Shapeways, The Community

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.

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