Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

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Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby rm446 » Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:49 pm

Just curious, anyone know and good ways to smooth out your PLA parts?

I've done some light research on Google and it seems ABS is smoothed relatively easily by using Acetone in several ways (brush, vapor bath etc.). However it seems PLA doesn't have a nice Acetone equivalent, the closes things are Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and Tetrahydrofuran (THF) which are sound significantly more hazardous.

I'm guessing a second avenue would be to somehow heat the material without melting the whole thing. I wonder if anyone on this forum has tried experimenting with smoothing postprocessing though. (Or if you know another forum that focuses on this sort of thing.)


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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby Liquid » Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:59 pm

Ive tried the heating angle, using my smd workstation, it works... mmm... okay, but it really just deformed the parts before any real progress was made. Even on an extremely low setting.

A light coat of leveling primer might work well, but I have never tried it. Rodwagner said something about LG trying the heat method also, but I dont remember if he posted any of his results, they may be different than mine.

Other things I have read have dealt with harsh chemicals.. Id rather tune my machine and print slowly than try those. I might even rather hand finish the part than try those.

I wonder how a tumbler would work with very fine abrasive, for a short period of time, but yet again, have not tried that.

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby LaserGnomes » Fri Jul 19, 2013 1:34 am

Another user sent us this information which we have yet to look into.

"About THF. It's so strange that you don't hear about this solvent. For example it's described in PLA article on Wikipedia in "Chemical and physical properties" section. But it's very aggresive and requires a good vent. Also you you need to completly disassemble extruder, i.e. remove all plastic parts. But it's provide a very good cleaning, include removing fried PLA without any mechanical stress."

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby Charles Xavier » Fri Jul 19, 2013 7:29 am

I have tried using MEK and THF on PLA, they do NOT work even half as well as acetone on ABS. I don't know if it is other additives put in printable PLA or what, but the best I could do was make the surfaces look kind of dry and chalky, absolute no smoothing of layers. I figured that maybe my THF and MEK were not maximum grade, or maybe the particular colors/source of PLA could be related, but overall it was disappointing. I WILL say that the fumes of THF are right on par with acetone, even with proper ventilation.

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby jd_3d » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:10 am

The guys at ProtoParadigm seemed to have good luck with THF: ... furan-thf/

Charles, did you do the THF as a vapor, or did you just apply the liquid directly? I've been looking to buy some THF to test but can't find a place online that will sell to non-businesses.

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby Charles Xavier » Sat Jul 20, 2013 9:27 am

Both. I got the chalky results mostly from applying it as a liquid, but even in a vapor bath it just didn't do anything to smooth my layers. I was using the page you linked to as a guide/inspiration. My work had a large amount of THF, but again, I can't speak to the quality of my sample.

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby DmitryStu » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:10 pm

I've tried THF for smoothing. It's make a PLA soft, but not smooth. Maybe i'm doing something wrong?

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby zthralls » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:50 pm

Ok so I officially hate supports. :evil: Post processing is a nightmare. Really interested in alternatives or post processing aids. Anyone want to share tips or tricks for removing supports? Myself I noticed linear supports that go with the grain of the part clean up much easier than against the grain. To bad there isn't a slice option to control that.

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby Elijah » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:17 pm

Plastic Dip is mentioned in the desktop warfare thread....
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Type A Machines

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Re: Smoothing/Postprocessing PLA?

Postby Matthew » Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:44 pm

While this isn't a smoothing option, the post *is* titled Postprocessing, so....

Carb cleaner will make a PLA printed part soft and flexible. And maybe a little white and crusty.

Use at your own risk.

I'm from support. I'm here to help.

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