3D Printing Part Finishing

How do we finish rough 3D-printed systems?


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Q. We have two 3D printing systems with which we produce metal and plastic parts. The surfaces on both types of parts are very rough. What finishing system would you recommend to smooth our surfaces?—P.R.

A. Surface refinement of complex shaped 3D printed parts is a good fit for mass finishing. Surface refinement processes take time but are very effective.

I recommend higher energy systems to reduce time cycles. There are two machines that work well with 3D part refinement: 1) high-speed vibratory tub machine (2–3000 RPMs; 2) centrifugal disc high energy systems

 3D printing produces surface finishes in the 120–300 Ra range. With high energy mass finishing, use a fast cut, medium-sized 5/8 by 5/8 tri-star ceramic media. 3D surfaces on plastic and metal parts can be refined to as low as a 16 Ra.

This will take 6–8 hours in the high-speed vibratory tub and 2–4 hours in the centrifugal disc machine.

Originally published in the July 2015 issue.