3D printing has revolutionized the way we create objects and prototypes. With the ability to print complex designs in a matter of hours, 3D printing has become an essential tool for designers, engineers, and hobbyists alike. However, the final product isn’t always perfect straight from the printer. That’s where finishing techniques come in. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best ways to finish your PLA 3D prints to give them a professional and polished look.
PLA, or Polylactic Acid, is one of the most popular materials used in 3D printing. It’s biodegradable, easy to print with, and produces high-quality prints. However, PLA prints can sometimes have rough surfaces, visible layer lines, or other imperfections. That’s where finishing techniques come in. By using the right tools and techniques, you can smooth out the surface of your PLA prints, remove any visible layer lines, and give them a professional finish. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most effective finishing techniques for PLA prints, including sanding, filling, priming, and painting.
Whether you’re creating prototypes, toys, or functional parts, finishing your PLA prints can take them to the next level. With the right tools and techniques, you can turn a rough and imperfect print into a smooth and polished masterpiece. In the following sections, we’ll explore some of the best techniques for finishing your PLA prints, including sanding, filling, priming, and painting.
Preparing Your 3D Printer
Before you start printing your PLA 3D models, it’s important to ensure that your printer is properly calibrated. This will ensure that your prints come out looking their best. Here are a few steps you should follow to prepare your 3D printer:
Leveling the Bed
The first step is to make sure that your printer bed is level. A level bed will ensure that the first layer of your print sticks to the bed properly, which is essential for a successful print. Here’s how to level your bed:
- Home your printer so that the nozzle is at the front left corner of the bed.
- Use a piece of paper to check the distance between the nozzle and the bed. The paper should be able to slide between the nozzle and the bed with a slight amount of resistance.
- Move the nozzle to the front right corner of the bed and repeat the process.
- Repeat for the back left and back right corners of the bed.
If the distance between the nozzle and the bed is too far or too close, adjust the bed leveling screws until the distance is correct.
Calibrating the Extruder
The next step is to calibrate your extruder. This will ensure that the printer is extruding the correct amount of filament, which is essential for accurate prints. Here’s how to calibrate your extruder:
- Heat up your printer to the temperature you normally use for PLA.
- Mark a point on the filament 120mm from the extruder.
- Use your printer’s control panel to extrude 100mm of filament.
- Measure the distance between the mark and the extruder. It should be 20mm.
- If the distance is not 20mm, adjust the extruder steps per mm until it is.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your 3D printer is properly calibrated and ready to print your PLA models.
Choosing the Right Settings
When it comes to 3D printing, choosing the right settings is crucial to achieving a successful print. Here are some key settings to consider when finishing your PLA 3D prints:
The layer height setting determines the thickness of each layer of filament that is deposited onto the print bed. A lower layer height will result in a smoother finish, but will also increase the printing time. On the other hand, a higher layer height will be faster, but the finish may not be as smooth. A layer height of 0.1mm is a good starting point for most prints.
The infill density setting determines how much internal structure is printed inside the object. A higher infill density will result in a stronger object, but will also take longer to print. A lower infill density will be faster, but the object may not be as strong. A density of 20-30% is a good starting point for most prints.
The print speed setting determines how fast the printer head moves while printing. A slower print speed will result in a smoother finish, but will also increase the printing time. A faster print speed will be faster, but the finish may not be as smooth. A speed of 50mm/s is a good starting point for most prints.
Other settings to consider include the temperature of the printer bed and extruder, the type of filament being used, and the orientation of the object on the print bed. Experimenting with different settings can help you achieve the best finish for your PLA 3D prints.
In conclusion, choosing the right settings is critical to achieving a successful PLA 3D print. By adjusting the layer height, infill density, and print speed, you can achieve the best finish for your object. Experimenting with different settings can help you find the optimal balance between print time and finish quality.
