Quick and Easy Way to Neaten 3D Prints

About: I'm a 18-year-old high school student, I love engineering, film production, design and everything in between.

Intro: Quick and Easy Way to Neaten 3D Prints

3D printers have taken the world by storm, in recent years its more and more common to see 3D printers in typical consumers homes. I would guess that in a few years 3D printers will become almost as common as regular old 2D printers and I think that's a great thing!

While this popularity for 3D printers grows so does the market for cheap 3D printers which has brought us printers for insanely cheap prices. I am lucky enough to own one of these cheap printers, but with a cheap printer comes some issues. In my past instructable, I've talked about the issues with this 3D printer and one of the biggest issues was a pretty bad print quality and so in this instructable, we are going to take a look at how to take these bad looking prints and get them looking great.

Step 1: Make It Stick to the Bed

One of the biggest issues I find myself facing with my 3D prints is the print itself coming loose during the printing process. It either comes completely loose and creates a ball of filament or one side comes loose and causes the straight edge to curve.

Either way, this issue can be solved with a very basic setting in our slicer. What we are going to do is give the 3D print a brim. A brim is a thin layer of plastic that gets printed around the print which results in the print covering a bigger surface on your bed thus giving it more ability to stick. Brims are always great however they are the most useful when printing small objects that have a very small surface area touching the bed.

To give your print a brim head to the build plate adhesion settings on your slicer and click and brim and make it about 8 mm.

Once the print is printed you should be able to just peel this thin layer of plastic off however sometimes it does leave a little plastic left behind but this can be fixed with a hobby knife or a good sanding

Step 2: Sanding (the First of Many)

So something that you're going to be doing a lot while neatening your prints is sanding, this step involves sanding, the following steps involve sanding, there's a lot of sanding. The reason we need to sand so much is because no matter how detailed we set the print to be there are still going to be visible lines on the print and we are certainly going to be able to feel them.

To fix this the obvious solution is to sand away the layers and kind of merge everything together nice and neatly, and that's exactly what we are going to do! We start on a lower grit sandpaper, something like 120 grit and then slowly work our way up to 600 grit which will get the print feeling really good. Now the print may be feeling good but the sanding process has kind of left the print looking odd and some of these layers may be at different heights which means we are going to have to sand away a lot of material which will weaken our print.

In some cases sanding will be enough however for me in most cases I have to fill in the cracks first so I don't remove too much material when sanding.

Step 3: Nail Polish Has More Than One Use

So there's a thing called top coat nail polish protector, I would explain what it does but I think the name kinda spoiled it. Whats great about this stuff is that it dries thick and hard which is exactly what we want for our 3D print. Essentially what this stuff is going to do is full in the cracks in our 3D print and make it almost completely smooth. I say almost because unfortunately, it has to be painted on with a brush which kind of makes one side a little thicker than the other and overall just doesn't leave a 100% smooth surface but more on that in just a bit.

So we start by painting this stuff onto our uneven surfaces, we want to get it as even as possible however don't worry about this too much because we are going to sand the whole thing again anyway. Once we've got an even coat on the whole print we need to leave it for at least 20 minutes as we don't want to smudge it by sanding too early.

Step 4: Sanding (the Second of Many)

So in the last step we managed to get the top coat on our print more or less evenly but more or less isn't good enough. So to get it perfectly even we are going sand it again.

However, this time we are going to start on a very high grit because firstly the top coat isn't that thick and secondly we don't want to give it a scratchy look. I start on 600 grit and work my way up to 1000 grit. This also doesn't take that long at all, because the layer is so thin the top coat sands away quickly and easily leaving a smooth even finish.

Now, this step may need to be repeated, in my experience, I found that doing this once gave it a great feel however sometimes it was necessary to repeat if I saw small gaps. So repeat this and the previous step until you're happy with the look.

Step 5: Painting

Now at this point we should have a really smooth print, however, the sanding probably left some visible lines and has made it look a little messy, this can be fixed by spray painting the 3D print.

This step is pretty straightforward, start with very light layers from about 30 cm away to avoid the spray paint running. After about 3 coats you should have a really nice looking print, the last thing to do is give it a final sanding with a 1500 grit sandpaper if you feel it needs it and then we can just add a clear coat to protect the paint

Step 6: And That's It! (there Actually Wasn't That Much Sanding)

By this point you should have a really nice looking 3D print. Now there are hundrededs and hundreded of tutorials on how to get smooth prints so if this one happened to not work for you check them out! As always id be happy to awnser any questions you may have in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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