Wax is fast becoming a popular material to use in 3D printing. Wax is typically used to create molds for new products through lost wax technique among others. Certain characteristics of wax make it a good material for use in 3D printing.
Here are the characteristics
Wax is a cheap material for trial 3D printing. This means that you can have as many models 3D printed as you may wish without having to incur high printing costs. Other common materials such as plastics will cause a substantial increase in expense when used in high quantities.
There has been a push to have eco-friendly 3D printing. The most commonly used material is plastics. There has been the concern that fumes produced during the printing are unhealthy and bad for the environment as well as the final products. Wax is eco-friendly and does not give hazardous fumes to the atmosphere. This makes it a good material for molding.
- Low melting temperature
Electricity consumption is really an issue when it comes to 3D printing. Most of the materials are used in their semi-molten nature. Wax requires little heat (around 70 °C) to get to the state where it can be built from layer upon layer. It definitely brings 3D printing closer to home. The low melting temperature also comes into play in the production of molds and subsequent melting of the wax to create a hollow space for which the molten material will be used to make the model.
- Ability to customize even the very complex designs
It is possible to create just any kind of design on wax even the very complex one. Wax usually dries very fast, unlike other materials. This property makes it possible to work on round walls and hanging walls without the material collapsing or requiring additional support.
- Strong intermolecular bond
Despite the fact that wax can be broken with ease, it has strong inter-molecular bonds. This means that it can be build layer on the other layer without having lines of weakness from one layer to the other. This property makes it possible to create any size of a wax print and ensure that it still holds in place for the making of the mold for casting purposes.
- Ability to be printed in high resolution
Some of the small parts such as jewelry require high-resolution printing to ensure that the surface is smooth and presentable. Wax can still be belt out of a very small print head nozzle without with much ease. The resulting mold from the process can be used to create high-quality parts of just any material that you wish.
Wax is light in weight. This property enables the creation of walls and round corners. It also ensures that the model does not crumble in the later stages of indirect printing when the support structures are being removed in the printing process.
How wax printing is done
3D wax printing is an indirect form of 3D printing. The model created in the process is then used to create molds for creating the final product. The technique used is a type of stereolithography that makes use of wax-like resin. There are support structures that are automatically generated by the model so that it does not fall apart. After the printing process, these structures are then removed manually and the product cleaned.
A wax sprue is attached to the model. The sprue is then attached to a wax tree along with other models. This tree is then placed in a flask and covered with fine plaster material. Once the plaster solidifies, a mold is formed by casting the material.
This plaster mold is then put in the oven and heated for many hours until all the wax in it is gone. Then, molten material (usually metal) is poured into the cavity that is created on the mold. The metal is then cooled to solidify in the mold. Once the metal has solidified, the plaster mold is broken, and the metal models removed manually.
The metal model is then sanded to get rid of sprues. It is polished or sandblasted to give the kind of finish that is desired. The most common item that is created with this technique is jewelry and small parts that involve intricate designs. Various kinds of metals such as gold, silver, bronze, copper and their alloys are the commonly used materials. Wax plays an important role in the formation of the intricate designs in high resolution.