As you can easily tell in many photos, 3D printed parts have a certain look. They have a very matte finish with lines visible.
Using acetone and household supplies, you can add a nice shiny and smooth gloss to 3D prints using acetone vapour treatment! I’ve given this a try, and while the results aren’t producing perfection comparable to moulded plastic parts, the results are still very good.
Note: This only works with printers using ABS plastic filament. Acetone smoothing doesn’t work with PLA or other types.
- The basic supplies needed are acetone (nail polish remover sometimes works), a glass jar to contain the acetone and most of its fumes, and some kind of platform to suspend the 3D prints inside the jar without touching the acetone directly. Aluminum foil is also used to wrap the platform.
- The glass jar can be placed directly on the 3D printer heated bed. This provides just enough heat to warm the jar and cause acetone to evaporate. My printer’s bed takes quite a while to heat up, so it’s most efficient to start acetone treatment after the printer has been for a while already to print items.
- The 3D prints are placed inside the jar on top of the platform, and left there for a couple minutes or more, depending on the desired results. The prints become shiny immediately upon contact with the acetone vapour inside the jar, while a longer period of time produces a smoother finish. An extra layer of aluminum foil is placed on top of the platform for easy removal of the 3D part later. It initially sticks to the foil before cooling.
- A before and after of acetone vapour treatment is shown here for this owl print. As you can see, it is now shiny, and the lines are smoother.
- Another print shows that flat sides get quite smooth, but you can still the lines that make up the print. After treatment, the 3D prints have a soft, sticky layer which is prone to capturing fingerprints.
- Before it cools entirely, the surface of the smoothed parts is very soft. You will leave fingerprints if you touch it the wrong way, and need to place the part back in the acetone jar for extra smoothing.
Detailed directions for acetone vapour treatment are available on the RepRap Blog.
The first video below shows the acetone vapour treatment process, and the second video shows a “worst case scenario” in case you’re worried about the flammability of the acetone.
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