Smoothing 3D prints with acetone and without patent violations

Austin Wilson and Neil Underwood from the North Carolina makerspace Fablocker invented a great, simple process for smoothing out 3D prints using evaporated nail-polish remover in a large jar. The process produces a beautiful finish and sidesteps a bunch of dumb patents for polishing 3D printing output. They're still experimenting with the details, and the fact that the first experiments turned out such great looking pieces is cause for excitement about where this will go when it's fully refined.

ABS-based printed parts are placed in the jar with the acetone and heated to 90 degrees Celsius on the hot plate. Acetone has a low evaporation point, but is heavier than air so the process creates a small cloud around the model which melts the surface, slowly smoothing it to a mirror finish. After a couple hours, the parts solidify, can be removed, and be displayed with pride.

...Since their initial success the duo has been experimenting with the process by controlling temperature ranges and exposure times, but there are still many tests to be conducted. One area in need of more research is measuring how the process impacts the physical properties of the parts. “It doesn’t really seem to change the shape of objects or alter the dimensions, but we haven’t had time to do test cubes and measure them with calipers,” says Wilson. “If anything the smoothing out process might make things work better. People have tried to use 3-D printed models as bushings and axels before, but they never work because they’re too rough.”

Slick Trick Adds Much-Needed Shine to 3-D Printed Parts [Joseph Flaherty/Wired]