When printing 3D models with PLA, it is often necessary to use supports to ensure the model prints correctly. Supports are structures that are printed alongside the model to provide additional stability and prevent the model from collapsing during printing. However, supports can also leave behind unsightly marks on the finished model, which must be removed in order to achieve a smooth finish.
Most 3D printing software offers the option to automatically generate supports for a model. These supports are typically generated based on the angle of the model’s overhangs and can be adjusted to suit the specific needs of the print. It is important to ensure that supports are generated in such a way that they can be easily removed without damaging the model.
After the print is complete, the supports must be removed. This can be done using a variety of tools, including pliers, tweezers, and sandpaper. When removing supports, it is important to take care not to damage the model.
One effective way to remove supports is to use pliers or tweezers to gently twist and pull them away from the model. Another option is to use sandpaper to carefully sand away the supports. When sanding, it is important to start with a coarse grit and work your way up to a finer grit to achieve a smooth finish.
It is also possible to use a chemical solution such as acetone to dissolve the supports. However, this method should only be used with caution, as acetone can damage the PLA material if not used correctly.
In summary, supports are an essential part of 3D printing with PLA, but they can leave behind unsightly marks on the finished model. By carefully generating and removing supports, it is possible to achieve a smooth and professional finish on your 3D prints.
Post-processing is an essential step in 3D printing, especially if you want to achieve a smooth and polished finish on your PLA filament. In this section, we will cover some of the most common post-processing techniques for PLA 3D prints.
Removing the Print from the Bed
The first step in post-processing your PLA 3D print is to remove it from the print bed. This can be done by using a spatula or scraper to gently pry the print off the bed. Be careful not to damage the print or the bed in the process.
If the print is difficult to remove, you can try heating the bed slightly to loosen the adhesive. Alternatively, you can use a print bed adhesive like glue stick or hairspray to make it easier to remove the print.
Sanding and Finishing
Once you have removed the print from the bed, the next step is to sand and finish it. Sanding is a go-to technique for achieving a smooth and polished finish on your PLA filament. Here are the materials and tools you will need for sanding and finishing your PLA 3D print:
- Sandpaper (various grits)
- Sanding block
- XTC-3D Epoxy Resin
Start by using a coarse grit sandpaper to remove any rough spots or bumps on the surface of the print. Then, gradually work your way up to a finer grit sandpaper to achieve a smoother finish. Be sure to use a sanding block to keep the sandpaper flat and even.
After sanding, you can apply a coat of XTC-3D Epoxy Resin to fill in any remaining imperfections and give the print a glossy finish. This will also make the print stronger and more durable.
In conclusion, post-processing is an important step in achieving a high-quality PLA 3D print. By following these simple techniques for removing the print from the bed, sanding, and finishing, you can achieve a smooth and polished finish on your PLA filament.
Common Issues and Solutions
While printing with PLA, you may encounter some common issues like stringing, warping, and poor bed adhesion. Here are some solutions to these issues:
|Stringing||Adjust retraction settings, decrease print speed, increase travel speed|
|Warping||Increase bed temperature, use a brim or raft, use a heated enclosure|
|Poor bed adhesion||Clean the bed surface, use a bed adhesive like glue stick or hairspray, level the bed|
Advanced Troubleshooting Techniques
Sometimes, the common solutions may not work, and you may need to use some advanced troubleshooting techniques. Here are some techniques that you can try:
- Check the filament quality and storage conditions. Poor quality or improperly stored filament can cause printing issues.
- Calibrate the extruder and flow rate. If the extruder is not calibrated correctly, it can lead to under or over extrusion, causing print issues.
- Use different slicer settings. Experiment with different slicer settings like layer height, infill density, and print speed to find the optimal settings for your print.
- Use post-processing techniques. If the print has imperfections, use post-processing techniques like sanding, painting, or smoothing to improve the print quality.
By using these troubleshooting techniques, you can overcome most of the issues you may face while printing with PLA. Remember to take your time and experiment with different settings to find the best solution for your specific print.