Normally when 3D printing, the 3D print is the final result. However, there are some scenarios where the print is just another step in the creation of the actual intended final product. For example, you can 3D print a mold. Molds are great if you want to make identical batches of items quickly without having to worry about recalibrating your printer. They’re also useful for working with materials that just can’t be 3D printed.
While you can 3D print chocolate, it’s not the easiest thing to do. Additionally, some chocolate printer manufacturers warn that 3D printed chocolate isn’t even edible. Molds can allow you to create complex shapes, although not as complex as if you were directly 3D printing chocolate.
3D printing requires a material that turns into a paste when heated and then set hard. This applies a number of limitations on the materials that can be used. For example, You can’t 3D print ice. Even if you put a 3D printer in a freezing environment, you wouldn’t be able to extrude it reliably. You can, however, easily make molds for fancy ice cubes and then put those in the freezer. The space and energy requirements are much lower.
When printing molds, it’s important to be aware of the material they will need to contain. For example, if you’re wanting to make a mold into which you want to pour some molten metal, then plastics that melt at low temperatures aren’t a good idea. You’ll often want to choose tough materials to withstand the stresses of item removal. For some molds, you may need to use a flexible material; with others, you may want to choose an easy-to-break or even a dissolvable material if it’s a one-use mold.
It’s important to remember that any artifacts in your mold will show up in the item. Try to minimize layer heights so you don’t end up with layer lines on your molded item.
3D printing molds can let you create advanced structures in materials that can’t be directly 3D printed. They can also be reused rapidly and easily shared with someone that doesn’t have access to a 3D printer. Have you made any 3D printed molds? Let us know what you made down below.