No matter how good a 3D model looks after printing, it is almost certain that it would need some finishing touches and post-processing to give it that glossy and elegant look. As someone new to 3D printing, it might not be easy to get a hang of important post-processing techniques for your 3D prints, no matter the filament material. This is why we have put this informational content together to guide you through. Post-processing in 3D printing has other important benefits apart from the regular aesthetic benefits. Apart from beautifying your 3D prints, post-processing helps to enhance the sturdiness of your 3D prints and also bring out the details of your prints. Once you start giving your 3D prints post-processing touches and finishes, you would never want a print to pass by without getting post-processed.
There are many post-processing methods and techniques available to you. But for precise quality, we have classified our post-processing techniques into “cleaning” and “finishing” techniques. Altogether, we are going to examine eight (8) 3D post-processing techniques that would assist you in your 3D printing journey as a beginner. So, please follow through.
These techniques are majorly part of the post-processing process. They come before finishes. Depending on your preference though, they can as well act as finishes for your 3D prints.
- Support removal
Support removal is the first post-processing work you would most likely do for your prints. As a beginner, support removal is fairly easy and does not require a handful of technical knowledge. One thing about support removal is that the ease of removal depends on the type of material used. If you use soluble printing materials like PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) for your support system(s), all you need to do is to dip the 3D print in water and your support system would dissolve; very easy. On the other hand, if you use insoluble materials like PLA, PETG and the likes, you would be required to use a plier or other equipment to remove the support. Insoluble supports are also easy to remove, but not as easy as soluble ones.
When can you use soluble supports? If you have a dual- extruder 3D printer, you can use soluble supports. As a beginner, it is advised you use soluble supports because they are very easy to remove. Insoluble ones on the other hand can be a little bit of work. You have to figure out a way of removing without distorting your 3D prints, especially the ones at intricate parts of your model. For your ABS printing materials, use HIPS supports. For your PLA materials, use PVA.
Support systems are quite easy to remove if you follow the right steps and you do not need many tools to remove them. Beware though, they can leave marks and residue(s) on your prints.
The welding post-processing technique in 3D printing is the most suitable and useful when dealing with ABS-based printing materials. If you would like to print a large 3D model with ABS but the build volume of your 3D printer is small, you need to go through the welding process. Since you are relatively new in 3D printing, you might be thinking that welding here would involve metals. This is not the case. The welding post-processing technique involves joining two of more ABS 3D-printed parts together with acetone. The acetone substance melts ABS-based materials easily, so it can be used to join ABS parts together.
How do you go about it? All you have to do is to identify where you would like to join the ABS materials. After this, apply some acetone to those areas. The areas would then melt. At these points, start joining your ABS prints together. This post-processing technique is quite stronger than other 3D joining processes. It is not costly. More so, you do not need to be highly skilled. You can use it effectively even as a beginner in 3D printing.
The sanding post-processing technique is one process you can not afford to ignore if you want your 3D prints to look beautiful and smooth. Many times, your 3D prints would come out rough on their surfaces due to filament overfill and the likes. A reasonable and effective method to combat this is sanding. More so, as a beginner, this is the easiest way to smoothen those rough surfaces. Apart from those rough surfaces, lines and marks from your support removal make your 3D prints not so fine. You have to correct this. Thereby, quality sandpaper is necessary for fine surfaces. How do you do this? It is advised you start with low grit sandpapers (150 -400). You then move to higher grits up to 2,00 thereafter. Why should the sanding be done this way? It is simply because starting with high grits can worsen the surface of your prints. It is also advised to add a little bit of water on the surface(s) you are sanding to avoid the negative effects of heat.
Sanding gives your 3D prints that fine and glossy look. More so, it is very ideal to get the best results from your 3D printing and/or polishing. Take note though, it is quite time-consuming.
Though we have examined welding as a very potent method of joining 3D printed parts together, it cannot work for all types of 3D printing materials. It has been stated that welding is most suitable for ABS-based printing materials. You would agree that ABS materials are not the only available 3D materials. There are other 3D printing materials such as PLA, PVA, PETG and the likes. PETG and PLA materials are materials which can be easily glued together. Gluing is very suitable when you have 3D figures and statues that cannot be printed in a single whole form due to dimensional complexities. For these kinds of prints, you have to print them in different pieces, then glue them together. 3D Gloop is a very strong glue recommended for this type of purpose. This glue is not expensive at all. More so, you get to glue effectively in no time at all. If the materials you want to glue together are made of PLA or PETG, you are advised to go for gluing to achieve neat welding. Take note though, it is not as strong as acetone welding.
