The resolution of RepRap-style fused-filament 3D printers is obviously improving, but even the best hobby-class fused filament printers still have noticeable “grain.” Or, to go someplace I probably shouldn’t, “Rrrrrrreplicators have rrrrrrridges.”

This video from Annelise Jeske of MakerBot TV addresses the heartbreak of ridgy-ness head-on. Personally, my aesthetic has always been that materials should be proud of their origins, so I rather like that my fused-filament objects look like fused-filament objects. But if you don’t and/or if you have an application that demands smooth surfaces, this video teaches the two basic methods of smoothing them out: additive, in which the ledges between the steps are filled in with a plastic compound, and subtractive, in which the steps themselves are abraded away. [via adafruit]

MakerBot TV S02E09 – Finishing Techniques

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • http://AuthenticInvention.com dustinandrews

    Acetone will leave a nice shiny surface. Just don’t overdo it or you will melt and warp your model.

  • rocketguy1701

    Just made my very first successful print, and while it’s quite ridgy, that indeed is part of it’s coolness and charm. That said, it’s good to know how to smooth parts efficiently for either aesthetic or mechanical reasons when necessary.

    • Sean Ragan

      Congratulations! Feels great, doesn’t it! =]

      • rocketguy1701

        Thanks, yes indeed! Still working out the bugs in the process, but it’s been fairly easy so far. Really looking forward to my first print that I created the art for, the full brain-to-physical-reality production.

        • Sean Ragan

          What kind of printer is it? If you don’t mind my asking?

          • rocketguy1701

            Replicator dual-extruder, I feel a little spoiled compared to the even-earlier-than-me-adopters… Have the new build platform, but am thinking about clipping glass to it just to see what that’s like.

          • Sean Ragan

            Sweet. I got to play with the MAKE labs Replicator when everybody was in Austin for SXSW. Awesome machine.

  • http://gravatar.com/kagehi kagehi

    Old post, but its something I was looking at. The guys that do restorations often had to remove paint/smooth surfaces of a huge number of materials. They can use everything from walnut shells, in a sandblaster, to probably even plastic beads, and of course, there is the old “tumbler” system, which has often used with rocks. I kind of wonder if anyone has attempted to find a material with would smooth, but not etch, or deform, a part, if one just put it in a small rock tumbler, with the smoothing material (seeing as all solutions now available seem to involve either heat, added stuff, like with the pig, traditional sanding, or flammable chemicals, and, pretty much all of them can be screwed up a lot more easily than if someone said, “put a half bag of x in a tumbler, place the part in with it, and run the thing for exactly 2 minute”, or some similar process?

    • kagehi

      Right. Guess I just didn’t look hard enough. Seems the issue with doing it is part size, and polishing media, but that it is plausible.