3D PRINT FINISHING

When a 3D print completes printing, it seldom looks like a refined and finished item, from support material that needs to be removed to rough edges that need to be smoothed, quite a bit of work is required to make a 3D print look acceptable.

Here is a quick guide of how I finish my 3D prints to look less like 3D printed items and more like professionally produced commercial products.

Let us first look at the tools I use in the finishing process:

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Wire Cutting Pliers and Long Nose Pliers – These are useful when removing support material from 3D prints.

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Wire Brushes – Perfect for a first pass cleanup on newly printed items to remove any stringing and excess material.

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Needle Files – Useful for smoothing rough spots on prints, especially in small confined areas.

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Craft Knives – To remove any stubborn unwanted material from 3D prints.

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Model Sanding Block – For standing confined areas of 3D prints.

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Heated 3D Print Finishing Tool – Perfect for removing stringing and extra material from 3D prints.

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Sand Paper – Used for general smoothing of 3D prints. It is best to wet sand 3D prints as it prevents the print from melting and getting ruined by the heat created from sanding friction.

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Wood Filler – Used to fill any unwanted gaps and holes in 3D prints.

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Spray Paint Primer – This is used to prime 3D prints for painting. Priming also hides small imperfections on 3D prints. Use a primer that is plastic friendly.

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Model Paint and Brushes – I like Tamiya model paint and brushes, but any model paint supplies should work great.

Now let us look at the finishing process.

Step 1: Select a model and 3D print it.

It is very important to note that the better your 3D printer is maintained and configured, the better the end results will be. Here is an example of the same model 3D printed and finished. The first was printed before I replaced my hot end and did some basic maintenance on my 3D printer (the nozzle was worn, and the heater cartridge started giving issues, I also tightened the belts). The second was printed after I completed the replacement and maintenance.

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The print lines in the first print are clearly visible, even after sanding, while the second model has a smooth finish even with minimal sanding.

Step 2: Remove support material, initial sanding, and filler.

Using wire brushes to do a quick pass over the 3D print to remove any excess material, then sand model using wet sanding method (using sandpaper and water). When sanding the 3D print, start standing with coarse-grit sandpaper (60 grit) and work down to a finer grit (220 grit). Finally, fill any gaps using wood filler.

Step 3: Final Sanding.

When the wood filler has dried, go over the print one final time with very fine grit sandpaper (400 grit).

Step 4: Priming the 3D print

When spraying the 3D print with primer, it is important to hold the spray can at least 30cm away from the 3D print and do long even passes over the model, starting and ending each pass to the side of the 3D print and not directly on the print as it will result in droplets forming.

Step 5: Painting the 3D print

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After the primer has completely dried, it is time to paint the model as desired. Using a wethering technique like black-washing brings out the detail of 3d prints amazingly. Black-washing is done by mixing black (or dark color) paint with some paint thinners, then painting all over the model, putting particular focus on getting the paint into all the nooks and crannies on the print. Then finally wiping away most of the paint with some paper towel. This gives the model a weathered realistic look.

Step 6: Done!

And finally, display your newly created item with pride.

3D PRINT FINISHING

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE CARBON FIBRE PLA FILAMENT AND 3D PRINTER UPGRADES

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The CCTREE Carbon Fibre PLA filament is a 1.75mm PLA filament infused with Carbon Fibre, resulting in a filament that can produce prints that are much stronger than standard PLA. This filament is thus ideal for high-wear and load-bearing prints.

This higher durability does come at two significant tradeoffs. Firstly CCTREE Carbon Fibre filament costs approximately double what CCTREE standard PLA filament costs. Secondly and probably the largest problem with this filament is that it experiences significant bowing as it cools compared to standard PLA filament.

This bowing can result in prints separating from the print bed, which occurred more than once during my testing, and below is a picture of the consequences of one of these bed adhesion failures.

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I found that the Carbon Fibre filament worked best when printing smaller items as the bowing occurred much less on a small surface area.

Here is a picture of some items I printed using the Carbon Fibre filament to upgrade my Wanhao Duplicator i3 Mini.

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On the left in the image is a filament guide that prevents the filament from grazing against the printer body and ensures smooth filament movement. On the right are bed stabilizers that prevent unwanted bed movements that result from slight shifts in the bed leveling springs.

I also printed a tool caddy using the Carbon Fibre filament, and this was the largest item I printed successfully using the filament. Here are some photos of the tool caddy.

As can be seen in the Wanhao logo on the tool caddy a good level of detail is possible using the CTREE Carbon Fibre filament. Also note that all prints required minimal cleanup, with little to no stringing occurring.

Here are a few pictures of the upgrades installed.

The CCTREE Carbon Fibre PLA filament is a very useful filament for printing functional parts that require a level of robustness not offered by PLA, but it does require more care and tweaking to print successfully. It is an excellent filament, just not one for beginners.

On a side note, I recently installed a silicon sock on my printer’s hot end. This is a simple and inexpensive upgrade that offer numerous benefits such as helping to keep the hot end temperature constant and keeping the hot end clean. It also a safety measure and prevents burns from accidentally touching the hot end. It is definitely a worthwhile upgrade considering the minimal investment required.

