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Thread: 3D-printing a silver tank?

  1. #1
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    3D-printing a silver tank?

    There's a blossoming wet plate group in Tucson I've been helping out, and they need silver tanks. Several people have access to 3D printers, and we're wondering if the tanks can be 3D printed? Are there 3D printing materials available that will stand up to the silver nitrate solution long term without either damaging the tank or contaminating the silver bath?

    Thanks muchly!
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  2. #2

    Re: 3D-printing a silver tank?

    First off, people can always just use trays for sensitizing. A tray with a bigger tray over it is light tight.

    Itís possible to print a tank, going slow with PETG or ABS can get good watertight layer bonding, and a few mm thick is enough to block enough light (I tested a bunch of plastics with my densitometer). Iíve left those materials in silver nitrate solution for weeks with no evidence of weakening (and data tables donít suggest reactions, Iím a materials scientist for a living). BUT, making a tank by solvent bonding acrylic is going to be more reliable and honestly might be easier. Keep any tank in a print tray to capture the precious silver WHEN it leaks (even the best tank will someday leak).

    Most people wonít have a printer big enough for 8x10 anyway. And enough plastic to do a good job will probably cost as much as just using acrylic. But itís a lot more work to weld the acrylic than to hit ďprintĒ.

    I used to be a skeptic of all things 3D printed, but Iíve been cured of that via experience.


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  3. #3

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    Re: 3D-printing a silver tank?

    Acrylic is the tried and true solution to this problem. You could probably simplify things by having the pieces laser/CNC cut and then spend the time to weld it yourself.

  4. #4
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: 3D-printing a silver tank?

    We don't need the tank to be light tight, as we can make boxes to hold the tank.

    I've made quite a few acrylic tanks, but they're a major pain to build. As we'll be making at least half a dozen now and will likely make more in the future, it would be a better option to just 3D print them. We'd be making tanks for 6x8 plates, and have access to good-sized printers, so size wouldn't be an issue.

    We're just wondering if anyone has experience with 3D-printed tanks so we'd know what printing materials (if any) would be feasible?
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  5. #5

    Re: 3D-printing a silver tank?

    In that case, PETG printed hot and slow is your best bet. Each layer should melt the bottom layer a good bit so the bonding is really good. The surface might not be as beautiful, but it will be as strong and leak-proof as possible. If using a standard 0.4mm nozzle, Iíd do 6+ walls on inner part of box so that itís strong enough to hold the liquid and get banged around by plates. Infill can be like 20-30%. Outer walls maybe 4 are fine. Use layer heights that are about half the nozzle diameter. A wider nozzle like 0.6 mm or 0.8mm might be stronger and will definitely be faster. Figure at least a day to print each.

    PLA will possibly break down, donít use that.


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  6. #6
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: 3D-printing a silver tank?

    How about using 1/4" thick black ABS and ABS cement? Or wood with Epoxy? The home centers also sell PVC boards that're easy to work. If I had to do this, I'd use PVC boards for the bottom and thin sides. It's 3/4" thick, and so it's easy to glue, and then I'd use ABS for the sides. Should be easy to build.
    Last edited by Peter De Smidt; 15-Nov-2021 at 17:26.
    ďYou often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.Ē
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  7. #7
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: 3D-printing a silver tank?

    Thank you, Nerologic! Good information as we pursue this. What do you think of filling the finished tank with an acrylic or polyurethane, then pouring it out, (like pouring collodion on a plate), leaving a thin coating of that finish to dry on the inside?
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  8. #8
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: 3D-printing a silver tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter De Smidt View Post
    How about using 1/4" thick black ABS and ABS cement? Or wood with Epoxy? The home centers also sell PVC boards that're easy to work. If I has to do this, I'd use PVC boards for the bottom and thin sides. It's 3/4" thick, and so it's easy to glue, and then I'd use ABS for the sides. Should be easy to build.
    If we build by hand, I'll just use the proven clear 1/4" acrylic, as I have a lifetime supply. It's just awfully labor intensive when considering multiple tanks, especially the way I build with extra pieces covering the seams to prevent leaks:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DSCN0084s.jpg  
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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