SOLESPHERE Fine Silica Particles Enhance 3D Printing Resins Used in Different Processes

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3D printing has completely transformed our world with its countless applications. It’s not just about rapid prototypes anymore. Now, we’re using it for everything from crafting prosthetics and medical gadgets to creating stylish clothes and educational tools.

3D printing resins are a key component. They provide the desirable characteristics that regular fillers just can’t match. They’re what enable us to create intricate, personalized, three-dimensional products and components.

What is 3D Printing?

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a process that builds three-dimensional objects from a digital blueprint. Here’s how it works: Layers of 3D printing resins and other additives are stacked up to form an object with a specific shape, size, and texture.

3D printing is efficient. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, where materials are carved away from a block or shaped using a mold, 3D printing adds material exactly where it’s needed, layer by layer. This not only speeds up the production process but also minimizes waste since materials are only used as required.

Additive manufacturing also reduces prototyping costs by eliminating the need for expensive molds. Creating a mold for injection molding can be costly and time-consuming. But with 3D printing, users can easily tweak designs during the development phase by simply adjusting the digital file.

3D printing also offers a cost-effective way to produce small batches of products, cutting down on excess inventory and manufacturing expenses.

The 3D Printing Market on the Rise

Thanks to new applications emerging in defense, breakthroughs in electronics, and strides in manufacturing, the 3D printing sector is experiencing significant growth. Research sources estimate its value will soar to $31 billion by the close of 2024. Market insights project that by 2032, the 3D printing market will surge to $108.11 billion, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 20.5% from 2024 to 2031. Continued innovation and enhanced efficiency will support this dynamic expansion well into the future.

3D Manufacturing Processes

Since its inception, 3D printing has diversified into various manufacturing methods, including photopolymerization, material extrusion and powder bed fusion. Photopolymerization is one of the most widely adopted methods, encompassing stereolithography (SL/SLA) and digital light processing (DLP). These processes use liquid 3D printing resins, which solidify under a light source to create three-dimensional printed objects. In the case of SLA, lasers cure liquid resin into materials, while DLP employs shorter wavelength light for resin curing.

Material extrusion also uses 3D printing resins or photopolymers that harden under UV light to build 3D components. One variant, fused deposition modeling (FDM), alternatively known as fused filament fabrication, offers low-cost prototyping of simple parts but does not offer the resolution or accuracy of SLA techniques.

Powder bed fusion, on the other hand, uses a laser to fuse atomized powder particles. This additive manufacturing technology encompasses diverse methods such as direct metal laser sintering, electron beam melting and selective laser sintering. While more expensive, this method enables the production of intricately shaped parts using polymers and metals.

Fine Silica Particles Enhance 3D Printing Resins

In resin-based 3D printing processes, four main types of resins are commonly used: acrylates, methacrylates, epoxides and polyesters. These resins are often formulated with specialized fillers to improve their performance characteristics. Resin formulators are always looking for new ways to reduce costs and add desirable performance characteristics that mimic the attributes of the final product.

Adding RESIFA™ SOLESPHERE™ microspheres into formulations can achieve these objectives while enhancing product quality, performance and processing efficiency. Additionally, incorporating silica particles can help reduce costs, especially considering the high cost of 3D print build resins.

Available in various particle sizes and porosities, these highly spherical and exceptionally pure fine silica microspheres enhance properties like tensile and flexural strength, dimensional stability and thermal resistance. Importantly, adding these particles to a formulation does not cause the processing challenges typically associated with fillers – even when used at loading levels exceeding 10%.

Other benefits include:

  • Enhanced thermal resistance and improved heat deflection temperature.
  • Consistently uniform particle size distribution leading to more reliable batches.
  • Compatibility with a wide range of materials including acrylates, methacrylates, epoxies, polyesters, nylon, ABS and other resin compounds.
  • Easy dispersion within a polymer matrix.
  • Prevention of soft polymer blocking in powder fusion processes.
  • Active chemical surface facilitating strong chemical bonding and interactions with resins and other fillers.
  • Applicability as a filler for additive manufacturing, with loadings ranging from 3 to 50% by weight.

Mitigates Viscosity and Phase Separation

Traditionally, resins with high fill levels encounter viscosity and sedimentation issues.  Resin formulations with higher viscosities can hinder workability and processing speeds.

SOLOSPHERE microspheres help mitigate these issues. With a purity exceeding 99%, they do not adversely affect viscosity or the physical properties of formulations, nor do they alter the chemical or physical interactions within the polymer matrix. Impurities, on the other hand, can detrimentally impact viscosity and physical properties.

The smooth and spherical surfaces of SOLESPHERE particles also help 3D printing resins maintain lower viscosity compared to alternative fillers. Furthermore, their particle size is larger than other silica offerings, providing lower surface areas.

Phase separation or settling can be problematic with other silica gels and additives during storage or idle periods. SOLESPHERE’s functional surface chemistry provides a network within the polymer matrix that keeps constituents suspended, ensuring viscosity stability over time, preventing settling and maintaining resin integrity during storage.

Selection of Silica Grades

SOLESPHERE microspherical silica for 3D printing resins are available in a range of pore sizes from 3–20um and grades including:

  • Multi-porous high specific surface area
  • Multi-porous high oil absorption
  • Multi-porous low specific surface area
  • Non-porous

The nonporous SOLESPHERE grades make ideal fillers for resin compounds used in VAT polymerization processes, adding flexural, strength, dimensional stability and thermal resistance. Objects made with resins enhanced with SOLESPHERE fine silicas are used in automotive, electronics, jewelry and aerospace applications.

RESIFA SOLESPHERE fine silica are tailorable to meet the needs of specific applications. To learn more about using these gels for 3D printing resin formulations, visit

AGC Chemicals