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Bubble-Free Resin Casts with Modified Paint Tank

by danm_daniel on February 12, 2013

Table of Contents

Bubble-Free Resin Casts with Modified Paint Tank .

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1

Intro:

Bubble-Free Resin Casts with Modified Paint Tank

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2

Step 1:

Set up compressor, acquire a pressure tank, and read manuals

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2

Step 2:

Convert the pressure paint tank into a pressure chamber for casting

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4

Step 3:

Using the Pressurizer: Prepare mold, pour material, put in chamber, and pressurize

 

5

Step 4:

Demold and Examine cast

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8

Related Instructables

 

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9

Advertisements

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9

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/

Intro: Bubble-Free Resin Casts with Modified Paint Tank

This Instructable shows how to modify and use a pressure paint tank for bubble-free resin casts. The first part shows the modification of a paint tank and the following section depicts the casting process. I assume you know how to make a mold and cast material (here is a great Instructable on making a mold and video on making a simple block mold like I'm using below).

A professional 5-gallon pressure chamber costs upwards of $700, not including the compressor. A modified paint tank should cost under $120, and of course you will still

need an air compressor.

You will need:

- Pressure Paint tank

- Air compressor with Air hose

- 1/4" Compressor Coupler

- 1/4" Female Compressor Plug

- 1/4" npt cap

- 3/8" npsm (fine thread) cap

- Thread Seal Tape

- Hacksaw

- Wrench

in addition to a mold, casting material, and a release agent.

The main image shows two casts of the same material (Smooth On's popular 325 urethane plastic), one that was pressurized and another that was not. I used the exact same mold and process for each cast except for pressurizing the first cast. Hopefully this image is enough to convince you that pressurizing is ESSENTIAL if you are serious about casting resin/urethane plastic.

Note 1: Some use techniques in mixing (such as keeping stir stick on bottom of container) or pouring ("ribbon technique" discussed later) to minimize air bubbles. These are certainly worth practicing, but

will not achieve results that come close to a pressure cast.

Note 2: While I am a big advocate & user of Smooth-On products, I am in no way affiliated their company. I also have no connection to Harbor Freight tools and only recommend the following products

because of their demonstrated quality & affordability. I receive no compensation for the publication of this Instructable by either of the aforementioned companies.

this Instructable by either of the aforementioned companies. Image Notes 1. Pressurized 2. Not pressurized, and

Image Notes

1. Pressurized

2. Not pressurized, and full of air bubbles, making the cast opaque

Step 1: Set up compressor, acquire a pressure tank, and read manuals

First things first, if you have never operated an air compressor, understand that it is a very noisy machine that can be dangerous, especially in combination with a pressure chamber. Read safety manuals before proceeding to make sure you understand how to safely operate the machine. If you are purchasing an air compressor

just for use with the pressure tank, a good & relatively inexpensive one is "the pancake " (you'll need a starter kit too). Don't forget to drain it after each usage to ensure

its maximum lifespan.

Once you have an air compressor with an air hose and attached 1/4" female quick-connect coupler you'll want to acquire a pressure paint tank. I've been using the 2 & 1/2 Gallon Central Pneumatic Pressure Paint Tank from Harbor Freight. The price is advertised as $100 online, but I bought mine from a local store during a holiday sale for $80. I don't think its too critical which brand you choose. Perhaps more important is the size to make sure it can accomodate your mold(s).

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/

Image Notes 1. Outlet Pressure 2. Connection to hose 3. Pressure control valve Image Notes

Image Notes

1. Outlet Pressure

2. Connection to hose

3. Pressure control valve

Pressure 2. Connection to hose 3. Pressure control valve Image Notes 1. Pressure Gauge 2. Connecter

Image Notes

1. Pressure Gauge

2. Connecter to air compressor

3. Connector that will be closed

4. Fluid outlet that will be closed

5. Lid Screw

6. Hook that can be unscrewed

7. Hook that can be unscrewed

8. Hook that can be unscrewed

9. Regulator

can be unscrewed 8. Hook that can be unscrewed 9. Regulator Image Notes 1. 1/4" female

Image Notes 1. 1/4" female quick connect coupler attached to air hose

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/

Step 2: Convert the pressure paint tank into a pressure chamber for casting

Four things need to be done to convert the pressure paint tank into a pressure chamber for casting. For the first three steps that involve attaching a plug or connector, you will need to use thread seal tape. Make sure that all three of these plug/connectors are tightly screwed on.

NOTE: for steps 2 & 3, I recommend bringing your paint tank to a local hardware store and testing caps on the appropriate connectors/outlets to make absolutely sure you are purchasing the right parts.

(1) Wrap thread seal tap around connector to left side of regulator and attach a 1/4" female plug using wrench of your choice (I think its easier to use an adjustable wrench but this will most likely scratch the cap. I don't think this really matters because I don't plan on ever removing the cap, but if you're concerned about this, then use a constrictor strap wrench).

