Print Smoothing: How to get high-quality prints with post-processing

There are several techniques that can be used to finish 3D-printed objects. From simply changing print settings to full post-processing. This article will help you create smoother prints and cover different post-processing techniques.

Print Smoothing: How to get high-quality prints with post-processing
Photo by Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

There are several techniques that can be used to finish 3D-printed objects. From simply changing print settings to full post-processing. This article will help you create smoother prints and cover different post-processing techniques.

Removing support material

There are several methods for removing 3D support material, this is the first thing you should do once any print is complete and is the first step when post-processing a print. Some methods of removing support material include:

  • Pliers or tweezers: Use pliers or tweezers to carefully remove any large pieces of support material that are easy to grip. Be careful not to damage the 3D-printed object while doing so.
  • Support removal tool: Use a specialized support removal tool, such as a scalpel or knife, to carefully cut or scrape away the support material. Be careful not to damage the 3D-printed object while doing so.
  • Heat: Use heat to soften the support material, making it easier to remove. This can be done using a heat gun, hot water, or another heat source. Be careful not to damage the 3D-printed object while doing so.

Additionally, depending on your print material, you can also use these techniques:

  • Water bath: Soak the 3D-printed object in a water bath for a few hours to loosen the support material. Use pliers or tweezers to carefully remove the support material, being careful not to damage the object.
  • Solvent bath: Soak the 3D-printed object in a solvent, such as acetone or alcohol, to dissolve the support material. Be sure to use appropriate safety measures and protective gear when handling solvents.
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When using any kind of solvent or chemical make sure to take proper precautions and keep safety in mind!

Once the support material has been removed, use sandpaper or other finishing tools to smooth out any rough areas on the 3D-printed object. This will improve its overall appearance and prepare it for painting or other finishes.

Surface coating

Filler

Filler is great when used in conjunction with sanding, it can be used to hide any imperfections in the printing process, especially when the imperfection can't easily be sanded down.

Simply mix the filler according to the manufacturer's instructions, using the appropriate mixing tools. Apply the filler to the surface of the 3D-printed object, using a spatula or other tool to smooth it out evenly. Allow the filler to dry completely according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Once the filler is dry, you can use sandpaper to smooth out any rough areas or imperfections. If desired, you can apply a primer to the surface of the object before painting or applying any other finishes.

Allow the 3D-printed object to dry completely before handling or displaying it. The filler will add strength and durability to the object, as well as improve its overall appearance.

Epoxy Resin

Epoxy resin works similarly to primer, however, it's much better for hiding large print imperfections. Finishing a print with epoxy consists of applying the epoxy resin to the surface of the 3D-printed object, using a stirring stick or another tool to smooth it out evenly. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the object with a thin layer of resin.

Allowing the resin to cure according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once it is fully cured, the resin will form a hard, durable finish on the surface of the 3D-printed object.

If desired, you can sand the surface of the object to smooth out any imperfections or rough areas in the resin finish.

Sanding

Sanding can help finish a 3D print by smoothing out any rough areas on the surface of the object. This can improve the overall appearance of the 3D print and make it look more polished and professional. Sanding can also help to remove any bumps or ridges that may have formed during the 3D printing process, making the object smoother and more even.

By using different grits of sandpaper, users can achieve different levels of smoothness, from a rough finish to a mirror-like shine. Sanding is often used in combination with other finishing techniques, such as painting or polishing, to achieve the desired result.

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Another reminder to make sure you use the correct equipment and stay safe. When using chemical-based, aerosolizing finishes and sanding try to use an outdoor space or a very well-ventilated indoor space if absolutely necessary.

Painting

To paint a 3D model, prepare the 3D-printed object by removing any supports or rafts that were used during the printing process. If the surface of the object is rough or uneven, use sandpaper to smooth it out.

Next, apply a primer to the surface of the object. This will help the paint to adhere to the plastic surface and provide a smooth base for the paint to be applied. Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Once the primer is dry, you can begin painting the 3D-printed object. You can use either brushes or an airbrush to apply the paint, depending on the level of detail and precision you want to achieve. For best results, apply several thin coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

Once the paint is fully dry, you can add any additional details or accents to the 3D-printed object. You can also use a clear coat or varnish to protect the paint and give it a glossy finish.

To finish, allow the 3D-printed object to dry completely before handling or displaying it. If necessary, you can use sandpaper to smooth out any rough areas or imperfections in the paint job.


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