Optical or clear lens prototypes provide a mirror-clear effect for automotive lighting lamps, displays, and other optical components. People usually think the production of clear or translucent prototypes is a technological problem as it needs special transparency and a refractive index. Actually, there are kinds of processing ways and materials to achieve your preferred quantity and lens effect.
How to make a clear plastic prototype?
We will describe it in two topics, production way, and materials. The way for production includes CNC machining, vacuum casting, and 3D printing. The materials are various such as PC, PMMA, PU, and thermosetting polymer resins.
Luckily, our services cover nearly all methods for clear plastic prototypes. If you need clear plastic rapid prototyping, please feel free to contact us. We are happy to help you with kinds of production ways.
Clear or translucent prototypes can be made in kinds of ways, such as CNC machining, injection molding, 3D printing, and vacuum casting. To get a solution for your clear parts, learning to know the advantages and disadvantages of each production way is necessary.
CNC machining cuts the plastic block into each complicated shape by pre-set computer programming. All the 3-axis, 4-axis, or 5-axis CNC machines can cut the clear materials.
Machine with more axis can produce more precise parts. The selection of a CNC machine depends on your tolerance and design complexity. Please ensure to discuss with your supplier in detail if you have strict requests.
Polishing is a needed procedure for a mirror and clear surface. It can only polish one part at a time. That’s why CNC machining is not a perfect way for high volume production.
Vacuum casting is an alternative solution for low volume production on a low budget. We make the master model by CNC machining or 3D printing. The master model will be placed into a casting frame and filled with liquid silicone to make the simple mold. A silicone mold can produce 15-20 copies. However, clear part made from vacuum casting is restricted to prototype for appearance. It is too weak to functional prototype.
Injection molding produces clear parts by transparent plastic resins. Molding needs more technical expertise and larger quantity to lower the cost of a single part.
SLA (Stereo lithography Appearance) printing is applicable to translucent prototypes. It cures the photopolymer layer by layer by UV light. The 3D printed prototype needs the same polishing as CNC machining so that it is used in low volume production.
To achieve clear effects, selecting the right material for manufacturing is important. We usually use PC or PMMA for CNC machining. PU for vacuum casting. The clear material for injection molding includes nylon, PET, PMMA, etc. 3D printing materials are thermosetting polymer resins.
PMMA/acrylic is a stress-sensitive material that is brittle. It needs sandpaper from 400# to 2000# for polish. Polishing paste is necessary after manual polishing for refined the optical finish.
PC material is more durable but has a lower clarity than PMMA. Vapor polishing is the common way to strengthen PC’s clarity. The vapor is caused by boiling a container with methylene chloride. Vapor will flow over the surface of PC parts to enhance the features and surface finishes.
If you would like to more about the clear plastic prototypes for your project. Contact 2fprototypes now!