The Stratasys FDM Vapor Smoothing process for our White Glaze material

This is a  post showing you how the Stratasys Vapor Smoothing process works. There is another blog post here showing you more photos and things like build volume etc. There is also a materials page for White Glaze here.

The FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) finishing process makes FDM models look real nice and is a huge step forward in “consumer friendly” 3D printing material. That is why we are trying out Vapor Smoothing for our White Glaze material.

FDM is a tried and trusted process it produces very dimensionally stable parts in ABS plastic. FDM does not have the level of detail that some other 3D printing processes have. Another limitation is that, until now, FDM 3D printing parts have simply been less pretty than other materials. The surface finish has also been coarse.

If you are making robot parts, functional parts, housings and the like then this process and material are eminently suitable. The Vapor Smoothing process sacrifices some surface detail but removes the one biggest problem that FDM has had: it just wasn’t pretty.Until now:

The material that we use for White Glaze is ABS M30-White. After Vapor Smoothing the parts are very very smooth. They look like glazed porcelain from a distance and look & feel much like the injection molded plastics that surround us. There can be a slight unevenness at certain points but generally the process holds up under scrutiny.The part should also be as dimensionally accurate as it was before the process.

Please do not try this at home. It looks deceptively simple but I managed to nearly kill myself and ruin my kitchen doing this(don’t tell my girlfriend). So how does Vapor Smoothing work?

1. A FDM printed part is cooled in a cooling chamber.

2. It is then exposed to “solvent vapors” for up to 30 seconds and then goes back into the cooling chamber. This is then repeated.

3. The part is then blasted by soda (sodium bicarbonate or baking soda).

Presto! You can compare an original FDM part with the Vapor Smoothed one below. The original is the top one.

10 comments

  1. Jessica

    Joris, this is totally awesome! the finish, along with the the max build volume on this process is going to make it possible to make some sweet products

  2. Jessica

    yeah. saw that.
    we’re planning to order a vase and lamp later tonight, so keep an eye out.

  3. Rob Parthoens

    I just ordered one of my models.
    I really love the look of the smooth plastic.
    Cheers,

    Rob

    1. Joris

      Sweet! Please give us a lot of feedback on this and tell us if it meets your expectations. This could be a great step forward but only if you guys are happy with it.

  4. SevenCubed

    More detail! As much as you advise against us doing it ourselves, plenty of us Shapeways customers would LOVE to try such a process on the prints we’ve already got! Are you protective of the process? I’m curious as to what these “Solvent Vapours” are all about. =D

    Gorgeous results. Thanks for sharing!

    -343

    1. Joris Peels

      Seven,

      We’re not protective of the process since it is Stratasys’ and we only use it. If you’d want to know how to do it, then the best thing to do would be to ask them.

      When I say something is dangerous, I mean it. I actually passed out.

  5. Craig Luce

    FABULOUS!
    Solves some of the hesitancy for some, even tho it also makes more explanation due on our part. Hope you make a bundle on it!
    Thanks also for showing some of the many hands that do the work involved…….

  6. fergusonworks

    Hello, I know this is an older post, but I have some thoughts. I could engineer and build a machine that does the same thing as the Statysis system – but I am not very familar with the “Vapor Solvents” I have looked into purchasing one of the smoothing stations but they are cost prohibitive…… If someone wants to talk more about this (who understands the chemicals), let me know. I am pretty sure a SAFE DIY machine could be built to do the same thing for a few hundred dollars….

  7. reza

    is this process still being offered? I don’t see it in the pull-down-list

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