Mar 14, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at Waseda University in Japan have developed a new surface finishing process for 3D printed objects. The process, called 3D Chemical Melting Finishing, or 3D-CMF, involves using a pen-like device to selectively apply solvent to certain areas of the object.

Visual comparison of 3D printing surface finishing techniques

Surface finishing is one of the most important steps required to make a quality 3D print. Whether one opts to sand and polish the object manually, or use a chemical solvent to dissolve the rough, “ribbed” outer layer of a print, many find that this final stage of the 3D printing process is the one that ultimately determines whether a print ends up being beautiful or just “okay.” Researchers at Waseda University in Japan have just developed a new method of surface finishing, one they say is better than polishing or solvent vapor techniques.

The new finishing process developed by the Waseda University researchers is called 3D Chemical Melting Finishing, or 3D-CMF, and it uses a tool like a felt-tip pen to manually apply solvent to certain areas of a 3D printed part. The researchers say the method is more effective than other finishing techniques because it is better at reducing the appearance of layer lines, or ribs, than sanding or polishing, but leaves more fine surface details in place than does the sometimes over-aggressive solvent vapor.

Conceptual illustration of how the 3D-CMF process works

Different tip sizes can be used to suit different surfaces

The researchers behind the new process are Kensuke Takagishi and Professor Shinjiro Umezu, whose study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports. In their paper, which is titled “Development of the Improving Process for the 3D Printed Structure,” Takagishi and Umezu focused on the process of FDM 3D printing, the most common 3D printing process for home use, but one that often produces surface finish problems. “The FDM 3D printer has the problem that it produces layer grooves on the surface of the 3D printed structure,” they write.

The researchers say that 3D-CMF offers major advantages over other 3D printing surface finishing processes. For one, the process does not need to remove so much material to create an attractive surface finish; it thereby reduces plastic waste. It also uses much less solvent than is required during a typical solvent vapor or bath process. The new technique also offers flexibility to 3D printer users: the tips of the “pen” device can be altered to suit certain surface textures, offering users a high degree of finishing precision.

Comparison of surface finishing methods (x=unsuited, △=marginal, O=good, ◎=superior)

Although Takagishi and Umezu have not disclosed any plans to commercialize their new technology, we wouldn’t be surprised if 3D-CMF “pens” became a common 3D printing finishing tool. Though existing finishing processes will remain preferable for many 3D printing applications, this new method occupies an effective middle ground between manual finishing and solvent-based techniques.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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