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Sand Your Way to Smoother 3D Printed Parts by Following These Easy Steps

by • January 11, 2016 • No Comments


The accomplished, polished, printed Rumy

When we speak of 3D printing, we spend much time on the design, modeling, and printing of our objects. But let’s not forget which in order to optimize your print job there’s in addition the academic requirement finishing of the print. This is no tiny part of an overall successful print. 3D printed objects are notorious for having stringy surfaces after printing, and fortunately there’s an effortless way to handle this problem: sanding. Here’s an account of Arif Iftakher and Thomas Stillwell’s experience finishing a transportable sensor controller for smart thermostats (Rumy). There are lessons here for everyone who wants to improve their overall print quality by finishing their prints in a additional fine manner.

Iftakher reports which a 1st generation Flashforge Creator he bought off Craigslist was not up for giving him the best print quality money can buy, so he decided which finishing the print well may compensate for any limits in the print job. It took him two hours and $25 (for sandpaper and polishing compound) to finish both of Rumy’s parts, but the results were worth it. All of Rumy’s parts were “sandable” since there were no creases or tiny angles requiring acetone, so the job was clean and safe.

Original Print

Original Print

Step One in this system is to begin\ with a excellent\ print. Iftakher gives a few tips here, which include using a color of filament close to your print’s desired color to avoid heavy painting later. (The blue filament photos here are for the article, but the original Rumy was printed in black requiring no painting later.) Also, for the top resolution you want to use the tinyest layer height (0.1 mm or less) possible, especially on the initial layer. Other tips include: begin with the face plate upside down (for best surface finish); for ABS prints, clean the surface of your print bed with Kapton tape and (optional) IPA; always use a slower speed when you can; and print at 100% infill since sanding removes a few of the print’s material.

When it comes to sanding your print, Iftakher recommends using of six gradually increasing grades of sandpaper (such as 100, 240, 400, 600, 1500, and 2000) and begin\ sanding your print with the larger grade paper to remove bumps and scratches. You can wash the print off several times and inspect it for missed scratches; if you miss these you may have to begin over again.

Iftakher describes the sanding system as he moved of larger to tinyer grit sandpaper:

“Initially the surface looked ashed. But once we begined using paper with grit 600 and higher, the surface begined to be cleaner and smooth. It was a fewwhat shiny with the 1500 grade sand paper. If done right, there will be no stringy texture (striations) on the surface at this point.”

Grit 2000

Grit 2000

You can see the difference in photos here. If you’ve achieved a level of smoothness which the Grit 2000 photo depicts, you may feel which your finishing work is done. Not quite. Do you want it to be a exception color than the original filament? Well, and so you have to paint your print, too. Iftakher recommends sanding with a minimal grit of 240 preceding you paint. Spray cans work excellent for this, providing you use proper priming and painting techniques, which can be discovered here.

Polishing is the last step in this finishing system, and you can do this just by using a plastic finishing compound which will give your print a nice shine at the end. These steps should help you go of acceptable to formidable when it comes to getting the most out of your 3D print jobs. Happy sanding! Discuss this technique in the Sanding 3D Printed Parts forum on 3DPB.com.