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Wax 3D Printing – How To 3D Print Wax

Picture of Leo Gregurić
by Leo Gregurić
Aug 20, 2018

In the following article we'll tell you everything you need to know about wax 3D printing – including how wax 3D printing works and when it should be used. We'll also share some of the premier 3D printing services that offer wax 3D printing.

How to 3D Print With Wax

Examples of wax 3D printed models on a Solidscape 3D printer
Examples of wax 3D printed models on a Solidscape 3D printer Source: Microfabricator.com

Additive manufacturing is an umbrella term that encompasses various 3D printing technologies in different categories, such as fused deposition modeling, stereolithography, selective laser sintering and material jetting, just to name a few. Some of these processes are even capable of wax 3D printing!

Believe it or not, the material used for wax 3D printing is not actually pure, natural wax. However, it does have physical properties that are similar to wax, so it’s more of a wax-like material than anything else.

You can print wax models using a few different 3D printing technologies. Professional 3D printing services generally use a type of material jetting, but wax-like models can also be made on a classic FDM 3D printer. When using a material jetting 3D printer, the wax is usually put in a tank where it’s heated. The wax is also available in a form of a resin, depending on the printer you use. When using an FDM 3D printer to print wax, the material you’ll need is called MoldLAY – a wax-like filament that enables FDM printers to produce mold castings.

Product image of MOLDLAY Wax Filament

MOLDLAY

In the following article, we’ll focus on wax 3D printing via material jetting because it’s the optimal way to print with wax. This process is widely adopted across many industries and is especially useful for jewelry makers.

At this point you might be asking yourself, ‘What is material jetting?’ Material jetting is a 3D printing technology that is oftentimes compared to traditional inkjet 2D printers. While classic inkjet printers use a print head that jets a single layer of ink droplets onto a sheet of paper, material jetting 3D printers build multiple layers out of material droplets, which are then cured under a light source (UV light). When one layer is finished, the build platform of the printer moves down one layer in height and the process is repeated until the process is complete.

One of the most commonly used wax 3D printing technology is called DoD (Drop on Demand), a technique that is nearly identical to material jetting. You can imagine material jetting as the father of DoD. Both are similar in terms of their nature but are not exactly the same. The difference between material jetting and DoD is in how the layers are laid down. The material jetting process deposits the build material in lines, while the DoD process deposits material in a single point.

DoD is not typically used to produce end-use parts, it is instead used to produce patterns that are used for mold making, especially in the jewelry industry. DoD printers have two print heads that are used to jet two different materials at once, one being the main material for the part and the other is a soluble support material that dissolves in a liquid solution.

One company that specializes in high-end, professional wax 3D printers is SolidScape. They produce wax 3D printers for jewelers that help them achieve incredible parts that can be used to create molds with complex geometry.

How Jewelers Use Wax 3D printing to Produce Molds

Schematic of wax 3D printing process
Schematic of wax 3D printing process Source: imaterialise.com

High-end jewelry is generally made from expensive metal materials, such as gold, silver, platinum, etc. To produce a golden ring, for instance, jewelers need to design a mold where the liquid material will be poured and eventually hardened into the desired shape.

So, how can you produce an extremely detailed mold? One increasingly popular answer to that question is wax 3D printing. As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, wax 3D printing is not used for making end-use products, it’s used for making high detailed molds. Wax is an ideal material for this application because it has a relatively low melting point which is perfect for the mold making process. 

Now, let’s describe the process of how to make high-detail jewelry using wax 3D printing. First off, jewelers need to prepare a 3D model of the ring or accessory that they want to produce. The next thing they’ll need is a 3D printer capable of printing with wax, or a 3D printing service that offers wax 3D printing (more on that later).

Once the model is created and the machine is prepared, the printing process can finally begin. Wax 3D printers will be used to produce a wax model of the ring itself. After the printing process is complete, the models are placed into a liquid solution so that the soluble support material can dissolve.

When the mold material hardens, the mold is heated to the point where the wax model melts and leaves an empty space where gold or some other material will be poured. The final step is to inject the liquid material (gold, silver, etc) into the mold out of which the final ring will be made. 

That is a brief overview of how wax 3D printing can be utilized to help jewelers create products with intricate, tiny little details. With the ability to produce incredibly complex details, 3D printing wax molds make manages to turn the impossible into reality. 

How to Find 3D Printing Services for Wax 3D Printing

Logo's of 3D printing services mentioned in this paragraph
Logo's of 3D printing services mentioned in this paragraph Source: All3DP, Shapeways, Sculpteo, 3DHubs, i.materialise

Most of the popular 3D printing services usually provide a wide variety of materials, finishes, and technologies for your model to be printed in. It works rather simple, you upload a model you want to get printed, then you choose materials, surface finish and the desired 3D printing technology and then they print it and deliver the final product to your doorstep. Some sites like Shapeways even offer you to hire a designer to bring your idea to life which comes in handy if you do not have CAD experience or skills to produce a model you need.

One option is to use All3DP’s 3D Printing Price Comparison Service, a platform that compares different 3D printing services to help users find for the lowest cost for their printing needs. Our price comparison service is incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is upload a 3D printable model, select the finish/material you want your model to be printed in, and then let our service find the best deal for you.

Some of the most popular and widely known 3D printing services – such as iMaterialise, Shapeways, Sculpteo and 3D Hubs – can also 3D print molds in wax for you. Many entrepreneurs and small businesses are using 3D printing services to kick-start the production of their products because it’s an easy way to get something printed professionally and quickly without having to invest in a 3D printer.

License: The text of "Wax 3D Printing – How To 3D Print Wax" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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