Transparent globe

Is clear or transparent 3D printing possible? Yes, to a certain degree. While it is easier with resin printing, it can be more difficult for FDM 3D printing (a type of 3D printing that involves the extrusion of molten material). It is not impossible but will take more effort and need certain filaments to make it work. Transparent or clear 3D printing can be done through the following methods:

  • Choosing a clear filament
  • 3D printing process
  • Post-processing methods

1. Choosing a clear filament

It is important to choose the right filament when printing clear or transparent objects. You have to choose a clear filament to create a transparent object. Here are our recommendations for clear 3D printer filaments:

  1. X3D Pro PETG - Clear (now on sale): PETG has the easy printability of PLA and strength of ABS, making it the perfect choice for functional clear items. 
  2. 3Diakon PMMA: If you need a transparent material for industrial and outdoor applications, this is the best match for you. 
  3. HDGlass: This is another PETG filament that provides see-through and clear transparency. 
  4. Polysmooth: Polysmooth is an easy-to-print filament designed to create transparent 3D prints. 

2. 3D printing clear models

While most 3D printing experts online say that making clear 3D prints start during post-processing, Rygar1432 (via Printable) found a way to create clear models that look almost like glass!

They also stressed that 3D printing very slowly is the key. Here are three factors that they said influence the transparency of your model during printing:

  1. 20mm/s speed
  2. 0.1000mm layer height
  3. No top or bottom layers, along with one single direction for infill
  4. By following the three keys above, you can create a very translucent print. Several factors in positioning the printed object and the direction the filament is laid down will give varying results.

For more info, you can check out the post here.

As a rule of thumb, here are printing tips to help you achieve the clearest results possible:

  • Turn off the cooling fan as it makes the print cloudy
  • Use the highest nozzle temperature possible within the filament’s range
  • Use a larger nozzle and increase the layer thickness
  • Set the flow rate above 100%
  • Ensure that printing is at 70-90% of the nozzle diameter 

3. Post-processing

Post-processing can work miraculously to refine and change the surface of a 3D print. Sanding and clear coating are two post-processing methods that can improve the transparency of a model.

Some 3D prints can also be smoothed and made more transparent by solvents. For example, Polysmooth works well with solvents, such as ethanol. It can be sprayed on the 3D print surface and left to dry to achieve a transparent look.

On the other hand, it is not recommended to use solvents on ABS as it makes the surface cloudy.

Achieve 3D print transparency with these tips and filaments

Do you have any hot tips for transparent 3D printing that we missed? Share below!


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