Material Science Part 6: Silver – The most precious of them all

In Archive by Dorothée Doepfer

Last week we were invited to the re:pulica 2015 (Berlin), Europe’s biggest conference on internet and society. Lots of bloggers and people working in the field of social media came by and were especially amazed by our products printed in silver and ceramics. Therefore, we decided to continue our material science series with silver. This time we will not only introduce the material itself to you, but also deliver a short insight into the actual silver ‘printing’ process.

“We swears to serve the master of the Precious. We will swear on… on… the Precious!”

(Gollum, J.J. Tolkin, Lord of the Rings)

Everyone is aware that silver is a quite precious material. However pure silver (99.9%) is too soft for printing functional objects. Therefore, 3D printing uses sterling silver, normally composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% metal alloys e.g. copper. To print something in silver is not as easy as using PA, ABS or PLA because this material needs much more preparation and flair. At the moment, silver printing is not used for mass production, but rather for prototypes in the field of design or medicine, and custom-made jewelry.
The preferred method for 3D printing in silver is stereolithography. Well, actually a wax model of your design is produced with the help of this method and wax-like resin. Recently some people started to use instead of wax PLA (FDM method), but professional print services are still relying on wax resin.

If you are wondering  how the printing is processed afterwards we tried to cut our explanation down on the main 6 steps:

  1. Wax sprues need to be attached to your model
  2. Wax model needs to be placed in a flask and covered in fine plaster
  3. Plaster needs to be solidified to form a mold for casting the silver
  4. Plaster mold has to stay in a heated oven for several hours until the wax is completely burnt out
  5. Molten silver is poured in to fill the cavities left by the way and has to cool and solidify
  6. After getting rid of the wax, the model can be sanded or polished for a finish

Of course, there a some limitations when it comes to minimum wall thickness, engraved details and accuracy. Be aware when designing a model for printing in silver that:

  • Minimum wall thickness is > 0.8mm
  • Minimum engraved detail is > 0.33mm
  • Accuracy is > 0.125 mm
  • No possibility of interlocking and enclosed parts
  • No multiple parts per model file

Here are more things you might want to know when considering silver as a material for your 3D model:

Advantages:


  • Excellent level of jewelry uniqueness
  • Excellent possibility of different polishes (magnet, smooth surface,  very shiny surface, brushed, sandblasted)
  • Bright appearance
  • Relatively low production costs compared to its raw material price
  • Good machinability
  • Good conductibility of heat and electricity
  • Very good malleability and ductility

Limitations:


    • Support structure is mandatory
    • Medium possibility of detail loss while polishing
    • Medium possibility of scratches after polishing
    • No possibility of hollowness
    • No ability to enclose objects for printing process
    • No multishell files

Application Area:

    • Jewelry design
    • Illustrative modeling
    • Prototyping in medicine and product design

Use in 3D Printing:

    • Complex models
    • Concept models
    • Small series of models
    • Functional models

Preferred for:


    • Models with a higher demand for value compared to polyamide
    • Models with a demand for a metallic look
    • Models with illustrative character
    • Models with artistic character

Interested to print your 3D model in silver, but not sure about the right finish? Do not hesitate to contact us or have a look on your trinckle website.


For more information on materials read here:
Material Science Part 1: Polyamide (PA11) – Have You Ever Wondered What Nylons, Toothbrushes and 3D Printed Designs in SLS Have in Common?
Material Science Part 2: Polyamide (PA 12) – A Boring Material or Actually a Game of Fire and Glass?
Material Science Part 3: Polyamide (PA 6) – PA 6- Some Polyamides Like It Hot to Get in Shape
Material Science Part 4: ABS – PLA – the Magnificent Two
Material Science Part 5: Alumide – the ‘Hot Dog’ in the Polyamide Family
Material Science Part 7: Ceramics – Not Only for Fine Art

Written By

Dorothée Doepfer

Hey, I am Dora and passionate to work at the interface of academia and old and new economy. I have been writing for quite a while now but with a focus on academic writing. I am looking forward to writing in a fresher style here. Besides working as a research manager at trinckle 3D, I am a vintage vinyl enthusiast and road trip addict.

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