Experiments using Acetone Vapor to smooth 3d printed objects

I found a hackaday post on smoothing out the rough edges on 3D prints and thought I should experiment for myself.

I wanted to try out how the smoothing would effect different kinds of prints. I found a tall statue , a shotglass skull, and a twisting heart box.

I collected all of the items that I’d need according to the video. The items where

  1. Acetone
  2. Wire hanger
  3. Bottom of a soda can 
  4. Glass jar with lid
  5. Printrbot

I set my Printrbot to 110c through Pronterface. Every few minutes I monitored the temperature with an infrared temperature sensor to make sure the bed is at the right temperature. While waiting for the bed to get to temperature I poured out about one tablespoon of nail polish remover into the glass jar. When the heated bed was at the right temperature I put the jar on for it to heat up.

The jar I was using started to form condensation of acetone on the walls in about a minute. It took about 5 minutes for the condensation to be forming from the top of the jar. In hindsight, I should have waited for the vapor to fill the whole jar before I put in the first model.

The first model I used was the statue from thingiverse : http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:26317

I took the model out every few minutes, you can see the progress in the gallery bellow.


I next experimented with a heart shape box from thingivers: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:900

With the heartshape box I wanted to see how it would slide after being treated. My results were disappointing with this. It did not become glossy and smooth, it didn’t get the beautiful clear coat of abs as a shell. It basically only got a little shinier. I’m not sure why this model didn’t have any real results from the acetone. Even after this 15 minute trial, I went back later at night and left the box in the chamber for an hour, still no difference. I think there is something else going on here that makes a model be effected by the acetone treatment.


Finally I wanted to test out the skull shotglass: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:38282

The skull shotglass had good results from 15 minutes of treatment. The face and back of the skull became very shiny. There was no loss of detail that I can tell from the face. The entire exterior of the plastic feels completely smooth almost as if it was injection molded. The top side of the skull has  more of a shine then the bottom, which is telling me the acetone vapor is dropping from the top onto the skull. The whole skull somehow feels more solid, if you tap it, it gives you a satisfying thunk. The inside of the shotglass is a similar surface to the surface on the heart box, it also has the same results as the heartbox. The inside is basically the same, no real differences. I wonder what process is going on preventing these smooth curved surfaces from being effected. Here is the skull after 15 minutes.

The vapor treatment worked really well with 2 of my models. I’m still unsure as to why it didn’t work well on the heart box.

Acetone Vapor bath

3 thoughts on “Experiments using Acetone Vapor to smooth 3d printed objects

  1. Pingback: » 3D printed parts dunked in acetone vapor produce professional finish Cunning Turtle

  2. Lucas Neñer

    i’d like to see you try it with some gears or some mechanical links, how it affects the tolerances.


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