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Seamless Perfection: The Ultimate Guide to Vapor Smoothing in 3D Printing

Blog  /  Seamless Perfection: The Ultimate Guide to Vapor Smoothing in 3D Printing

Seamless Perfection: The Ultimate Guide to Vapor Smoothing in 3D Printing

Feb 27,2024

What Is Vapor Smoothing and How it Works?

In 3D printing, vapor smoothing is a post-processing method used to enhance manufactured objects' surface smoothness. The printed object is exposed to vaporized solvent during the process, which reacts with the plastic to make it dissolve and re-flow somewhat and produce a smoother surface.

To smooth the vapor, the printed object is placed within a sealed container or chamber. A solvent is injected into the chamber and allowed to vaporize and fill the space, such as acetone or tetrahydrofuran (THF). The outer layers of the plastic are softened and partially melted when the vapor comes into touch with the printed part's surface.

Visible layer lines can be lessened or eliminated as the plastic material re-flows and fills in the spaces between the layers. Additionally, the procedure aids in the blending of minor surface irregularities and defects, giving the image of polish and professionalism.

It's crucial to keep in mind that precise control over elements like solvent concentration, exposure duration, and temperature is necessary for vapor smoothing. Inaccurate specifications may cause the printed object to distort, be too smoothed, or sustain damage. Solvents can be combustible and pose health dangers, thus, while working with them, proper ventilation and safety procedures should be used.

Prints with higher layer heights or obvious layer lines benefit most from vapor smoothing. Vapor smoothing can soften or blur features, therefore it might not be as helpful for objects with sharp edges, tiny details, or other characteristics.

The Advantages of Vapor Smoothing

In 3D printing, vapor smoothing offers several benefits. First of all, it provides a smoother and more polished appearance by greatly improving the surface finish of printed products by minimizing or removing apparent layer lines. This enhancement improves the printed items' overall aesthetics in surface quality, which makes them more aesthetically pleasing and appropriate for presentation or exhibition.

Vapor smoothing also has the benefit of strengthening and prolonging the life of 3D prints. The process of reflowing and partially melting the plastic substance enhances interlayer adhesion, strengthening and reinforcing the printed objects against breaking. Furthermore, vapor smoothing strengthens the products' structural integrity by filling in tiny holes and cavities.

Vapor smoothing is a time-saving post-processing method. When compared to procedures like sanding or filling, vapor smoothing can give a significant surface improvement in a short period. Because of this, it's a practical choice for getting smooth finishes on 3D prints, particularly when working on several things at once.

Vapor smoothing is an inexpensive way to get smoother surfaces on 3D-printed items in terms of cost. For the most part, the tools and supplies needed for vapor smoothing are affordable and easily obtained. Furthermore, vapor smoothing's capacity for batch processing adds to its affordability.

The Disadvantages of Vapor Smoothing

While vapor smoothing in 3D printing offers several advantages, some drawbacks need to be considered.

A limitation is that the surface of the printed object may lose some of its fine details. To be specific, the surface of 3D-printed items can have small details softened and blurred by vapor smoothing. Sharp edges, complex patterns, and minute details may all become less noticeable or perhaps disappear entirely due to the plastic material's partial melting and re-flow. If maintaining fine details is crucial for the intended usage or print aesthetics, this could be a major disadvantage.

Furthermore, only specific materials can be utilized for vapor smoothing because not all printing materials and solvents mix well. To prevent over-smoothing or damage to the object, control, and safety standards are essential, as well as the need for the right setup and equipment. Solvent use and disposal give rise to environmental considerations. If the particular needs and constraints are taken into consideration, vapor smoothing can still be a useful method for enhancing surface finish despite these drawbacks.

Applications of Vapor Smoothing

Vapor smoothing in 3D printing has a wide range of applications across various industries.

· Prototyping:

3D Prototypes printed can have their surface roughness and appearance improved through vapor smoothing. It facilitates the creation of models that are more suited for customer presentations, design validation, and functional testing by helping to develop visually appealing models that closely mimic the finished product.

· Cosplay and Props:

The use of vapor smoothing is common among prop manufacturers and cosplayers. It enables them to print armor, accessories, and costumes in three dimensions with polished surfaces. The approach improves the overall quality and realism of the completed items by helping to bring complex and elaborate designs to life.

vapor smothing cosplay example, Cosplay mask printed by vapor smothing

· Consumer Products:

Vapor smoothing can be used to improve the visual appeal of consumer goods made with 3D printing. It can be applied to products like jewelry, household items, ornamental objects, and smartphone covers to obtain smooth finishes. The procedure gives these products a more upscale and sophisticated appearance, adding value.

· Medical and Prosthetics:

In the medical field, vapor smoothing is used to create pleasant and smooth prosthetic devices. This method contributes to the development of more aesthetically pleasing, customized prosthetics with better surface quality. It also makes cleaning and maintaining these gadgets simpler.

customized prosthetics printed by vapor smoothing, 3d print customized prosthetics in medical field


There are several alternatives to vapor smoothing that can be used to achieve smoother surfaces in 3D printing.

These include hand techniques like filling and sanding, which involve progressively sanding down layers and filling in spaces with epoxy or putty. Applying particular chemical solutions to the plastic to partially dissolve it and provide a smoother finish is known as chemical smoothing. To smooth out layer lines and provide a glossy surface, brush-on coatings such as epoxy or polyurethane resin can be applied in layers. To enhance the surface finish, surface treatment techniques like as UV curing or specific smoothing chemicals can be used. Furthermore, because SLA and DLP are advanced 3D printing technologies that rely on liquid resin processes, they naturally yield nicer results. The alternative method of choosing is determined by many elements, including the material, desired finish, and accessible resources.


In conclusion, vapor smoothing is a widely used post-processing technique in 3D printing that offers numerous advantages in terms of surface finish and overall quality. It provides a smooth and polished appearance to 3D-printed objects, making them more visually appealing and suitable for various applications. Vapor smoothing finds particular relevance in industries such as prototyping, cosplay, automotive, aerospace, consumer products, medical, and art.

Vapor smoothing has certain drawbacks and safety issues, nevertheless, including the possible loss of fine details, restricted material compatibility, control needs, extra equipment needs, and environmental issues. Vapor smoothing is still a useful method for producing high-quality surface finishes on 3D-printed items when these considerations are made.

Vapor smoothing can be substituted with different techniques, depending on the needs and available resources, including sanding and filling, chemical smoothing, brush-on coatings, surface treatment solutions, and sophisticated 3D printing technologies.