Smooth 3D Prints With Alcohol

There was a time when most 3D printers used ABS, which is a great plastic for toughness, but is hard to print with since it tends to warp. Worse still, it stinks and the fumes may be bad for you. Most people have switched over to printing in PLA these days, but one thing you might miss with this more forgiving plastic is vapor smoothing with acetone; a smoothed print doesn’t show layer lines and looks more like plastic part that didn’t go through a nozzle.

[Major Hardware] likes the look of vapor smoothed parts, but doesn’t like working with ABS and acetone fumes, so he’s started using Polysmooth. As you can see in the video below, the results look good, but be warned that the filament is relatively pricey. Plus you need to use a $300 machine that atomizes your alcohol into a mist. We feel certain you could do the same thing for less since it appears to just be like a humidifier, but we’d also suggest being careful putting flammable substances in a consumer-grade humidifier and certainly don’t use a vaporizer.

The filament sounds like it is on par with PLA for ease of printing. The material has a higher glass temperature than PLA but less than ABS. The tensile strength and Young’s modulus (a measure of stiffness) numbers are comparable to ABS. Although all smoothing has some imperfections and you probably need to experiment with times and other parameters. The smoothing did fuse some movable joints, so anything that moves or fits together is probably a bad candidate for this process. We’ve also heard that thin-walled parts can get soft in water due to alcohol residue, but you can dry or soak the part clean to avoid that.

If you want to try your own hand at making a mist, this might get you started. After all, if it can handle acetone, we imagine alcohol isn’t any worse. While it isn’t as easy to handle as alcohol, we hear the solvents such as THF or ethyl acetate can smooth regular PLA. Heat guns and open flames are popular, too.

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Give 3D Printed Plastic A Well-Worn Metal Look

Affordable 3D printers let us turn ideas into physical reality without a big expensive workshop, but with their power came some disadvantages. The nature of FDM printers impart layer lines and nozzle ridges in the parts they produce. They can be minimized with optimized print settings, but never eliminated. [Emily Velasco] loves the power of 3D printing but not how the parts look. So she put in the effort to make 3D-printed plastic look like distressed metal and showed us how she did it. (Video also embedded after the break.)

This video is a follow-up to her Pet Eye project in response to feedback on Twitter. She had mentioned that the  salvaged metal box for Pet Eye wasn’t quite big enough to hold everything, so she had to extend its internal volume with a 3D print box on the back. It fit in so well that the offhand comment surprised many people who wanted to know more about how it was done. So she designed a demonstration cube covered with mechanical characteristics, and gave us this walkthrough of its transformation.

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3D Printering: Print Smoothing Tests With UV Resin

Smoothing the layer lines out of filament-based 3D prints is a common desire, and there are various methods for doing it. Besides good old sanding, another method is to apply a liquid coating of some kind that fills in irregularities and creates a smooth surface. There’s even a product specifically for this purpose: XTC-3D by Smooth-on. However, I happened to have access to the syrup-thick UV resin from an SLA printer and it occurred to me to see whether I could smooth a 3D print by brushing the resin on, then curing it. I didn’t see any reason it shouldn’t work, and it might even bring its own advantages. Filament printers and resin-based printers don’t normally have anything to do with one another, but since I had access to both I decided to cross the streams a little.

The UV-curable resin I tested is Clear Standard resin from a Formlabs printer. Other UV resins should work similarly from what I understand, but I haven’t tested them.

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