How To Vapor Smoothing ABS 3D Printer Filament

Acetone Vapor Smoothing ABS 3D Printing Filament

Acetone vapor smoothing is a method of taking a raw ABS 3D print and smoothing the total exterior surface of the print. If you have a print where the exterior surface is rougher than you would like, this is a simple and quick way to smooth the surface and give it a semi-gloss appearance.

Acetone vapor smoothing uses acetone vapors to essentially melt the surface of a print. Acetone quickly dissolves ABS. Once the Acetone has evaporated, the ABS reverts back to its original state.

Here's how it is done and what supplies you will need.

First, you should take all necessary safety precautions required such as performing this process outdoors or in a very well ventilated area, being prepared in case of fire, use eye and skin protection, and avoid inhaling the acetone vapors.

You will need: Acetone, an empty metal container (we use a paint can), latex gloves, hotplate, and thin metal wire.

1. Attach the wire to your print. We use 25 gauge wire. This wire will be used to suspend your print inside the metal container. Do not attach the wire directly to the print or the wire will adhere to the print and leave impressions on it during this process. You can use many different types of connecting modes to attach the wire to the print. If the print has a hole, you can simply route the wire through the hole and tie it off. You can also attach a small screw or pin to the print and attach your wire to it. The idea is to connect the thin wire to the print at a minimally obvious connecting point.

2. Tie another piece of wire across the top of the metal container. This piece of wire will be used to suspend the print inside the metal container.

3. Pour acetone into the container. A little less than an inch deep should work fine.

4. Attach the wire holding the print to the wire that is across the top of the metal container. The print should be suspended about halfway in the container. Do not let the acetone touch or splash onto the print.

5. Place aluminum foil over the top of the metal container. Not too tight-leave enough space for the vaporized acetone to escape.

6. Place the container on the hotplate. Set the hotplate temperature fairly low. Just hot enough to create the necessary acetone vapors. Let the part bathe in the acetone sauna for approx 15 minutes.

7. Once the process is complete, turn the hotplate off and remove the container from the hotplate. Remove the part still connected to its wire and hang it to dry. You will still be able to smell the acetone, so let it dry in a well ventilated area. Outdoors is ok as long as there is not sufficient wind to blow dust
and sediment onto the still wet print.

Try not to touch the print until it is completely dry. An hour should be plenty of time.

And that's it. You will be pleasantly surprised at what your print looks like now. Sometimes it is even difficult to tell that the part has been 3D printed. Be careful and have fun!
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