Question of the Week: 3D Printed Candles

Question of the Week: 3D Printed Candles
[Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay]

This week’s question is about 3D printed candles.

This week I received an anonymous call from someone on our spanky-new telephone line and thought it warranted an answer here.

The unnamed caller asked if we had any 3D printers for sale that could 3D print candles.

Of course, we don’t sell 3D printers, we are a news site. I have to say we receive questions of this type almost every day, and I have no idea why people think we sell specific machines. Sometimes we even receive formal RFPs to bid on equipment for large companies. Nevertheless, the caller had a question that deserved an answer.

Wax 3D Printing

Candles are made from wax, and a 3D printed candle would, in theory, be possible to produce as there are indeed several 3D printers capable of printing in wax material.

Typically wax 3D printing is done to use the lost-wax process for producing jewelry, for example. A wedding ring could be design in 3D, and then 3D printed in wax. The wax would be buried in wet plaster and then fired. The wax melts and is poured out, leaving a cavity in the precise shape of the 3D model. The jeweler then pours in some molten gold / silver / platinum / other metal to form the ring.

Typical wax 3D printers are resin devices. The resin has wax-like material mixed with the base photopolymer, and the result is a material that acts much like wax, at least for jewelry and dental applications.

3D Printed Candles

But could this be used to 3D print candles?

I’m thinking no, for a couple of reasons.

First, candles have a wick. The wick carries the fire during burning, and it draws up liquid wax that melts near the flame. Unfortunately, none of the wax 3D printers I know of have the capability of inserting a wick during 3D printing. It might be possible to 3D print two halves of a candle, which would allow you to place a wick in-between them during assembly later, but that would drastically constrain the possible candle designs.

There are more problems. First, candles are made to burn and it’s really the wax itself that is slowly burning. Could you burn the wax-like solidified resin that comes out of wax 3D printers?

Maybe. Maybe not. The material is not necessarily flammable, as that is not a requirement of their typical use patterns.

Would it be safe? This is a big question, as I am pretty certain none of the known wax resins were designed for burning, particularly in a residential setting filled with people as would be the case for candle usage. It might be that toxic emissions are generated by burning these materials.

So, that would be a “no” on burning.

There’s yet another issue with 3D printed candles: cost. A liter of wax resin might cost US$100-250, and that’s an affordable price for jewelers making US$5,000 rings with it, or dental technicians making US$1,500 dental appliances. A fancy candle might require an entire liter of resin itself!

It would not make financial sense for someone making US$5 candles.

Maybe you could technically 3D print a wax candle, but there would be no wick, it would be far too expensive, and it might kill or poison you.

I think candles are a 3D print application that is not practical at this time. As such, I recommended to the caller they should simply contract a local artisan to handcraft a custom candle.

That would likely be less expensive and probably non-lethal.

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