Finishing ABS 3D Printed Parts

Tags: ABS Vapour bath, finishing, smooth, 3D Printing

ABS part finishing

A typical ABS 3D Print using a Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM, FFF) printer such as a RepRap, Makerbot or Up! can produce finishes which are like the two objects shown on the right in the picture below.

A small layer height of 0.1mm (100 microns) gives a better finish with less stepping than a 0.35mm (350 microns) print however the drawback is that the print takes considerably longer to complete. Even at 0.1mm the stepping is evident. To get a smooth, glossy finish post-processing of the 3D Print is required. In this case post-processing involves an Acetone Vapour Bath. A Vapour bath in essence melts the top layers allowing the ABS to flow smoothly over the surface as it dries. The results can be seen in the left hand picture.

Considerations

Prints which have very detailed features or sharp edges may not be suitable for post-processing as there is always a loss in detail. In this instance post-processing using other finishing techniques such as painting may be more appropriate.  

Post-processing using an Acetone Vapour bath increases the length of time and the manual processes involved in completing the overall print but the results are often worthwhile especially if you are looking to impress so it's definately worth considering next time you order your print job.  

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