(2) Wrap thread seal tap around connector to right side of regulator and attach the 1/4" npt cap using wrench of your choice.

(3) Wrap thread seal tap around paint outlet and attach a 3/8" npsm fine thread cap (different threading than previous cap) using wrench of your choice.

(4) On the underside of the lid, there is a metal tube. Take a hacksaw and simply cut this off. In the conventional usage of the tank, this is the draw for the paint, but since we're closing off the paint outlet and using the chamber for something else entirely, we'll want to create maximum space inside of the chamber.

want to create maximum space inside of the chamber. Image Notes 1. Step 1: attach 1/4"

Image Notes

1. Step 1: attach 1/4" female steel plug

2. Step 2: Attach 1/4" npt brass cap

3. Step 3: Attach 3/8" npsm (fine thread) brass cap to paint outlet

Attach 3/8" npsm (fine thread) brass cap to paint outlet Image Notes 1. Use adjustable wrench

Image Notes

1. Use adjustable wrench to screw on cap

outlet Image Notes 1. Use adjustable wrench to screw on cap Image Notes 1. Wrap the

Image Notes

1. Wrap the thread seal tape around the outlet before attaching cap

2. thread seal tape

around the outlet before attaching cap 2. thread seal tape Image Notes 1. Alternatively, you can

Image Notes

1. Alternatively, you can use a constrictor strap wrench

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/

Image Notes 1. Attach 1/4" female industrial steel plug after using thread seal tape Image

Image Notes

1. Attach 1/4" female industrial steel plug after using thread seal tape

female industrial steel plug after using thread seal tape Image Notes 1. the cut-off the fluid

Image Notes

1. the cut-off the fluid tube

thread seal tape Image Notes 1. the cut-off the fluid tube Image Notes 1. the capped

Image Notes 1. the capped compressor outlet

Step 3: Using the Pressurizer: Prepare mold, pour material, put in chamber, and pressurize

Now that the paint tank is converted into a bona fide pressure chamber, its time to prepare your mold for casting. I will be using Smooth-Cast 325 (this process is also essential for the Crystal Clear series as well), so there may be some steps that are specific to this material. Always read material data sheets and consult with technicians during your purchase for further details. If you need to brush up on mold-making terminology, here is a good resource .

Before we start pouring, I think its important to discuss other potential problems, as a lot can go wrong in the process and result in not only lost time, but serious money. First, if you are using silicone as your mold material, you should know that most RTV silicone kits need to be vacuum degassed in order to reduce surface air bubbles on the interior of the mold (here's a video on the process , note the poor pouring technique at 1:57 - in order to further reduce air bubbles, technicians at Smooth-On recommend that you pour high, not directly on top of your objects, and only in one spot as shown in this video at 1:12). Artifacts in the mold cannot be fixed by pressurizing.

Professional vacuum degassing chambers costs upwards of $200, but thankfully there is an Instructable on making a DIY vacuum apparatus for about $20. There are other tricks that people use to prevent air bubbles, such as putting the silicone in a large ziplock bag, mixing, cutting a corner off and pouring. I guess its worth a try, but if you're pouring a mold that needs more volume, I think the DIY vacuum apparatus is the way to go.

That all being said, there are a few products that de-air themselves, though they're not perfect. One such product is Mold Star , and of course you'll want to practice the techniques shown in the product video . I have not seen other products that de-air themselves but am sure they exist. Unfortunately there is no resin that pressurizes itself, hence the need for this Instructable.

Ok moving on. Once you have a mold ready to go and are working in a well-ventilated area, put on gloves, glasses, and a mask before spraying release in the mold. Let sit for about 15 minutes, or however long your release recommends. Mann's Ease Release 200 is the recommended complimentary product for Smooth-Cast 325.

Next, mix part B first (clearly labeled on product). Keep stir stick on bottom of container and be sure to scrape sides too. If you are adding dyes or any additives such as a UV resistant curative, Smooth-cast requires it to be mixed during this step.

After part B is thoroughly mixed, add an equal amount of part A (Smooth-cast 325 has an easy mixing ratio of 1:1). At this point you'll need to work fast, as the working time ("pot-life") of 325 is about 3 minutes. If this is too quick for your application, you can also try 326 or 327 which have working-times of 7 and 20 minutes, respectively. Be sure to have everything set up before adding part A (i.e. compressor and pressurizer ready to go). When part A is added, remember to mix gently as this material has a low viscosity and can splash around. Its also unnecessary to mix vigorously like you would with silicone. I mix for about 45 seconds, and always time myself with a stopwatch.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/

Once the material is mixed thoroughly, "pour high" (shown in 3rd image) and in one spot, which reduces the possibility of air bubbles. This is a recommended practice by many technicians and is also recommended for pouring mold material as well (when using a material with a high viscosity, this is known as the "ribbon technique" because the material resembles a ribbon as it falls on itself). After your pour, you should notice air bubbles on the surface. Since you're using a pressurizer, you don't have to worry about them!

