May 18, 2016 | By Andre

If you’ve been exposed to 3D printing at all, you’ll likely be familiar with the little ridges that make their way up the exterior of any given print. These visible lines are a result of the material layering process that is at the core to how 3D printers work their magic.

Of course, while some people don’t mind the little lines, others find it takes away from the final aesthetic of the finished product and would do anything in their power to get rid of them. Solutions thus far have been a mix of simply printing at a much higher resolution (which often means longer print times) or alternatively by using solvents to melt the piece smooth (meaning a sacrifice in surface detail).

Sculpteo, one of the world’s largest 3D print service providers, has announced at the Rapid Today additive manufacturing conference in Orlando a new smoothing technique they’ve called Smoothing Beautifier.

While still sparse when it comes to details, the new smoothing technology revolves around a chemical process applied to SLS printed parts. SLS (or selective laser sintering) involves laser based hardening at specific points of a powder bed, one layer at a time just like every 3D printing process around. From my experience, SLS prints are already much finer in finish than your typical FDM plastic print out but generally come with a rough, powdery feeling finish.

It’s that finish that Sculpteo hopes to do away with thanks in part to their smoothing beautifier. Unfortunately, perhaps for now, all they say about the process is that the “physicochemical reaction uses an exclusive process to create surfaces that look like they were injected.” Of course, it being a patent-pending process gives credence to them not wanting to give out all their secrets too early.

Beyond this, they’ve divulged that it’ll be available on their white nylon based 3D prints (colour at a later date), it has a limit of 140x120x90mm in print size, three extra days to their 3D print turnaround will be added with a yet to be elaborated additional cost.

Unfortunately, just as is the case with acetone smoothing of ABS parts, the smoothing may disolve fine features that you would much rather maintain. A fairly staunch disclaimer at the bottom of the company’s announcement notes that “the physicochemical reaction can indeed introduce transformations to the parts such as minor geometrical changes or a loss of detail. Designs that include very intricate geometries, hollowed parts or sharp angles/edges can suffer appearance transformations.”

This, although unfortunate in some situations, likely won’t be a problem to most people that can’t stand the rough nature of 3D prints, SLS or otherwise. To get things moving, Sculpteo is pushing ahead with a beta program that its members are free to join today.

Since I’m in the camp of “those print lines don’t bother me” I won’t be rushing to sign up just yet, but it’s increasing 3D print order choices like this that will keep Sculpteo in the competitive forefront as the service industry continues to heat up. I’m eager to see more results and information as the beta program evolves.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer Accessories

 

 

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