Can a 3D printed vase hold water?
When decorating your home with a 3D-printed vase, a common question is whether 3D-printed vases can hold water. The answer is: it depends on several factors.
In this blog, I'll dive deeper into the different factors that affect the waterproofness of 3D-printed vases. And how to create a vase that can hold water.
Understanding the waterproofness of 3D printed vases
3D-printed objects are made of layers of plastic that are joined together. This process makes creating a vase that can hold water challenging. So it's good to understand the differences between waterproof and watertight.
Waterproof means the material of a 3D-printed object can resist water. And doesn't degrade (and cause leaks), even after extended periods.
Watertight means the walls of the vase are so dense water doesn't escape through holes between the layers.
So when 3D-printing a vase that can hold water, it's essential to have both.
Now comes the hard part: the level of waterproofness depends on several factors. Like the material, wall density, print settings, and design.
Choosing the right thermoplastic for waterproofing
The thermoplastic material used for a 3D-printed vase significantly determines whether it can hold water.
Not all materials are created equal when it comes to waterproofness.
PLA and PETG plastics are commonly used for 3D printing vases. Unfortunately, PLA can become brittle over time. Because it is less water and chemically resistant than PETG. Also, both materials have limited UV resistance.
UV rays can cause material degradation, so leaving a vase in direct sunlight for a short time is best.
For making waterproof 3D-printed vases, PETG would be an excellent option. But getting a vase to hold water takes more than just a material.
Importance of wall density
The wall density of a 3D-printed vase is critical in determining if the water will stay in the vase. The denser the walls, the less likely water will leak through them.
A few ways to achieve a denser wall are using a larger nozzle for thicker layers. Or adding more walls next to each other. However, it is essential to note that a layer's thickness AND height affect the ability to keep water from leaking. So, both options to increase the density have pros and cons.
Using a larger nozzle:
+ allows you to print broader and taller layers for a strong and sturdy vase
+ gives layers a larger surface area to bond to increase density
+ enables you to print in 'vase mode' for considerable time savings
- thicker layers can be prone to minor inconsistencies, but this depends on how well the 3D printer is tuned
- it restricts the ability to print with small layer heights of 0.15 - 0.2 mm to increase the density even further
Adding 4 - 6 more walls:
+ allows you to increase the density without sacrificing the layer height
+ doesn't require a nozzle change
+ enables complex designs with overhangs
- adds a lot of extra printing time due to the extra movements per layer (does not work in 'vase mode')
There is no perfect solution for every print; the best option depends on your preference and design. However, a 2 - 3 mm wall thickness should be a good starting point.
Choosing the right design for a waterproof vase
The design of a 3D-printed vase also affects its ability to hold water. A vase with a complex texture or curved surface usually has more layers 'partially' stacked on top of each other. Similar to the steps of a staircase. Because these layers aren't adhered 'right on top' of each other, the walls might be more prone to leaking. Even though the design might be more visually appealing, making it waterproof can be more challenging.
A vase with a subtle curved shape is considerably easier to print and waterproof. However, with some trial and error, adding extra walls, or post-processing, any vase can be waterproof.
Techniques for creating waterproof 3D Printed vases
Sometimes your vase needs a little help. There are several techniques to post-process your 3D-printed vase to make it waterproof. For example, a coating creates a barrier between the vase's surface and the water. Chemicals like epoxy resin or acrylic lacquer are great for creating a thin sealant to keep the water inside the vase. Please take the proper safety measures before you work with these messy chemicals. You could only apply a layer on the inside for the cleanest result. Pouring it in the vase and rotating the object until the first 5 - 10 cm is fully covered.
The advantages of 3D printed vases over traditional vases
One of the significant advantages of 3D-printed vases over traditional vases is that you can create complex designs and fascinating textures that are otherwise impossible to make. In addition, 3D printing allows using recycled plastic materials as a sustainable building block for any item. You can also print a vase in any shape or size, making it perfect for flower arrangements.
Caring for your 3D printed vase
Caring for your 3D-printed vase is essential to ensure its longevity. When cleaning your vase, use a damp cloth and water to prevent any damage to the surface. Also, avoid exposing the vase to UV rays for extended periods. This way, you can surely enjoy your vase for a long time.
In short, a 3D-printed vase can hold water if the materials, wall density, and design perfectly match. Using PETG plastic, a wall thickness of at least 2 millimeters increases the likelihood that your vase will be waterproof. Should your design still not be waterproof, apply a layer of epoxy resin or acrylic lacquer to coat the inside of the vase. This way, you can enjoy a beautiful and functional vase for a long time.