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A Comprehensive Introduction to 3D Printing Post-Processing Techniques

Blog  /  A Comprehensive Introduction to 3D Printing Post-Processing Techniques

A Comprehensive Introduction to 3D Printing Post-Processing Techniques

Dec 28,2023

Importance of 3D Post-processing

Post-processing is critical in 3D printing because it provides numerous advantages that improve the overall quality and usability of printed objects.

For instance, the visual appeal of 3D-printed objects is greatly enhanced by post-processing techniques. Through the use of finishes, layer line removal, and surface smoothing, post-processing can turn an uneven and textured print into a polished and smooth result. This is especially crucial for items meant for presentation or display, where a polished and businesslike appearance is preferred.

Moreover, post-processing techniques improve the smoothness and refinement of 3D-printed objects' surfaces. Sanding, polishing, and vapor can make a smooth surface flawless smoothing away flaws like bumps and uneven, visible surfaces. This is especially important for items that have intricate details, must fit snugly, or come into contact with skin. In these cases, a smooth surface is imperative.

3D  Printing Post-processing Techniques

· Removal of Support Structures

Many 3D printers use support structures to avoid overhangs and guarantee successful printing. We must eliminate these support structures after printing. Water-soluble supports that can be dissolved in a solvent or we can use manual methods like pliers or tweezers for this.

Most lower-density materials that support structures, can generally be easily separated from the 3D print manually. However, this technique does increase the risk of breakage or damage to 3D-printed parts. So, for more precise support removal, we can use a knife, needle-nose pliers, or a flat knife to carefully cut and break off the extraneous 3D-printed supports. Carefully heating the blade helps remove supports from the printing surface seamlessly.

Once you've removed or broken off most of the support structure, we can use some wet sandpaper to smooth out the rough spots. This will smooth the surface of the attached structure and polish the printed part. Alternatively, we can use solvents such as acetone or nail polish remover to remove any blemishes caused by removing the support.

· Sanding and Smoothing

A smoother surface can be achieved by sanding the printed object's surface to help get rid of layer lines and flaws. We can use sandpaper with varying grits, ranging from coarse to fine. Moreover, sanding can be done manually, with the aid of power tools, or with a sanding drum.

The most popular post-processing technique for smoothing PLA prints is sanding. This is because this method is very practical, cheap, and poses no health risks. But this method also has some disadvantages. For example, it is also one of the most time-consuming methods of smoothing prints, and sanding cannot sand 3D-printed objects with fine features or deep crevices well.

A smoother/sanding surface can be achieved by sanding the printed object's surface to help get rid of layer lines and flaws.

· Priming and Painting

Before painting, priming 3D-printed items helps increase the paint's adherence and surface quality. Primers made especially for 3D printed parts, like filler primers, can be used. After the primer has been applied, the object can be painted using various methods, including brushing, spray painting, or airbrushing.

One thing need to take note of is we should add the undercoat to your 3D printed items before spray painting them to create realistic dark tones, or shades, which will enhance the beauty of the figurine or model. For the first undercoat, black paint works best most of the time.

· Vapor Smoothing

One technique that's used to give 3D-printed parts a glossy, smooth surface finish is vapor smoothing. Acetone vapor is applied to the printed object, melting and smoothing the outer layer.

Frequently, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) printing is accomplished with this technology. It ought to be noted to note that acetone vapor smoothing may cause a small amount of shrinkage, which could have an impact on the printed object's size. Therefore, before using the method on the finished product, we advise testing it on small, non-critical parts or sacrificial prints.In summary, acetone vapor smoothing technology allows us to apply a glossy, smooth finish to ABS 3D prints, which effectively reduces or eliminates visible layer lines and enhances the object's overall appearance.

· Polishing

The objects printed with resin 3D material tend to use the polish method during the post-processing period. Typically, polishing is done with an abrasive substance like polish, sandpaper, or a rotary tool fitted with a polishing attachment. This technique aids in getting rid of layer lines and gives the printed object a glossy finish. Specifically, after sanding, we can apply polish to further improve the surface finish. Polishes are abrasive materials specially formulated to remove scratches and achieve a higher shine. Apply a small amount of polish to a soft cloth or polishing pad and gently rub it into the surface of the print in a circular motion. Continue until desired smoothness and gloss are achieved.

· Filling and Bonding

If there are any gaps or defects in the printed object, we can fill them with materials such as epoxy putty or filler. This strengthens the part's appearance and structural soundness. Joining multiple printed parts together can also be accomplished by bonding techniques like using solvents or adhesives.

· Dyeing and Coloring

Dyeing or coloring the printed object can be an option, depending on the material and desired result. There are several techniques for filament-based printing, such as pre-mixed color filament or fabric dyeing. Pigments or specialty resin dyes can be used to color resin prints.By using dyeing in filament-based printing, there are two main methods to apply. One is direct dyeing, another is immersion dyeing. To prepare a dye bath for immersion dyeing, we can dissolve the pigment or dye in a container of hot water. Depending on the dye and substance being used, there can be variations in the temperature and immersion time. To guarantee uniform color distribution, submerge the printed object in the dye bath and gently shake it around. Once the desired color is achieved, keep an eye on the intensity of the color and remove the object from the dye bath. After giving the item a quick wash to get rid of any leftover dye, allow it to dry.

· Coating and Finishing

Finally, we can add protective finishes or coatings that can improve the functionality, appearance, and longevity of the printed object. For added beauty and a layer of protection, use varnish. Additionally, for specific applications, special coatings are available, such as heat-resistant or UV-resistant coatings.

jlc3dp finshing, final product after 3dp post-processing techniques

Consider Material Properties

When choosing and putting into practice post-processing techniques for 3D printing, we must take material properties into account.Thermoplastics, metals, ceramics, and composites are a few examples of the various 3D printing materials with distinct qualities. The particular material you are working with will determine which post-processing methods are appropriate, so keep that in mind. While some methods might work better or work better with particular materials, others might have drawbacks or unfavorable outcomes.Also, when dealing with translucent or transparent materials, take into account post-processing methods that improve or maintain their optical characteristics. Transparency and clarity can be increased by methods like polishing or clear coating, but they can be negatively impacted by roughening or specific chemical treatments.


In conclusion, post-processing techniques play a crucial role in enhancing the quality and appearance of 3D-printed objects. By employing various methods, such as sanding, polishing, painting, or applying surface finishes, the overall aesthetics and functionality of the printed parts can be significantly improved.

By leveraging post-processing techniques effectively, 3D printing can achieve higher-quality, visually appealing, and functionally enhanced objects. As the technology continues to evolve, it is expected that new and more advanced post-processing methods will emerge, further expanding the capabilities and applications of 3D printing.

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