ProtoCAM: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping.

Clear Finish Rapid Prototyping

May 27, 2014

ProtoCAM’s customers sometimes request a “clear prototype.” In discussions with customers, we will ask questions to determine the level of clarity that is needed.

clear-prototype-partIn some cases, the prototype must be perfectly clear and be able to be seen through. In other cases, some level of transparency is needed, but the prototype does not have to be clear. In most cases, the cost of the prototype is higher as the level of transparency increases.

To get a prototype that might be described as “semi-transparent”, we will typically create a stereolithography (SLA) prototype using SL Clear or Accura 60 resin. These materials are currently the best materials to maximize clarity. If addition clarity is required, we will suggest some post-production processing such as:

  • Clear – if you place your finger under the part you will see it, but you may not see your finger prints. The part shown in the photo above has a Clear finish.
  • Improved Clear – model is highly hand polished before final clear treatment. Pricing for this finish can easily exceed the cost of the SLA prototype

A clear acrylic spray is typically used to improve clarity.

To achieve “see-through” clarity, ProtoCAM will typically recommend a urethane casting. The RTV molding process can create waterclear urethane castings. The process will require a master pattern with a mirror like finish. ProtoCAM has developed several methods to produce such a pattern, but costs are always a factor as the time needed to achieve this finish level is high .

Whatever material, process and finishing is done, these general rules apply:

  • Parts with internal surfaces are harder to make more transparent as these surfaces are more difficult to sand.
  • Parts with thinner walls will have better clarity than thicker wall parts.
  • Parts with gradual curves will yield more layer lines and require more finish work than flat parts.
  • Higher level of transparency = Higher cost

Contact Us to inquire about how ProtoCAM can help with creating your next “clear” prototype or to request a quotation.