3D printing materials suitable for optical components

Hi all,

Does anyone have recommendations on what materials to use/avoid for 3D printing of optomechanical components (lens mounts, cage components, etc.)?
I am looking for something that is sturdy and durable, but also opaque and matte, so as to not reflect a lot of light. I heard ABS plastic is a good option, but not all 3D printing companies have it available (at least couldn’t find an obvious substitute from shapeways). Can anyone suggest other a tried and tested alternative?
Apologies if this was already discussed elsewhere - I had a look around but couldn’t find a clear answer.
Any advice or suggestions are very welcome!

Thank you!
Dora

2 Likes

Avoid anything printed with UV-cured resins, they tend to autofluoresce, I have used regular matte black PLA for lens mounts and other microscope components. If you are extra cautious you can (carefully) cover the parts in candle soot if they are not touching anything important.

2 Likes

I suggest you should watch some videos to check the results differences between resin and filament. Difference is astonishing

Production with resins is more tedious and toxic. And post production is also tedious You will need gloves, mask and open the window. However, these inconveniences vanish when you see the results. Precision makes resins a much better option to print microscope pieces.

Light properties of resins can vary depending of materials, There are many. Ask a good manofacturer.
I don’t know about problems with black matte resins. Although in case of problems probably I would try some anti-reflective painting for optics materials, which are cheap. In example:

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/language/en/info/p8861_TS-Optics-anti-reflective-paint---matt-black-150-ml.html

I fear the results with filament could disappoint you because the poor precision. Better spending some time watching videos in youtube to find the best option for your needs.

On my humble view, for somebody expecting only an eventual production of little pieces with higher needs of precision, any cheap model of resin printer (Elegoo, Anycubic…) is enough . Resin is the best option without any doubt in that space. check some videos in internet and you will see by yourself.

For technical questions about some resin adequate to your needs maybe you can ask a good manofacturer like Formlabs, 3DM… There are many.

Good luck

2 Likes

I’d say it depends. Sometimes you just need a weirdly shaped adapter - then you should be good with PLA. The sturdiness depends on the design, fill level etc. But the precision isn’t great.

And regarding resin printing - is it better than good old aluminum?

1 Like

Both previous employer and lab both used Stratasys printers. Main difference between them were the materials. Previous employer used PLA with a support material which was removed using high pressure water. Used for prototypes before machining actual parts. Lab used a support material for ABS which was removed using an ultrasonic cleaner and warm bath of sodium hydroxide solution. After rinsing with water, had to soak the parts in a weak acid (vinegar). Otherwise sodium hydroxide gets inside of especially thick or hollow parts. When in contact with aluminum parts it leaches out and causes a reaction with water in the air. It will also strip any anodization. It’s more time consuming, but the latter process using ABS resulted in parts harder and more suitable as finished parts, especially for tapping threads.

2 Likes

Well, I found that standard matt black PLA works just fine - I designed and built the entire open source PUMA microscope system with it (search ‘PUMA Microscope’ - I am reluctant post a link as I am new here). I found the combination of flexibility and strength excellent for making flexure sprung click fit mechanisms and mirror mounts and push fit assemblies and triscrew adjustment ring mounts, etc. Regarding internal reflections there are two options (which I have used anyway) - because you can never get fully matt PLA: 1) Design any optical tube with appropriate internal baffles, 2: Use a flocking paint for critical chambres. I applied both these methods with considerable success. See my paper in: J Microsc. 2021 Sep;283(3):259-280.

2 Likes

Interesting project. You should add the link.

Not expert about 3d printers. Our school has 40000 people and countless tabletop/DIY/opinions. So a new building… some funds… fortunate to get a large/professional printer… instead of different labs buying/building their own. It’s easy to get some advice from the large printer companies. But the first thing it was used for, we still made a mistake…

Thanks. OK I will add some PUMA links for the interested reader:
GitHub: GitHub - TadPath/PUMA: 3D Printed Microscope
YouTube: Introduction to PUMA Microscopy (the advanced 3D printed DIY microscope) - YouTube
I also post snippets on Twitter @Paul_Tadrous
I hope this helps someone. I would be grateful if you can spread the word amongst others who may benefit.

1 Like