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3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE CARBON FIBRE PLA FILAMENT AND 3D PRINTER UPGRADES

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE METALIFIED COPPER FILAMENT

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CCTREE Metalfied filaments are PLA based filaments blended with high-sheen particles in various metallic colors that result in 3d prints that have a polished metal finish.  It is important to note that this is not a metal-infused filament, such as Bronzefil, which contains the actual metal in question, but rather a PLA filament with a metallic appearance, resulting in a filament that is much easier to print compared to the metal-infused filaments.

The Metalfied filament we will be looking at is the Copper variation.

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I have previously reviewed the normal PLA and Wood CCTree filaments and found them to be of exceptional quality at a very reasonable price, and with the Metalfied Copper filament once again I was not disappointed. The filament prints exactly like normal PLA filaments, and a great level of detail is possible as shown in the photos below:

For reference here are the Cura settings utilized for the prints above:

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As can be seen in the photos of the 3d prints a shiny metallic finish is achieved that looks remarkably similar to polished copper. The filament is an absolute breeze to print with and the end results are beautiful.

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I would highly recommend this filament to anyone who is looking for a metallic finish and is not quite ready or willing to undertake the more difficult task of printing with a metal-infused filament.

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE METALIFIED COPPER FILAMENT

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE PLA AND WOOD FILAMENT

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CCTREE PLA Filament

The CCTree PLA filament we will be looking at today is the 1.75mm diameter variety, but it is also available in 3mm. The filament is available in a wide variety of colors, around 25 colors, and is sold in 1kg spools.

The experience with this filament has been great, producing very good quality prints with a great level of detail and only minimal 3D printed object cleanup required after printing.

 During printing the filament has minimal stringing, if any at all, and I have never had a print fail because of a filament issue using CCTREE PLA filament.

CCTREE PLA filament is a very easy filament to print with and offers great value being one of the less expensive filaments available. I would highly recommend this filament for novices and experienced 3D print enthusiasts alike.

CCTREE Wood Filament

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CCTREE Wood filament is a 1.75mm diameter filament consisting of a mixture of PLA plastic and wood fibers that produces prints with a slightly rough wood-like finish, similar to Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), that can be sanded and stained in a similar way to wood.

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This filament is slightly more challenging to print with and is more prone to stringing (due to the wood fibers) and larger flat surfaces are prone to slight bowing as the print cools down.

It is still however possible to produce prints with a great level of detail, it just requires an extra bit of cleanup and finishing.

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During printing, this filament gives off a subtle wood-like odor.

The CCTREE Wood filament is more expensive than their PLA filament, costing approximately double the price.

This filament is great for prints that benefit from a more natural wood-like finish (for example a baby Groot) and the end result looks fantastic. This is a great filament but is probably not the best choice for a 3D printing newbie to get started with.

 

CCTree filaments offer great quality and value for money, the filaments are available in a wide variety of colors and options and they come highly recommended.

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE PLA AND WOOD FILAMENT

GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING

Over the last few years various 3D printers have entered the market at significantly lower price points than ever seen before, making 3D printing more accessible to a much larger group of people. One of the companies producing these lower cost 3D printers is Wanhao and I have been using one of their printers, the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Mini, over the last two months.

The Duplicator i3 Mini is a compact PLA optimized 3D printer, weighing just 7kg, with a print volume of 120mmx135mmx100mm. The i3 Mini is extremely easy to get up and running and setup, it comes completely assembled and all the user needs to do to start printing is plug it in and manually level its print bed which takes a few minutes following the included instructions.

The printer ships with an included 1GB SD card with various printable models preloaded on it, so the user can simply insert the SD card and print as soon as the printer is setup. Below are a few photos of one of these models, a little dragon.

The little dragon was printed using CCTree 1.75mm PLA filament.

I use Cura for 3D print slicing, which is the process of converting 3D models into 3D printable formats. Configuring your slicing application correctly for your 3D printer is extremely important and getting this wrong will result in failed prints. Configuring your slicing application involves setting values inside the slicing application that relates to the characteristics of your 3D Printer, for example print volume, nozzle size, filament diameter, print speed and so on. The values for these settings can be found in the printers’ documentation or by simply googling the printer in question and the splicing application that needs to be configured.

Here are some lessons I have learnt so far in 3D printing which might help anyone new to the process:

– Make sure filament diameter is configured correctly, getting this wrong will result in prints failing rather spectacularly.

– Infill is important, but far less is required than most people think, reducing the infill percentage of a print not only reduces the amount of filament used, but also drastically reduces print times.

– When orientating a model for printing in a splicing application, experiment with different orientations and support configurations, sometimes much better results can be achieved with a few minor changes.

– 3D printing is a slow process and takes much longer than most people think.

– Don’t be scared of getting things wrong and having prints fail, it is inevitable and great learnings can be gained from failures.

I will be posting more in the future about my experiences and learnings in 3D printing, but for now I will leave you with a few photos of something else I printed, a USB\SD card holder, which came out great.

GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING