Glassflake: A Reinforcing Agent in 3D Printing

27th July 2022

Glassflakes are commonly used as a reinforcing agent to produce high performance composites through injection moulding. Wherein the high hardness and stiffness of glassflake is imparted upon a thermoplastic matrix. Furthermore they contribute benefits of reduced shrinkage and increased moisture resistance.

Increasing the glassflake fraction within these composites produces an increase in both the ultimate tensile and flexural strength, as well as a pronounced increase in tensile and flexural modulus. The extent of the mechanical reinforcement is also proportional to the aspect ratio of the flake. Via Glassflake’s patented production method glassflakes of 1 µm and sub-micron (nanoflakeTM) can be produced.  Thinners flakes can provide many overlapping platelet layers to provide the greatest extent of mechanical reinforcement.  Use of thinner flakes also allows for high aspect ratios to be maintained while reducing the overall particle size. This can be to the benefit of processability, while still achieving the desired mechanical enhancement.

The growing prominence of Additive manufacturing (AM) techniques is capable of producing a paradigm shift in manufacturing strategy. AM is often referred to as 3D Printing, especially in the context of two of the most common techniques; Filament Fusion Fabrication (FFF) and Stereolithography (SLA). FFF uses a thermoplastics filament that is re-melted and extruded. SLA is family of related technologies that use liquid photopolymer resins (see Figure 1.). These methodologies exemplify the advantages of the AM approach; stream lined workflow, low cost of entry, rapid prototyping capabilities and access to complex geometries unachievable by traditional manufacturing processes such as machining or injection moulding.

Figure 1. Schematics of common 3D printing technologies; FFF (top) and SLA-LCD (bottom).

    Figure 1. Schematics of common 3D printing technologies; FFF (top) and SLA-LCD (bottom).


However, outside a few leading industries, 3D printing is still primarily used for rapid prototyping purposes, and has not been fully adopted for final manufacturing. One of the limits on greater uptake has been access to a broader range of printable materials, especially those having engineering grade mechanical properties.

Fortunately, the same principle of reinforcing injection moulded plastics through Glassflake composites can also be applied to FFF and SLA 3D printing technologies. Here is a video demonstrating just how simple it is to incorporate glassflake in to a resin type 3D printer:



It is important to note, that each technique has very different practical considerations given the differences in the physical form of the matrix. Glassflake has undertaken internal Research & Development projects as well as partnering with external bodies to pursue both avenues and will share results and data in following articles in the very near future.

We welcome any readers with interest in these applications to approach us for further discussion.

Leave your email below and we will be in touch to discuss how we can collaborate in this area.  


    Lee Brown
    Research and Development Manager at Glassflake Ltd | + posts

    Lee has been with Glassflake since 2018, overseeing all aspects of Research and Development. Lee's work encompasses glass formulation changes, process developments and collaborating with customers to assist in their development projects involving glassflake technology.