These techniques are the final techniques in the post-processing stages. These techniques are the ones responsible for the final visible changes in your 3D prints.
- Priming and painting
Priming and painting go hand-in-hand. You must learn to prime before painting your 3D prints. Many persons might choose not to prime before painting, but this is not so good. As a beginner, you must learn to go through little steps that would improve the overall quality of your 3D prints. When you prime before painting, you get smooth and glossy painting effects. How do you prime? All you have to do is to simply apply a primer coat of paint to your 3D prints. This primer coat would act as a layer upon which the paint itself would stay. Before you prime, sand a little bit with medium grit to remove rough layers.
After all these preparations, you can then start painting. You would see that your paint would look very smooth and glossy. If you want to paint with different colours, use a masking tape for sharp colour intersection(s). Make sure the environment is airy while you are painting to achieve better effects. To avoid inhaling harmful fumes, wear a mask. Painting gives your 3D prints that bright and elegant look. Take note though, painting is very time consuming and can be quite costly; you need to purchase equipment like primer, masks and the likes.
Smoothing is a post-processing method that is associated with ABS-based 3D prints. As stated before in the examination of welding, acetone is a substance used in welding to melt ABS. Now, when it comes to smoothing, acetone is used to melt out layer lines peculiar to the surfaces of ABS prints. How do you do this? All you need to do is to pour a reasonable amount of acetone into a glass container. After this, place your 3D print(s) on a surface above this container. Then, you cover the whole container for 10 to 18 minutes. The vapour emitted would help melt out the layer lines on your 3D prints.
What if you do not have a glass container? You could simply apply the acetone through a brush. Take note though, acetone is highly inflammable. Because of this, be very careful while using it. More so, wear a mask to avoid inhaling the fumes.
Acetone does not work for printing materials like PLA. It would destroy it. If you want to smooth your PLA materials, use substances like MEK or THF. For materials like PVB, you could use isopropyl alcohol to smoothing.
- Hydro Dipping.
Hydro Dipping is a post-processing technique that is effective for multi-colour painting. With hydro dipping, you get to achieve different colours on a particular 3D print. If you were to use priming and painting for multi-colour purposes, it would not be as fine. This process is usually used in large-scale 3D printing to achieve multi-colouring effects. This is not to say that hydro dipping cannot be used for single 3D prints. Hydro dipping is a process whereby multi-coloured graphics are transferred onto 3D prints through water transfer papers.
How do you do this? You use an inkjet printer to print the PVA side of the paper. After this, pour hot water into a sizeable container. Remove the backside of the transfer paper so you are left with only the clear PVA with graphics. Place the paper in the hot water to dissolve, so that the graphics would float on its own. After this, slowly submerged the part you want to apply the graphics at an angle of 45°. Once the part is fully dipped in the water, you can then pull out the finished part and shake the water off.
Hydro dipping is a very elegant and beautiful post-processing technique. It works on all materials and does not distort the dimensional accuracy of your 3D prints. Take note though, as a beginner, you need some time and practice to perfect. More so, the transfer paper is quite expensive and there is no 100% assurance of anti-scratch.
- Epoxy coating
Epoxy coating is a finishing technique that enhances the strength of your prints and seals up empty spaces and porous edges and parts of your 3D prints. In general, 3D printing parlance, the epoxy coating acts as a potent protective finishing for your 3D prints. This coat consists of the epoxy resin and the hardener.
How do you go about applying epoxy coats to your prints? It is quite simple. All you need to do is to purchase the materials and chemicals from a 3D print material outlet. As a beginner, it is easy to mix the chemicals. The ratio and guide regarding mixing would be provided by the manufacturer. You want to note that you should strictly follow the mixing instructions. If not, your epoxy coat would most likely not dry.
For application, use a sponge or a foam applicator preferably. After a first coat, use a 1,000 or 2,000 grit sandpaper to smoothing. After this, apply the second coat and you are good to go. One very reliable product for epoxy coating is the XTC-3D. One thing you can be sure of is that epoxy coating would give your 3D prints a sturdy build.
After a thorough read of this informational content, you definitely cannot wait to give your 3D prints elegant and neat post-processing touches. This content has examined eight post-processing techniques you can easily put your 3D prints through. You can be sure that the effort(s) would be worth it. Always keep it in mind that elegant and nicely detailed 3D prints are of great value as opposed to mediocre ones.