result in minuscule bubbles inside the print and may also cause the part to turn a bit yellowish. Printing too cold will not fuse the sides of the lines together properly and show as white stripes.
With the temperature dialed in, start playing with the flow. Try to turn it up to the maximum without losing (too much) dimensional accuracy or creating a bulge on top of the print. The Ultimaker 2 we used for this required about 110% flow to achieve an optimal filling.

Optimal settings can lead to some very clear and transparent parts straight from the printer. These cylinders have had no post-processing at all.
colorfabb_HT-17

With some extra effort though, you can create parts which look amazingly transparent.
Using the same technique as for post-processing our metal-filled filaments, we have sanded most of the outside of this bearing holder using up to 600 grit sanding paper. This results in a very smooth but matte finish, which you can than polish to create the best transparency we’ve ever seen in a 3D printed part. But more on this later, because we’ve only just started testing this.

Properly photographing a transparent part is quite tricky, take a look at the last (blue) picture to get a better understanding of how transparent it really is.

colorfabb_HT-10

colorfabb_HT

Showing 22 comments
  • Jess
    Reply

    I have an aluminum bed- will kapton tape work? You haven’t tried a 0.4mm nozzle yet, right? i’m guessing bigger is better when it comes to nozzle size.

    • Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Reply

      It’s worth a try for sure. We expect Kapton tape to work at least OK.
      But due to the solid nature of transparent parts they are often pretty warp intensive.

      A 0,4mm nozzle should also work.
      We went with a bigger nozzle to speed up the print, have easier material flow and have less lines that have to perfectly melt together in the X-Y plane.
      Let us know how it works out for you.

  • Lon Varscsak
    Reply

    What’s it look like if you don’t finish the product with sanding?

    • Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Reply

      The 4 cylinders in the center image have had no post-processing done to them.
      Also the bearing holder has only been sanded on one side, you can still see that the top section around the bearing hole has not been sanded.

      Basically the inside of the part can become (nearly) fully transparent, it’s just the outside factors that are caused by 3D printing that you’ll want to remove.

  • Bill Rainford
    Reply

    Do you have any similar settings/advice for the nGen clear? (Not HT) I just picked up a reel of that to test and was hoping to make things a little more transparent. BTW nGen is my favorite filament at home and the RedHat Westford 3DPrinting Lab (also all Lulzbots) I run at work.
    Take care,
    -Bill
    @TinWhiskerzBlog
    @TheRainford
    TinWhiskerz.com

    • Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Reply

      Hi Bill,

      Haven’t done any testing on nGen but I reckon the basics will be the same.
      The material needs to flow together such that it fully interlocks to avoid creating gaps in the XY plane.
      If you test it we’d love to hear how it turns out.

  • James
    Reply

    Has anyone had any experience printing this in a heated enclosure? I figure it would help with flow between layers? I’m about to give it a shot.

    • Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Reply

      We have done limited testing with this and it does seem to have a positive effect.

  • Gerald Martin
    Reply

    What is the density of ColorFabb XT clear, especially of an object after printing? For my scaled boat modeling project the hull material must sink in water.

    • Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Reply

      Material data sheets can be found on our materials page here: http://colorfabb.com/Materials/
      After printing however the final density of your model will depend on a lot of variables and therefor this is something you will have to test yourself.
      Of course it depends on slicer settings such as infill amount but also material flow has to be optimal and achievable by the 3D printer.
      For a reliable result without too much testing beforehand, maybe it would be wiser to allow for weighing down of the model after printing?

  • Kulitorum
    Reply

    I tried to print something transparent with HT Clear today, but everything came out white. Also, when the material were just oozing out of the nozzle, it would be white and seemed to have bubbles in it. This was at all temperatures from 230c to 290c

    Have you come up with a way to optimize the material color, or have any tips on how to make it print transparent?

    Thanks

    • colorFabb team
      colorFabb team
      Reply

      It should come out clear, like all transparent co-polyesters, Xt, nGen and HT. Perhaps your spool of HT needs some drying to get rid of access moisture? You could try this at home, make sure the temperature doesn’t exceed 100C, 90C would be oke for a few hours.

  • Irawan T.K.
    Reply

    Is there any treatments after printing ? or it just come out like that from the printer ?

    • Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Jos Deelen - colorFabb Team
      Reply

      As mentioned in the last paragraph, the bearing holder has been polished by hand.
      This is only to remove the irregularities of the top / bottom layer.

  • Richard Brown
    Reply

    Looks great would love to try your stuff here a lot of good review ant this stuff looks great keep it up

  • Alexandre Guérin
    Reply

    Hi,
    wonderfull , but what’s the name of it, exactly ? : HT, XT,CP, transparent, clear, natural ???
    Thx to give the real name( as it is on you’re website, just to order easier).
    Best regards.
    Alex.
    3D MorphoZ.-Reims
    http://www.3d-morphoz.com

  • Helder L. Santos
    Reply

    Is it possible to have a sample to test?

  • Julia Truchsess
    Reply

    Amazing!

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