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3D Printing Finishings: Which option should you choose for your project?

Introduction

When you create an object with 3D printing, you want it to be perfect, to have the highest surface quality, and to be as resistant as possible. Since 3D printing technology builds the final object layer-by-layer, the surface of the 3D printed part may result to be a bit rough. In order to avoid the appearance of the layer effect, we recommend you to apply a 3D printing finish on the exterior surface of your end-use parts.

But how to choose the right 3D printing finish according to your priorities? There are many things to consider when selecting the right finishing option: the compatible materials, their resistance for different uses, the price, etc.

In this blog post, we will go through all the 3D printing finishes we offer through our online 3D printing service. We will describe their properties as detailed as possible and see how each one can be used for different purposes, so you can find the one that suits you best and receive the perfect 3D printed object!

Why is 3D printing finishing important for your projects?

Using finishings for your 3D printing project gives your product a chance to stand out by improving the surface of the print. Both for prototyping and production, these 3D printing finishes can give your part a smooth surface, quite similar to parts manufactured using injection molding. 

Mass-customization is one of the most important benefits of additive manufacturing; finishings help to give your parts a unique look, adapted to your needs or to your customer’s needs. From plastic to resin and metal 3D printing projects, there is necessarily a finish option suiting your project!

Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service offers several options for finishing processes. Compared to low-cost filament 3D printers, industrial 3D printers will already deliver parts with a great surface quality. Adding finishing will improve the visual aspect of your part but can also reinforce some properties of the part, if it has to be exposed to external conditions for example.

Traditional 3D printing finishing options

Polishing: Give your parts a smoother surface

The polishing finishing option can be applied to: 

Through the polishing procedure, your parts get a smoother surface, so that the layers are not so visible and the surface is not so rough. It is the most affordable choice after the “raw” option and as you can see from the image below it significantly improves the surface quality of your 3D printed parts.

Varnishing: Shiny surface for multicolor parts

Varnishing is a finish that is applied to the parts created with the Colorjet 3D printing technology and white Nylon PA 12 parts. It is a great finish to apply on parts and figurines created with our Multicolor material as they make them look shinier. It can be also applied on top of a painted plastic, meaning that for every painting color available for white plastic, you can varnish them on top (glossy painting). It is an excellent choice to consider for your plastic or multicolor parts if you want to protect them from humidity, and give them a glossy and shiny surface too.

Dyeing: Give your parts a uniform surface

Dyeing can be applied on your white 3D printed plastic parts, on Alumide and on  VeroWhite Polyjet Resin. The procedure of dyeing your 3D printed parts consists of immersing them in a heated dye bath. Thus, the color reaches all the sides of the parts, the internal channels and the interior surfaces, resulting in a uniform finish. Dyeing is a great option to consider for parts of great geometrical complexity that cannot be painted. 

 

Painting: Give your parts a smooth surface

Painting is an option that you can consider finishing 3d printed parts made of white Nylon PA12. Your plastic parts are painted with a spray-gun. Because of that, painting is a great choice as it enables paint to maintain the details of the printed object (the paint layer only adds 200 microns of thickness on average). For all colors, there are two different options to choose from: either glossy or matte. The result is a smooth and uniform colored surface, that is perfect for prototypes, decorative objects, and demo products.

Finishing 3D printed plastics: Finishes with great resistance

Chemical smoothing: Bright finish

The Chemical Smoothing is a patented process that was developed by the R&D department of Sculpteo. This finishing option can be applied on your Nylon PA12 and Ultrasint® TPU01 parts. Thanks to this finish, your 3D printed parts get exceptionally shiny and more performant, so that they look like finished products. Create a high-quality product by using this finish on your 3D printed parts. Our Chemical Smoothing is the perfect choice to make your products very shiny and smooth in terms of look and feel. The smoothing process takes place with a steam-solvent diffused throughout the chamber. The solvent will condense on parts then a physicochemical reaction reflowing parts takes place. This perfectly removes the irregularities or your 3D printed parts. Chemical Smoothing is one of the finishing options that are dedicated to outdoor activities and can be exposed to humid environments.

Raw and processed parts

On the left, a TPU part with Chemical smoothing finish, on the right, a raw TPU part.

Color Touch and Color Resist: Stable Color with resistance to scratching

Both the Color Touch and Color Resist finishes are dyeing finishes achieved with the DyeMansion technology and you can apply them on your Nylon PA12 plastic parts and your HP Multijet Fusion PA12 plastic parts.

Obviously, the range of available colors is much wider than in the traditional dyeing process. Moreover, the maximum size for dyeing your models with the Color Touch finish is bigger than dyeing them with the simple dyeing process (284 x 350 x 350 mm for the MultiJet Fusion parts and 675 x 366 x 545 mm for the White Nylon PA12 parts).

Let’s see how each one of them can fit your 3D printing needs.

 

Finish touch

  • Why should you apply the Color Touch finish on your 3D printed plastics?

Color Touch is a great option if you want to give your dyed parts a satin look. Thanks to the special post-printing treatment we follow at Sculpteo, which includes tribo finishing both before and after the dyeing process, the surface of your 3D printed parts gets brighter. Color Touch should be a choice to consider when you are looking for a shiny and colorful option to withstand scratching and rubbing on a daily basis. Moreover, it is resistant enough to be exposed to external conditions, as on top of all of that it’s also UV resistant and helps the color to remain stable over time. For these reasons, many of our customers choose this finish to apply it on glasses, fashion products, jewelry, decorative products, and more.

  • Why should you apply the Color Resist finish on your 3D printed plastics?

The Color Resist finish is the solution for applications requiring high levels of resistance to wear. As the name of the finish implies, this finishing option gives your 3D printed plastics a matte look that is very resistant to scratching, friction and abrasion. It also gives a high-quality surface, so that it can be exposed to outdoor use or mechanical parts that need to be resistant to rubbing. In addition, you can use the Color Resist finish for parts that need to have the same color between different production batches, which is great if you need to produce an important amount of identical parts.

Finishing 3D printed metals: Plating against oxidation

Through Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service, you can also 3D print a wide range of metal materials. A very common use of metal 3D printing is actually for creating jewelry, fashion items, and decorative parts. Since metals oxidize when exposed to air, we provide various plating options for metals to prevent this. All of our plating options are skin safe, so they won’t cause any harm when you wear them as jewelry.

So, which plating option should you choose for your metals?

Plating options for your Steel / Bronze 420SS/BR material

If you are using our Steel / Bronze 420SS/BR 3D printing material, you have access to two available plating options: Gold plating and Nickel Plating. The maximum component size for plating this material is 177.8 x 177.8 x 177.8 mm and the minimum is 0.3 x 1.27 x 0.8 mm. For both options, we use 24 karat plating, so your 3D printed parts get a shiny and elegant surface that looks like precious jewelry.

Steel Bronze 420SS BR 3d printing metal

Plating options for your Brass material

In case you are using our Brass 3D printing material to create your customized jewelry, you can choose among 4 different plating options: White Rhodium finish, Black Rhodium finish, Gold plating and Pink Gold plating. The maximum component size for plating this material is 88 x 88 x 120 mm and there is no minimum limitation. As brass is oxidized in air, especially in humid conditions, you can use any of these finishing options against surface color alteration. Each one of the finishes give your brass parts a shiny silver, black, gold or pink gold surface, so that your jewelry parts get pretty and elegant.

Brass

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