Next, place the mold in the tank. I use a circular piece of wood to make sure the mold will not fall over, as the bottom of my paint tank is concave. Once the mold is inside be careful not to move the tank, as the mold could topple and spill (learn from my mistake and be conscious once mold is in tank). If it happens, don't try to clean up the material - wait until it cures and then pop it out. If you're worried about this happening, spray some release in the tank beforehand so clean up will be easy.

The following step is a recommended practice from the paint tank manual. The manufacturer recommends that the opposite lid screws be tightened at the same time when sealing the lid. I tighten these screws in tandem one full-turn at a time before alternating to the opposite pair, which ensures the lid is sealed equally at all points. If not sealed properly (i.e. too tight in one place or not enough in another spot), you will hear the sound of air leaking and the optimal pressure will not be reached. I think its wise to practice pressurizing the chamber once or twice before pouring a mold to double check that all caps and lid are secure.

Once lid is sealed tightly, take the end of the air hose, peal back cover and then attach to plug, as shown in images. Then turn on compressor and monitor pressure - the compressor will reach between 20-30 PSI before the paint tank's gauge moves. Once the paint tank's gauge reaches between 45-50 PSI, turn the compressor off . You should not hear air leaking, and the pressure should remain constant.

Leave the mold in the paint tank for the duration of its demold time, which is the earliest recommended time that a cast can be removed from a mold.

recommended time that a cast can be removed from a mold. Image Notes 1. Release agent

Image Notes

1. Release agent

2. Block Mold

from a mold. Image Notes 1. Release agent 2. Block Mold Image Notes 1. Pouring high

Image Notes

1. Pouring high and in one spot reduces air bubbles

Notes 1. Pouring high and in one spot reduces air bubbles Image Notes 1. Mix material

Image Notes

1. Mix material and keep stir stick on bottom of cup at all times.

material and keep stir stick on bottom of cup at all times. Image Notes 1. Air

Image Notes

1. Air bubbles will rise to surface, but will be pushed out of mold while in tank

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/

Image Notes 1. Place block mold inside of chamber Image Notes 1. Let go of

Image Notes

1. Place block mold inside of chamber

Image Notes 1. Place block mold inside of chamber Image Notes 1. Let go of outer
Image Notes 1. Place block mold inside of chamber Image Notes 1. Let go of outer

Image Notes

1. Let go of outer cover once coupler is over the plug. If you try pulling back on the

hose, it should not come apart, but rather move the whole tank.

it should not come apart, but rather move the whole tank. Image Notes 1. Tighten opposite

Image Notes

1. Tighten opposite lid screws at same time

2. Tighten opposite lid screws at same time

at same time 2. Tighten opposite lid screws at same time Image Notes 1. pull back

Image Notes

1. pull back on outer cover of coupler before attaching to plug

pull back on outer cover of coupler before attaching to plug Image Notes 1. The connected

Image Notes

1. The connected air hose

2. All lid screws tightly secured

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/

Image Notes 1. Monitor pressure of compressor. It will rise to about 20 PSI before

Image Notes

1. Monitor pressure of compressor. It will rise to about 20 PSI before the

pressurizer's gauge moves above 0.

Step 4: Demold and Examine cast

gauge moves above 0. Step 4: Demold and Examine cast Image Notes 1. Monitor the pressure

Image Notes 1. Monitor the pressure of the paint tank. It should not be higher than 50 PSI.

After the demold time is up, release the compression coupler from the plug. I recommend wearing ear plugs because it is LOUD. Then unscrew lid and pop cast out of mold.

While pressurizing helps achieve superior results, its the sum of all good practices & techniques that will ultimately produce the best work. My pressurized crystal looks great compared to the unpressurized cast, however, if you look closely, there are some artifacts from not degassing (I used Mold Star 15 and degassing is still recommended, which I didn't do) and pressurizing too high (above 50 PSI), which resulted in "the measles" - tiny holes that damaged the mold. Initially I followed the technical bulletin for the Reynolds Advanced Materials pressure chamber (which recommended pressurizing at 60 PSI) and later talked to technicians who advised me not to exceed 50 PSI. At that point, however, my mold was ruined. Hopefully yours will not be. Since this first experience I have not damaged other molds pressurizing at 50 PSI, and wanted to show what can happen if you exceed this threshold.

I wish you luck in your casting endeavors and feel free to post comments if you need additional advising. I will do my best to answer your questions though I am by no means an expert, and have had a lot of help along the way in my journey as an object fabricator.

of help along the way in my journey as an object fabricator. Image Notes 1. Tiny

Image Notes

1. Tiny dimples in cast from mold "measles" - which was a result of too much pressure

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bubble-Free-Resin-Casts-with-Modified-Paint-Tank/