Apr 20, 2017 | By Tess

Last year, Toronto-based 3D printing and rapid prototyping service Custom Prototypes amazed us with a stunning 3D printed replica of Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting The Starry Night, originally painted in 1889. Now, it has come through yet again with an equally impressive artistic project: a 3D printed, 100% plastic stained glass window.

The stained glass window project reportedly took the dedicated Custom Prototypes team three months to complete, as it consisted of designing, 3D printing, post-processing, and finalizing the various parts of the piece. The team is hoping to once again take home first prize at the Additive Manufacturing User Group (AMUG) conference in the Advanced Finishing category. (Last year it won for its 3D printed Van Gogh artwork.)

The final product that Custom Prototypes produced is undeniably impressive, as the 3D printed window successfully captures the style of traditional stained glass. Perhaps more impressive, however, it the lengthy process that went into realizing the art project.

According to the Canadian rapid prototyping service, it was drawn towards making a stained glass window because it wanted to use its Somos resins—which come in both solid colors and transparent ones—and its SLA 3D printers. With the idea in mind, Custom Prototypes’ in-house designers set to work creating digital models of the stained glass and its frame.

In designing the window, the team used 3D design software Solidworks, which allowed them to intricately model a 3D printable version of the stained glass window. When the design process was complete, the model was separated into four segments, which were 3D printed individually.

Of course, 3D printing the parts for the window was only part of the work, as the Custom Prototypes team then had to navigate how to a) color the “glass” parts without hindering the transparency and b) how to process the 3D printed frame to make it look authentic. According to the company, figuring out how to color the glass segments was the trickiest part of the process and took a few tries.

As they explain on their blog, the team spent a long time testing different coloring methods on scrap pieces of clear plastic, including paint (which was too opaque) and different dyes. Ultimately, colored dyes were used, though they had to be used carefully to avoid bleeding and mixing with other colors. For the glassy effect, the team then applied a thick coat of a clear gloss to the print.

For the came bars that give the appearance of connecting the different “plates of glass,” the team first applied a metallic spray, and then a black top coat, which was textured and finished using a common steel wool sponge. In real stained glass, the came lines that connect different pieces of glass are traditionally made from lead, zinc, brass, or even copper.

When the stained glass segment was complete, the 3D printed frame parts were assembled using glue and subsequently sanded. Gaps were filled using a body filler. The frame was then spray painted in various different colors, and was finished with a sandstone top coating for the aged stone effect. The final assembly consisted of aligning the stained glass to the frame and securing it.

All in all, we’d say the hard work paid off, as the 3D printed stained glass window is really something to behold.

(Images: Custom Prototypes)



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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