concrete blocks

Tips and tricks for 3D printing concrete molds

Makers and DIY enthusiasts have access to more materials for their projects than ever before. 3D printers make it very easy to work with plastic and rubber, and materials like wood have long been a staple in this hobby. But what about concrete?

Typically intended for large-scale construction projects, concrete is a material that many DIYers will not consider for their tech projects. You can use it to create different objects, from decorations (like the DIY smart lamp base) to electronic boxes to house your projects. You can get started right away if you already have a 3D printer; Find out how below.

Why use concrete for DIY projects?

Concrete box for electronics

Concrete has been around for a very long time. Known for its versatility, it provides many of the benefits of hard rock without the need for carving. Alternatively, you can use molds to form concrete shapes, making it a material that anyone can use at home. Of course, though, there are more benefits to this material that are easily overlooked.

  • Strong and long lasting: Unlike 3D printed plastic, concrete is incredibly strong once it cures and can withstand significant damage. It is also waterproof once cured, which makes it great for use inside aquariums and fountains.
  • Easy to colorYou can make the concrete colored by adding pigment powders when mixing cement with water. It’s worth experimenting with this before trying to make a finished product.
  • uniqueCreating objects with concrete is much more complex than 3D printing something, giving you greater control over the final product while making it easier to influence it as it is being formed.

Despite its benefits, there is a time and a place for concrete. The tips and tricks below will give you a good idea of ​​how to create 3D printed molds for concrete, along with some tips to help once the concrete is poured.

How to design 3D printable concrete molds

Creating a 3D printable concrete mold is easier than you might expect, but there are a few approaches you can take. The more molds you make, the more familiar you will be with the process, and the easier it will be to create successful molds.

  • Create the intended object first: 3D modeling tools make it possible to create a model of the intended final object before creating the template. Taking this approach will greatly facilitate the production of molds that match your object’s specifications, while also giving you a chance to see them before they are made.
  • separate templatesUnless you plan to melt or thaw your mold, you will need to disassemble it to get the concrete out once it has cured. This makes your form design more complex. Nuts and bolts may be used to hold the formwork together during pouring and during concrete curing. You should always plan how you will unfold the template before you print it.
  • Consider seams and leaks: Thanks to the need for a mold that can disintegrate, there will be seams that can leak out when pouring concrete. Using thicker concrete can help with this, but it’s also helpful to cover as many seams as possible with other parts of the mold.
  • Solid templateYou likely have a fairly large tolerance in mind for your project, especially if you’re building a DIY electronic box out of concrete. This will be much easier with a sturdy and solid mold. Use outside supports along each edge of each piece of molding to ensure that they do not flex.
  • Avoid very fine detailsConcrete is a strong material, but it can crack and crumble if it’s too thin. A wall thickness of 1 cm is a good place to start with the concrete. You should also consider using curved or cut corners when things are not round, to make them stronger.
  • Consider the plastic coreConcrete adheres to many materials, including plastic. Using a 3D printed core for your model can save concrete, make the model stronger, and make it easier to remove the mold from the final design. You can get thinner concrete walls if your form has a plastic core.
  • be patientWorking with concrete molds is unlike anything else in the 3D printing hobby. It will take some time to learn, and that makes it worth being patient with the process before you begin.

These tips will give you a head start on concrete mold production, but you’ll have to do some learning on your own. There are plenty of videos and guides around the web to help you with 3D printing, and a lot of them are about concrete, giving you a wealth of resources to make use of.

Selection and mixing of concrete for 3D printed molds

3D model of a tangible object

The concrete you choose for your 3D printed molds will always affect the final result. There are many issues to consider when selecting concrete for your project, from curing time to the size of the materials your cement is made of.

  • Cement roughnessCement is composed of a group of ingredients, including sand and stone. Some cement mixes are coarser than others, with larger pieces being mixed. 3D printed moldings with fine detail benefit from fine cement, while larger designs can adjust to coarse options.
  • treatment timeCement cures into concrete when mixed with water. This process can take from a few minutes to several days. Working with slow-curing concrete is a good idea when first starting out, ensuring that you have plenty of time to fix mistakes and make sure your mold works properly.
  • The right mixDifferent types of cement require different proportions of water to work. This means that you must follow the instructions that came with your blend for best results. Thicker concrete will be more difficult to pour but is less likely to leak out of the mold.

Curing and finishing your concrete

The last part of this process involves curing and finishing the concrete. Most types of concrete take a long time to completely set, with many mixtures hardening up to a century. In reality, though, most concrete you find in stores will cure enough in a couple of days.

Patience is the key here. It will be very difficult to remove mold without causing damage to the concrete if the concrete is not cured properly, but it will make no difference if you over-cure the mold. Be very gentle when removing the mold from the new concrete body.

Once your object is out of the mold, you have plenty of finishing methods to choose from. Sanding the concrete will make it smooth, while coating it with epoxy or PVA will harden and protect it. Choose a finishing method that reflects the desired outcome of your design and follow online instructions to help you achieve the right results.

Making things out of concrete

Concrete is a somewhat exceptional material, providing the strength of stone while being relatively easy to work with. Of course, though, you’ll still need to learn a lot along the way, and working on your own projects is an essential component of the process.

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