3D Print Learning Series: Processing
This is an entry in our 3D Print Learning Series, focusing on 3D print processing.
For other current entries in this series, please search for our tag, “learning series”, here. Search often, as we will be adding more periodically.
3D Print Processing
Those new to 3D printing often have the mistaken impression that once the print completes, you have a finished item. That’s almost always not the case, as there are multiple activities that commonly take place after the fact, including:
Support structure and raft removal
Stray material removal
Assembly of multiple parts
The most obvious post-processing activity is the removal of support structures, which are usually quite visible. This often requires great care, as the support structures can be bonded with the model itself, and removal can accidentally rip off model material or even break the model.
Another much-discussed activity is the method of achieving smooth surfaces. Some recommend simply getting a better 3D printer (or adjusting an existing 3D printer) to have better resolution. However, the most effective, but perhaps most laborious, solution is post-processing in one of several ways to smooth the print surface.
But there’s more that can be done to “process” your 3D print than can be achieved after printing; a number of techniques during 3D printing can also help you meet your design goals.
Each heading below is a link to relevant processing information.
The most obvious method of smoothing a 3D print is to sand the outside repeatedly, gradually decreasing the grit size. The extreme labor required for this has generated a number of other techniques, which are mentioned in this post. However, in the end a rather simple solution was discovered that you can use.
One increasingly popular approach for finished 3D prints is to use them as samples for molding. In this way duplicates of a 3D print can be easily obtained. But exactly how do you design a 3D print so that it can more easily be used in a casting process?
I use many different tools during 3D print post-processing, including pliers, snips, sandpaper and more, but one of my favorite and frequently used tools is a heat gun, which has some surprisingly practical uses.
If your 3D print is intended for use in a mechanical scenario, then it must meet target engineering properties, including strength. While one could simply accept the part as printed, there are some techniques for making a part stronger than it would be otherwise.
Neosanding is a very unusual method of flattening horizontal surfaces on a 3D print. This particular geometry is frequently encountered on parts and generally looks like it was 3D printed as you can often see the extrusion lines quite visibly. However, neosanding, or “ironing”, is a radical method of making them less visible.
We found a very detailed guide to all the ins-and-outs of 3D print post-processing.
Formlabs devised a rather unusual method of adding spot color to finished 3D prints that is implementable on virtually any 3D printer using any material.
The quest to perform easy smoothing of 3D prints was partially achieved when someone invented the “acetone vapor” technique, in which a print is exposed to this substance, which causes the surface to slightly soften, eliminating layer lines. However, the chemical works only on styrene-based 3D print materials, such as ABS, ASA and a few others. What can you do to chemically smooth a PLA print?
Another quest is to make parts stronger. Here we describe an unusual technique that is performed during the 3D printing process, and could be used in a variety of ways.
For other currently entries in this series, please search for our tag, “learning series”, here. Search often, as we will be adding more periodically.