How To Get Your Diffraction Grating 3D Prints Right The First Time

Diffraction gratings are beautiful things, bending transmitted and reflected light and splitting it into its component wavelengths to create attractive iridescent rainbow patterns. It’s the same effect you see on the bottom of a CD!

You can 3D print a functional diffraction grating, too, with the right techniques, as it turns out! The average 3D printer can’t recreate the tiny-scaled patterns of a diffraction grating directly; a typical diffraction grating may have up to 1000 lines per mm. Instead, by 3D printing onto an existing diffraction grating, the print can pick up the texture on its base layer. It’s a great way to add iridescence and shine to a print.

We’ve seen similar work before, but the guide from [All3DP] goes into greater detail on how to get the effect to work just right. Getting the bed as close to perfectly level is key here, as is the first layer height. This is because the first layer of plastic has to meld perfectly with the diffraction grating to pick up the pattern. Too high and the grooves won’t transfer to the plastic, and too low, and it’s likely you’ll just melt the grating itself. Setting the Z-offset appropriately can help here.

Choosing the right bed temperature is also important to ensure the molten plastic is able to flow into the grooves of the grating. Again, the temperature at which the diffraction grating itself can survive is important to take into account; going above 90 degrees can be risky here. The guide also shows two methods of achieving the goal: one can either use an off-the-shelf grating, or one can prepare a no-longer-wanted CD into a suitable print surface.

Naturally, removing the print must be done delicately, lest one disturb the delicate structures key to generating the iridescent effect. [All3DP] recommends using a freezer to help separate the parts from the grating surface. It also bears noting that the print won’t survive excessive handling, as the grating structures will get damaged by physical touch.

It’s a great in-depth guide on how to get diffraction grating prints right. Meanwhile, consider diving deeper into the world of 3D printed optics!


2 thoughts on “How To Get Your Diffraction Grating 3D Prints Right The First Time

    1. Would you not also with how well 3d prints can stick to textured glass destroy its pattern pretty quickly? I believe the stainless steel gratings that exist for heat pressing the patterns are probably the best bet for durability of the print surface. Not tried either though, I just know that glass beds can end up with chunks pulled out of them from prints that stuck just a little too well…

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