Sunday, October 11, 2015

Color! Using Dyes on 3D Printed Vinyl

Material for the SD300 is offered in a very limited selection of colors, so naturally I was intrigued by Sean Michael Ragan's blog post Stain PVC Pipe Any Color You Like.  So I bought an assortment of Sculpt Nouveau solvent dyes and tested them on 3D printed vinyl parts from the SD300.  They emerged brightly tinted in candy-like colors!

Solvent dyes are very highly concentrated, but they're formulated to be diluted with solvents--like the name implies!  I tested a variety of PVC solvents, using disposable pipettes to measure similar volumes of dye.  Not surprisingly, I got the best results from the most powerful solvent, SCIGRIP 2007.

The solvents I tested, starting with the most satisfactory:

  • SCIGRIP 2007 (formerly Weld-On 2007) tinted the SD300's vinyl parts very quickly, reaching full color in 15-20 seconds.  It also strengthens 3D printed parts and leaves a glossy finish.
  • Oatey Un-purple Primer was almost as effective as SCIGRIP.  It's a PVC pipe primer without the usual purple stain; instead it contains a UV-sensitive fluorescent dye that makes treated parts glow under blacklight.
  • PVC Pipe Cleaner with THF (various brands) was substantially less effective than the solvents above, and it took longer for parts to absorb the dye.  Look for THF or tetrahydrofuran under the caution label.
  • PVC Pipe Cleaner without THF was least effective.  It took more time, it did not strengthen parts, and it did not leave a glossy finish like the choices above.

After testing such a wide assortment of solvents, dyes, and tints, I made dozens of these little test puzzles so I handed them out at this year's International Puzzle Party in Ottawa.

I've also been experimenting with a subtle green tint, trying to imitate the appearance of real glass.