Dec 15, 2016 | By Benedict

New York 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot has published six new guides to post-processing, including how to sand, glue, and paint 3D printed items. We have filtered the guides down to their most important tips.

MakerBot, a successful yet divisive 3D printer manufacturer based in Brooklyn, has made strides in recent years to go beyond simply producing 3D printers. The company, formerly part of the RepRap project but now owned by 3D printing giant Stratasys, has sought to maintain a good relationship with the maker community by posting occasional guides and walkthroughs for 3D printer users. Its latest offering is a six-step guide to post-processing, which shows how to achieve a perfect surface finish, as well as how to make silicone molds from 3D prints and how to carry out vacuum forming.

“Post-processing opens up a world of interesting possibilities beyond just the print, but requires you to think about the process a bit differently,” explained Mark Palmer, head of experience design at MakerBot. “We’re excited to guide our users towards awareness of these possibilities and the basic skills to take advantage of this potential.” Here are the important bits:

Sanding 3D printed models can help to remove the appearance of layer lines, but it is important to carry out the practice carefully, starting with rougher paper and finishing with softer. It is also important not to sand in one place for too long as heat generated from friction could melt the PLA. MakerBot advises that surfaces printed in the Z axis will have the smoothest surface finish, and suggests that if you plan to glue your model, take care not to remove too much material around seams or joining surfaces.

Sanding a 3D printed part

For when the gluing stage comes around, MakerBot has further advice. One hot tip: when creating joints or keys for a model, one should make sure to create joining features large enough for the 3D printer to create them cleanly. Generally, features should be larger than 4-5mm in diameter. Glued components should be secured together using rubber bands, and cyanoacrylate glue should be used to spot glue around the connecting areas. If seams are rough or have gaps, bondo or filler can be used to smooth them.

Gluing a 3D printed part

When a 3D printed part is sanded and glued together, painting is often the next step. For this important stage of post-processing, MakerBot recommends hanging the prepared 3D print in an open, dust-free space with plenty of ventilation. This will, according to MakerBot, allow you to paint all surfaces evenly without having to handle the model while paint is drying. Primer/filler should be used first, followed by another stage of sanding, after which paint should be sprayed at an arm’s length from the object. The painted object will be ready to polish after 1-2 days.

Painting a 3D printed part

To add longevity to 3D printed enclosures that need to accept screws, it is often useful to install threaded inserts. When doing so, holes in a model should be made slightly smaller than the inserts to be installed. This will account for any plastic that melts when installing the inserts. Additionally, increasing the number of shells will leave more plastic around inserts. When installing the inserts, it is useful to keep the 3D printed part secure in a vice, and incredibly important to only install the inserts gradually, since PLA can deform at moderate temperatures.

Installing threaded inserts into a 3D printed part

MakerBot has also gone beyond typical post-processing procedures in its six-step guide, providing a walkthrough for silicone molding with 3D printed masters. By employing this process, users can easily make several copies of one product, and in materials not supported by a 3D printer. This length process requires a 3D printed mold box, the master, silicone, resin, measuring cups, and several other items. One easy way to calculate mold volume is by filling a 3D printed mold box with water and pouring the water into a measuring cup. Part 1 of MakerBot’s molding guide shows how to create molds, while Part 2 shows how to create molded parts in flexible materials.

Silicone molding with a 3D printed mold

The final part of MakerBot’s post-processing guide concerns how to vacuum form using 3D printed molds. Vacuum forming is a manufacturing process in which a sheet of plastic is heated and pressed over a form to create a part, and is used to make plastic containers, amongst other things. When 3D printing vacuum forming molds, MakerBot suggests increasing shells and infill settings to create a strong mold that will withstand the pressures of vacuum forming. An industrial vacuum forming machine is needed to heat the plastic sheet, which can then be pressed over the 3D printed mold. According to MakerBot, it is worth producing two or three spare 3D printed molds up front in case the first mold becomes damaged.

Vacuum forming with a 3D printed mold

In addition to its new guide to post-processing, MakerBot has also published guides about 3D printing terminology, loading and unloading filament, and using MakerBot software, amongst other things. The company unveiled its professional-standard Replicator+ FDM 3D printer in September.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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