Make a Good Impression with 3D Printing

   By Morgan Schwartz on May 10, 2023

How do you create a 3D print stamp or stencil? These simple experiments are some examples of outside of the box use cases for 3D printing. This article demonstrates a few ways to cost effectively mass produce 2D images onto a wide variety of surfaces as an alternative to using a 2D printer. While using stamps and stencils to mark and paint onto a surface might seem niche, there are many relevant ways in which you can apply these concepts to modern manufacturing and assembly lines. How can creative thinking benefit your business?

The Art and Efficiency of Printmaking

Before computers, people saw the need to create text and images in a repeatable way to create books, manuscripts, and art. Different mark making processes such as printmaking have evolved as a way to reliably transfer images onto a variety of surfaces over and over in an efficient way.

Traditional printmaking is done with carved wood or linoleum blocks, metal etching, or letterpress components that can be arranged to form a larger image. All these processes are generally subtractive in nature to form a “relief” or negative space. The artist carves away material from the block leaving raised and lowered surfaces that form the image. Once inked and pressed only the raised shapes on the surface of the block will be transferred to the substrate, usually paper or cloth.

Stamps are another great example of this mark making process. Stamps have been used historically to mark important documents and are still widely used today as a simple way to repeatably mark a signifying image or logo.

In modern society many similar techniques are still used on newspapers, clothing, and assembly lines to apply words or images onto paper, cloth and other manufactured objects. This can be a great way to brand or decorate many different products.

Using PolyJet to create a 3D Print Stamp

Using today’s advanced technology and the additive manufacturing capabilities available to us in TriMech’s advanced manufacturing lab, I experimented with replicating some of these mark making processes using 3D printing that could be used in a similar way to traditional methods.

3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping Service

3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping Service

Experiment 1 – SOLIDWORKS file for PolyJet

For my first experiment I tried to simulate a carved linoleum printing block. I decided to use our Stratasys J850 printer which prints with liquid resin cured with UV light with layer heights down to 14 microns. Using a mixture of Agilus Black which is a flexible material combined with Vero UltraBlack we can precisely control the ratio of material used, and in turn the shore value or flexibility of the final part. With the goal of mimicking a material like linoleum, I chose Shore A 60 which is soft enough to hold ink and when pressed conform to the paper to transfer the image well.

SOLIDWORKS CAD modeled file

Geometric Stamp File Created in SOLIDWORKS

Using SOLIDWORKS, I drew up a simple geometric image as a sketch on a rectangular block surface. And then used the extruded boss feature to raise up everything I wanted to show up as the image .1”. I then set the job up and sent it to the J850 printer using GrabCAD print. After cleaning the support off the back side, it was time to print. Our results were good – the material held ink well, and the lines came out crisp. I then created another design using the TriMech logo to create a 3D printed stamp which we processed and tested the same way.

3D print stamp

TriMech Logo Stamp Tests

3D Printed PolyJet Stamp Tests

Ink Type Test

Experiment 2 -KeyShot Bump Map File

But what if you want a more complex design? We tried taking a more complicated image and created a bump map to add depth. For the image itself of the lion, we first had to desaturate the png image to black and white using Adobe Photoshop (jpg’s also work for this, but do not allow for translucency where applicable). Keep in mind that white will always be what is extruded out from the surface, and black will always be extruded into the surface.  If the image had greyscale, 50% gray would be the natural surface height of the block, and all percentages in between would land somewhere in the middle.

KeyShot 10 Bump Map Texture for Exporting as 3MF for 3D Printing PolyJet Stamp Tests for 3D print stamp

KeyShot Bump Setting

Next, using SOLIDWORKS, we created a block that would be thick enough to allow for extrusion into the surface of the maximum 1.5mm, and exported this out of SOLIDWORKS as a 3MF file.  With both files completed, we can open the block in KeyShot 10 or higher and jump into the settings for the materials to choose a “bump” layer for. Clicking on this option, we can import our black and white image as this layer, scale and orient it so that it is nicely centered, and then export this file again as a 3MF out of KeyShot.

GrabCAD print settings for bump map for 3D print stamps

GrabCAD Displacement Setting

From there we move the file into GrabCAD Print. The first thing that we need to do is open a tray on either a J35, J55, J7series, or J8series 3D printer; all of these systems are capable of recognizing and processing the bump layer within the GrabCAD Print software, and executing the print as requested.  In order to use bump mapping, also known within the GrabCAD Print environment as “Displacement Map”, we first need to jump into the preferences menu; under “GrabCAD Labs”. You will need to accept the use of this experimental feature, and then turn on “Print Models with Displacement Maps.” After that, it’s as easy as importing your 3MF model, overwriting the texture (instead of using the rigid white assigned in KeyShot, we are using Elastico Black for a ShoreA 45 durometer rubberlike body), and then maximizing the white point and black point of the displacement settings to ensure that we extrude white areas 1.5mm from the surface, and extrude -1.5mm into the surface of the block for the black areas.  After that, just send the tray over to the printer, and GrabCAD Print will process this displacement change within the model for the printer to recognize.

3D Printed PolyJet Lion Stamp

3D Printed PolyJet Lion Stamp

3D Printed PolyJet Lion Stamp Impression on Paper

Lion Stamp Ink Impression

Creating 3D Printed FDM Stencils

To take this experiment one step further I decided to test another method of mark making by creating a stencil using our FDM technologies. Stencils allow the use to apply paint or pigment to a surface through an intermediate object which masks off certain areas from receiving the pigment.  Pierced out shapes allow the pigment to reach only some parts of the surface which creates the image.

Experiment 3 – SOLIDWORKS file for FDM

To test this, we designed the TriMech logo on a rectangular sketch and used the extruded cut feature to remove the desired shapes from the model to form the logo. Since I planned to use spray paint for this, we made the border large to prevent overspray. I also sized this model to match the sides of one of our popular sized shipping boxes to brand them with the company logo.

3D Printed stencil

We sent the model to the Stratasys Fortus 450 to be printed in ABS-M30 at .010” layer height resolution and after only a few hours our model was complete. After peeling off the support layer on the back side it was time to test. We went outside and got the spray paint ready. Our initial tests went well, and the stencil allowed us to repeatedly transfer this logo onto our chosen cardboard surface.

TriMech Stencil Spray Painted

Although a 3D printed stamp and stencils aren’t your average application for the technology, we are always trying to find new creative ways to use our 3D printers. If you’re interested in learning more about the projects in this article, or how you can implement creative solutions with 3D printing please reach out to our team.

Related Products
Stratasys 3D Printers

Browse the TriMech web store for Stratasys 3D Printers for rapid prototyping and short-run production manufacturing.

Morgan Schwartz

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