Giving 3D printed parts a shiny smooth finish #3dthursday

Sometimes it is fun to share things because you are glad to show an example of a feat or a dangerous project you’d rather not try out yourself. This share comes with a “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME” warning sticker — though it is nonetheless helpful for seeing a DIY attempt to re-imagine the acetone vapor chambers used at an industrial level for cleaning 3D printed parts. So now that you are nicely warned, please enjoy this project shared over at Hack A Day:

No matter how good a 3D printer gets, you’re always going to have visible print layers. Even with very high-quality prints with sub-0.1mm layer height, getting a shiny and smooth finish of injection molded plastic is nearly impossible. That is, of course, until you do some post-print finishing. [Neil Underwood] and [Austin Wilson] figured out a really easy way to smooth out even the jankiest prints using parts you probably already have lying around.

The technique relies on the fact that ABS plastic and acetone don’t get along together very well. We’ve seen acetone used to smooth out 3D printed objects before – either by dunking the parts in an acetone bath or brushing the solvent on – but these processes had mixed results. [Neil] and [Austin] had the idea of using acetone vapor, created in a glass jar placed on top of a heated build plate,

The process is pretty simple. Get a large glass jar, put it on a heated build plate, add a tablespoon of acetone, and crank the heat up to 110C. Acetone vapor will form in the jar and react with any printed part smoothing out those layers. The pic above shows from right to left a 3D printed squirrel at 0.35 mm layer height, 0.1 mm layer height – the gold standard of high-end repraps – and another print with 0.35 layer height that was run through a vapor bath for a few minutes. Amazing quality there, and cheap and easy enough for any 3D printer setup.

You can check out the tutorial video after the break along with a video showing exactly how dangerous this is (it’s not, unless you do something very, very dumb).

Read more.


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  1. Um, no, that’s not the worst case scenario of igniting acetone vapors in a glass jar. While it’s true that most of the time one is likely to get large flames, there are conditions where if you happen to hit the right (ie. explosive) mix of air/acetone vapor, you will be picking out shards of glass from your eyeballs. That explosive mix point is a smallish range but something one can accidentally achieve while disassembling with this apparatus. One would be *stupid* not to at least shield the vessel and wear safety glasses and/or a face shield. I’d fire someone on the spot if they pulled that stunt in my lab.

  2. Yeah, I’m with you, KA10S — this can be very dangerous. Please don’t try this at home, but do learn the basic process used to finish ABS parts. The warning is not a dare, in this case.

  3. I would suggest maybe a metal container over glass. Doing a Google search on Acetone Vapor bath I came across a few forums were people had luck using this method in room temp container, just took longer.


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