Can 3D Printers Print Clear Plastic?

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From prosthetics to buildings to home decor and even food, many would agree that 3D printers did a great job of producing incredible 3D objects. If you are new to 3D printing, you might wonder whether or not 3D printers can print clear plastic.

Before, printing clear plastic is a myth. However, with the current 3d printing technology, it is now possible. So, the answer to whether or not 3d printers can print clear plastic is a big YES.

How to Achieve Clear Plastic 3D Prints 

In case you are planning to use an STL file that is extremely complex or solid, you can improve its transparency by printing the objects in very thin walls. Make sure that the wall is only 1 layer thick with very little infill or nothing at all. 

Meanwhile, it’s also ideal for printing clear filament at the top end temperature. That’s to keep the definition between every layer as little as possible. Though you might lose a bit of detail, you’ll gain smoothness.

Little do you know that in clear 3D printing, smoothness is equivalent to more light passing through? So, there’s no way for you not to achieve your desired clear plastic prints.

You can also try letting your 3D printer print slower than its usual printing process. That’s because the more accurate the printer, the clearer and better the 3d plastic objects will look. However, you need to make sure that the belts are tight to prevent print head overshooting. 

For a STL model with a larger height layer, you will not need a lot of layers. So, it’s best to print thicker layer heights as well as utilize larger nozzle sizes. In the case that the 3D printer prints accurately, you can get great results on a 1-layer wall thickness even if you print a plastic with very thin nozzle diameters. 

Different Clear Filaments for Clear Plastic

Apart from determining whether or not printing clear plastic is possible, you also need to discover what printing materials you’ll need.

For you to achieve clear plastic prints, you can try various clear filament options. These include PMMA, Clear ABS, Clear PA, PETG, and Polycarbonate.

Let’s get familiar with each of these clear filament options with the following ideas:

PMMA Filament 

PMMA filament is a clear plastic acrylic material that is known for its high impact strength. Because of its combined impact resistance and strength, it is commonly used in replacing glass for particular applications.

Interestingly, this clear filament options allows 92% of the light passing through the surface. It is available in a wide array of colors, and you can expect that the 3D plastic prints are very clear.

Natural PLA Filament 

Good quality natural PLA filaments are those that produce clear plastic prints. It comes with an interesting benefit, which is its biodegradable quality. In short, there will be a less environmental impact, so you can feel no guilt using it to create 3D objects. 

This clear filament option is among the filaments that deliver good results and easiest to print. As you choose the quality one, you can sand and polish it with ease. 

Depending on the layer height, it’s recommended to utilize fine grit. In the case of thicker layers, you need to use a coarser sandpaper. After that, finer grits are necessary where you need to sand the object in a circular motion to remove the surface imperfections. Try to sand and polish the print wall’s both sides to achieve a very clear finish. Other than that, you can take advantage of wet sandpaper for the best results.

Clear ABS Filament 

Unlike other filament options, this filament option is not naturally clear. So, it’s ideal for blending ABS filament with an additive.

For the best results, you use translucent or clear colors. An acetone vapor can be used to post-print finish ABS, which offers a smooth finish.

Clear PETG Filament 

Clear PETG filament offers an excellent layer of adhesion and durability. It is among the ideal filaments for printing clear plastic because of its less shrinkage capability, while big 3D prints have less chance of breaking under pressure.

During the 3D printing process, you’ll smell no odors. Instead you’ll get a smooth, clear finish. Besides, you can opt for this filament if you want to print a 3D object that will not break easily. To end up with an acceptable result, it’s best to choose PETG filament that requires less post-printing work.

Polycarbonate Filament 

If you are in a warm printing environment, then a polycarbonate filament is a great option. That’s because of its extreme durability coupled with optical transparency. Since it comes with a durable quality, you can even bend it repeatedly without worrying about cracking. 

Polycarbonate filament can give you a finish with a glossy sheen. However, you need to make sure that you’ll use hot extruder. Then, you can smooth the surface using acetone for a clearer result. 

Transparency and 3D Printing 

In printing clear plastic, you need to ensure that the object has acceptable transparency or an ability to see through a certain 3D object.

It’s nice to note that transparency can be controlled by how light passed through the object. In the case that the light passing through it has no redirection, then it will appear transparent.

You’ll notice that a glass appears to be clear and homogenous, so you can effortlessly see through it. For you to imitate the properties of a glass in your 3D printed object, the plastic printing material needs to be transparent. You also need to ensure that the printing process is free from air bubbles, and the part needs to be smooth. 

Final Thoughts 

In 3D printing clear plastic, always remember that miscalculation in cooling, printing speed, and nozzle temperature can completely impact how clear the print will be. Besides, you also need to consider the printing material which you think best suits your 3D printing project.

Now that you know the answer to whether or not 3d printers print clear plastic, are you ready to print your first clear 3D plastic?

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