CATI has recently added a new FDM finishing machine to our Manufacturing Solutions lineup. The Stradivarius Vapor Smoother (more info at http://3dsmooth.com/) is a great piece of equipment for quickly and efficiently improving the look of FDM printed parts.
It works by using acetone vapor to partially melt the surface of your FDM part (or some other chemicals depending on the plastic you want to smooth). This blends together the iconic FDM layer lines on the surface of your part, making it look much closer to the finish of an injection molded part. The key with this machine is its use of a combination heating and cooling system to accelerate the vapor smoothing process.
The first step is to fill the reservoir with acetone.
Next, we turn on the heater and refrigeration unit and allow the system a few minutes to warm up.
Once we’re done using the system, we can drain any unused acetone back into our container for future use.
Now let’s look at an example part processed using this equipment. This part was printed on a Stratasys F370 at a layer height of 0.013” using black ABS material. Take note of the layer lines visible here.
After approximately 30 seconds in the vapor bath, we have the following surface finish.
So as you can see, our vertical layer lines have disappeared, but we still have some lines visible on the flat surface of the part.
Taking the time up to 60 seconds, we get the following.
Our top surface lines are still very slightly visible, but significantly better than before. Here are a few comparison photos of all three parts. Far left is the original part straight off the printer, the middle part is 30 seconds in the vapor bath, and the rightmost part is 60 seconds in the vapor bath.
So in about a minute’s worth of post-processing, we can make our FDM parts look significantly more like injection molded parts and really improve them from an aesthetic standpoint.
Application Engineer, Manufacturing Solutions
Computer Aided Technology, LLC