A freshly printed Icosahedron before post-processing. All the powder will be vacuumed and brushed away before applying a final hardening agent. Source: WhiteClouds
A freshly printed Icosahedron before post-processing. All the powder will be vacuumed and brushed away before applying a final hardening agent. Source: WhiteClouds

Here are some post-processing techniques for 3D printing. To learn more about 3D printing, read our article about 3D printing technologies.

Connex500 or UV-cured Resin 3D Printing Post-processing

Removing the Parts from the Printer

When a build starts on the Connex500, each part begins with a single layer of part material, almost like a skin. Once the build is complete, use a razor blade scraper to gently peel the skin away from the build platform.

After all the parts have been removed, clean the build tray with Simple Green® cleaner and a silk rag. Silk helps to make sure that the machine will last as long as possible and doesn’t create any deformities on the tray that would cause future problems. Clean the underside of the print head, wash out the overflow bin and clean the wipers.

Removing Support Material

Once the part is removed from the platform, pull the skin away from the part and gently remove the bulk of the support material used to build the part. Break away as much support material as possible with your hands. You can also use dental picks and brushes to remove excess material.

Once the majority of the support material is removed, use jets of pressured water to blast away the rest of the support material.

A high pressure jet stream can be used on most parts. Lower pressure works better on fragile parts. Set the parts out to dry. Clean any remaining support material with dental picks and other small tools. Wash again to make sure all the support material is gone.

For more intricate parts, soak them in a mix of water and caustic soda (Crystal Drano®) to loosen the support material in hard-to-reach places. Once the parts are free of support material, they are finished, but other post-processing procedures can be done to alter the part such as sanding and polishing.

Vapor Smoothing for ABS or PLA Plastic 3D Printed Parts

You can use vapor smoothing to shine up a part. Vapor smoothing is a post-processing method used in 3D printing to create a shiny surface finish on a part. To use vapor smoothing, warm up acetone on a heated surface. Place parts in a container above the burner where the vapor will rise up and partially melt the parts to create a fine surface finish. You can also buy commercial vapor smoothing stations. Please note that acetone is slightly toxic and the area should be well ventilated. However, vapor smoothing can diminish the strength of the part. It may be best to polish parts with a rag dipped in acetone. 

ProJet or Powder Bed 3D Printing Post-processing

Vacuuming the Powder on the Build Tray

When a build is completed on the ProJet printer, there is a bed of powder leftover. Vacuum, using various attachments, to locate and remove excess powder from each model.

The parts are fragile. Take care when removing the parts to prevent damage.

Place the parts in the cleaning bay attached to the printer. Use an adjustable air gun to gently blow away any powder that may be left on the model. The cleaning bay has an adjustable air pressure hose and grated base so that the extra powder that comes off the part goes back into the machine. There is also a cover to make sure the powder doesn’t blow everywhere.

Cleaning the Part with Tools

When the powder is blown off the part, use dental picks and other various tools to clean out all of the little cracks, divots, and corners. Use stiff brushes included with the printers to smooth the surface of the model. This brings the vibrant colors to the surface.

Permeating the Part with Glue

After the part is cleaned, put on gloves, hold the part over a container, and cover it in liquid similar to super glue. The glue causes the model to heat up as it hardens, creating a sandstone-like finish. The glue can be brushed on, dripped on, or the model can be fully submerged.

Applying the glue can be more difficult than it sounds. Make sure to put enough so that it infiltrates the whole model, but not too much to avoid getting shiny patches throughout. Wait for the part to dry. Don’t let it sit too long or it will stick to anything it touches.

The 3D print is then finished and ready to go.

Painting 3D Printed Parts

You can also paint 3D printed parts. The best parts to paint are parts printed in white ABS or PLA plastic. First, clip off the support materials using needle-nosed pliers or clippers. Submerge the part in a vat of acetone or use a rag with acetone to shine up the part. Then use acrylic paint, the kind found in craft stores, to paint the part. Feel free to experiment with painting using different types of paint or 3D printed part materials.

For more information about post-processing, read our article about post-process dos and don’ts.