Most 3D printed models require post-processing. This is the catch-all term for any modifications made to a print after the printer has finished printing it. The exact modifications that need to be made can vary. The print settings, material, and type of printer all change what steps are necessary and how much work they will be. Some of the post-processing steps are pretty common across most prints.
Support structures are a near-constant in 3D printing. They provide the necessary support for the print during the printing process. Unfortunately, they just get in the way and look bad if you don’t remove them. Thankfully, support structures are generally designed to easily break away from the print very easily. Sadly, doing so tends to leave marks on the print that need to be removed with sanding.
Sanding is generally used to remove the marks left behind by support structures that have been removed. It is also used to minimize the visible layer lines. When sanding, it’s best to use wet/dry sandpaper as this can be wet with water to cool the plastic and prevent any dust from getting airborne. You should start with rough sandpaper of around 400 grit and then work your way up to fine sandpaper at around 4000 grit.
Once you’re done with the rest of your post-processing, you may want to paint your model. This won’t apply to all 3D printables but can be key to finishing your prints in style. This has to be the last stage of all as any work you do will then damage the paint.
Washing and Curing
If you’re using a resin printer such as an MSLA printer, then you’ll have some additional post-processing that needs to be done first. When you remove your print from the print plate, it is still soft and very easily damaged. It’s also covered in resin, which you need to remove. The first stage is to wash the resin off with isopropyl alcohol. You need to take care not to dispose of it down a drain as the resin is toxic.
Once all the resin has been cleaned off, the model needs to be cured under ultraviolet light. While you can use natural sunlight, it’s recommended that you don’t and instead use an artificial UV light source. These are both faster and less likely to sunburn your print. Once your print is completely cured, you can start the standard post-processing techniques such as removing supports.
Post-processing can be a time-consuming part of 3D printing but is often necessary. Have you got any post-processing tips to share? Let us know down below.