Tile and Error: Part 2

Last week, I 3D printed a replica of an Arts and Crafts style art tile. At the end of that blog post, I mentioned that I was going to paint the tile and frame it, and report back to you.

That did not happen.

But, it didn’t happen because I changed my mind on how to finish the tile. I decided it would be cool to dye epoxy resin and fill the design in with that, instead. So, for starters, I sprayed the printed tile with some automotive primer.  This was to help smooth out the ridges between the individual layers of plastic, and provide a flat surface to receive the resin.

While waiting for the primer to dry, my wife and I ran out to the craft store to get some resin, since we’ve never worked with it before. And then, I went in search of some knowledge. The resin we bought was clear, and we didn’t buy any dyes, having seen Peter Brown’s series of videos on homemade dye alternatives. They’re quite good, and I very much recommend them. (Side note: I also plan on trying electroforming a print, because that looks like fun too)

Because minimizing the number of things you’re trying to figure out is for suckers

So, we picked some colors, smashed up some sidewalk chalk we had laying around, mixed up a small batch of epoxy resin, combined the chalk and tried pouring it into the tile. Since I didn’t know what to expect, I started with the larger areas of the tile. The results were…a result.

Important science truth: Negative results are still results!

It didn’t look terrible, but it wasn’t the look I was going for. Fortunately, that’s the beauty of having a 3D printer; I can always try again. But, since I clearly hadn’t figured out the best way to approach the dye, I decided to keep using this tile as a test piece. The large flecks of chalk in the resin seemed to indicate that we hadn’t smashed the chalk down fine enough. In the video, Peter used a mortar and pestle, which I didn’t have. So, I went outside, grabbed a garden paver and a rock.

You thought I was joking

Unfortunately, my makeshift mortar and pestle didn’t seem to work as well as I had hoped. I was still getting large flecks of chalk in the resin, though the overall color seemed stronger.

Also, the resin just may have spilled over some of the outlines

To take my ability to grind the chalk out of the equation, we decided on a different dye the video mentioned. Cocoa powder. The setback: I was out of large areas on the tile. So, we bought some pipettes online to use to slowly dole out the resin. This worked pretty well, once we realized the first pipette had a hole in it and switched to a working one. And that’s where things are at today.

I’m pretty happy with the general look of this. Obviously there are some things to fix in the next iteration, but if you decide you want to try this yourself, here’s my current set of take-aways:

  1. The dye powder needs to be pretty finely ground with uniform particles, otherwise it will not incorporate well
  2. Resin runs, but not as much as you think it will
  3. For pours this small, the working time is pretty long
  4. The surface tension of the resin is high enough that you don’t need to prime the tile.

Finally, I did end up breaking down and buying a cheap mortar and pestle online, which arrived about an hour ago. I plan on trying it out soon and then doing a full re-cast of the tile. If anyone out there has any suggestions, let us know on Facebook. I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience with resin or suggestions for changing the print to better support a resin cast.

Dye it

Pour it

Make It Dayton