How to make transparent and translucent parts

5 axis machining

Clear parts and prototypes have a huge variety of applications. Fortunately, they’re also fairly easy to make, with a wide range of materials and prototyping technologies at your disposal.

This article goes over the basics of transparent and translucent parts: why you might need them, what materials you can use, which manufacturing technologies are available, and other considerations like polishing and tinting your clear parts.

Why use transparent and translucent parts?

Product designers can desire obvious parts for any number of reasons. Look around you and you’ll probably see at least one very clear or clear manmade object, be that a glass window, a see-through container, a plastic tumbler, or a piece of food packaging.

In general, however, there are three ( sometimes overlapping) reasons for making obvious parts, and we’ll explain them here.

Remember that transparency means fully very clear, so that one may observe exactly what is behind the material, while translucency means partially crystal clear, to ensure that 1 may discover light coming through the components or a blurred representation of what is behind the materials.

Visibility: Firstly, there are those parts that are designed to become apparent to ensure that humans might find them for functional factors. These include things like windows, spectacles, metal containers, ID card holders, and plastic material boxes for office stationery. Parts of this category are typically completely clear: they are designed so human beings can easily observe precisely what is behind the crystal clear supplies.

Light: Secondly, we possess the category of parts that need to be apparently intended for functional factors not related to human sight. These consist of any objects where light must pass through the clear material for a mechanical or practical purpose. Examples consist of solar panel home windows, greenhouses, and terrariums. Items like flashlight and headlamp covers, although associated with human being view, may also end up being considered right here, since the purpose of the apparent plastic-type section is usually to let mild out, not to reveal what is definitely inside the part.

Aesthetics: Thirdly, presently there are translucent or translucent parts whose clarity is usually purely to get aesthetic elements. Humans may possibly look through the component or perhaps notice lumination arriving from behind it, but this serves no useful purpose. Such superior parts include obvious video game and computer hardware, toys, plastic-type material wristwatches, acrylic musical instruments, designer bags, and some tool /utensil handles.

How to make transparent and translucent parts

There are four main techniques for making transparent and clear plastic parts, all of which are offered by 3ERP. Each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, though CNC machining and rapid tooling/injection molding are generally better pertaining to end-use parts.


Stereolithography (SLA) is a 3D printing process that uses a focused laser to solidify a layer of UV-curable resin. It can be one of the fastest and most cost-efficient ways to make clear parts, especially complex parts with undercuts.


  • Very fast
  • Cost-efficient
  • Supports complicated geometries
  • High resolution
  • Disadvantages:


Produces weak and brittle parts

Support structures must become removed after stamping

Materials limited to brand-specific resin formulations

Not practical or affordable meant for orders of multiple units

Urethane casting

Urethane throwing, a procedure for producing urethane parts using temporary silicone molds, is the best way to create 10-20 copies of a distinct component, no matter its level of complexity. Like SLA, it does not really produce strong parts, but it will create excellent surface finishes.

Positive aspects:



Extremely simple to tint

Simulate 2K molding

Good appearance


Transparency is definitely not 100%

Generates poor and frail parts

Molds only last about 20 shots


CNC machining, a subtractive production procedure in which elements can be selectively removed from a blank, is the only technique to achieve a prototype with perfect transparency, and it can also be used to help to make milky translucent parts coming from components just like DF23. COMPUTER NUMERICAL CONTROL machining also produces super fine details if small cutters ( R 0. 1mm, L 0. 05m m, etc . ) will be used.


Learn more about 5 axis machining.



  • High quality
  • High level of clarity
  • Several materials options


  • Costly in large quantities
  • Less geometrical freedom than SLA

Injection molding

Injection molding, the process of injecting molten botanicals into a metal mold, is certainly suitable for certain evident parts. Rapid tooling – producing low-cost aluminum mildew – is certainly ideal for 100+ parts, whilst production tooling is normally best when 10, 000+ specific parts happen to be required.


  • High quality
  • Cost-efficient in large quantities
  • Wide range of materials


Not really ideal for low-volume (1-100) orders

Some geometrical restrictions

Other methods

Laser cutting or water jet trimming allows us to make parts with simple geometry. With either of these strategies, we can make parts from sheets of magnificent resources which might be too expensive designed for CNC engineering or urethane throwing, or perhaps which aren’t mechanically perfect for injection molding.


Find out more about how to cut polymer and PC linens.

How to polish and add color to evident parts


When making clear parts, post-processing is necessary to achieve the required degree of transparency. In general, polishing after manufacture is generally the greatest method to create SLA and CNC parts completely obvious.


For CNC machined products, specifically PMMA, perfecting can greatly increase clarity, partly because acrylic is highly resistant to the little scratches that may well otherwise end up being caused by polishing equipment. Polishing approaches contain buffing, flame polishing (for standard / non-critical parts), and optical architecture. A personal computer is certainly even more vulnerable to scrapes, therefore vapor perfecting is used to increase clearness.


Polishing likewise improves the clarity of SLA parts. For these 3D printed clear parts, a three-part method of wet sanding, cork board cleaning, and polishing with a microfiber cloth may generate good results.


In addition to polishing, we are able to introduce color to very clear parts, usually for aesthetic reasons. With injection molded or urethane material cast parts, we can facilitate self-texture and self-color during the molding stage by adding colorants and other additives. Alternatively (or additionally), we can add tints or coatings of paint after the molding treatment, which makes it possible to possess two colors on the final element.


For CNC machined crystal clear parts, we can easily use techniques like sandblasting, tint, or texture painting to adjust the appearance. A superb aspect can turn into achieved on many noticeable parts using a tinting film process. Possible colors contain red, yellow, blue, and orange. (Some shades just like, gray, are harder to control. ) Painting could be another basic option, however, it can create issues such as fruit peel: an undesirable bumpy surface area consistency.