Smoothing PLA with Acetone - is possible, but only sometimes ;-)

A
asb Getting started Level: 9 Points: 91
Posts: 68

Location: Germany Printers: Ultimaker 3 Extended
Posted by
A
asb

Posted Jul 14, 2017 - 6:21 PM • Edited  6:23 PM  

Hi,

some of you might be aware that smoothing PLA with Acetone is possible. I'm doing this for a while with a PLA filament from "ICE" in color "wondrous white".

First some sanding, then brushing a couple of layers with acetone. It looks like this:

ice-pla-acetone-2017-07-14-235813

This is a detail:

ice-pla-acetone-2017-07-14-235537

I belive this works because PLA is just a category for polylactides, not a precisely defined substance. Or the PLA filaments available on the market could be blends that include a portion of different materials like ABS.

However, not all PLA filaments respond do acetone equally. I just tried this with the original Ultimaker PLA in color "silver".

Before:

um-pla-2017-07-14-235840

Detail:

um-pla-2017-07-12-043922

…and after applying one coat of acetone:

um-pla-acetone-2017-07-14-235744

Detail:

um-pla-acetone-2017-07-14-235705

In this case, it's an unintentional, but somehow cool effect for this small model of the InMoov 3D printed robot. It makes him look nicely worn-out.

So, smoothing PLA with acetone is possible - but only in some cases.

Manufacturers, please disclose the composition of your filaments!

Now I am very cusrious how other PLA filament brands respond to acetone. Next time I will try "REC" and "German RepRap Premium Filament", both PLA and in color white. Maybe it will give me rainbow colors

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cloakfiend Becoming an expert Level: 53 Points: 2390
Posts: 1328
Location: London, United Kingdom Printers: Ultimaker 2
Posted by
cloakfiend

Posted Jul 15, 2017 - 1:42 PM

Yeah we know, I have a massive thread about this, lol.

BTW Colorfabb is king for smoothing, Ultimaker brand used to be the best two three years ago, but now its recipe is different. I wouldn't waste your time with this ICE filament if its smoothing you are after! Get some TR colorfabb.

Transparent filament smooths best in my opinion. Fabdashery, and a few other smooth but take MUCH longer and deposit more waste into the acetone, but its all down to amount of smoothing, soaking rates, absorption rates, resulting shrinking amounts and most importantly splitting percentages. Its not as simple as soak it and see. The additives in PLA are all different and react differently over time. Ethyl acetate was amazing for a while and looked as smooth as an injection moulded piece, and did not whiten at all but over time split models more and continued eating away for longer than acetone resulting in delayed imperfections. I've spent many years doing this and am always finding out new things still to this day.

Just saying

fergazz 3D printing enthusiast Level: 14 Points: 200
Posts: 88
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Printers: Ultimaker 2
Posted by
fergazz

Posted Jul 28, 2017 - 4:40 PM

Quote by cloakfiend

BTW Colorfabb is king for smoothing, Ultimaker brand used to be the best two three years ago, but now its recipe is different. I wouldn't waste your time with this ICE filament if its smoothing you are after! Get some TR colorfabb.

Transparent filament smooths best in my opinion.

Good to remember... I will start my smoothing tests next week!

Have you ever test with PLATec from Biofila? I have PLA/PHA Pale Gold and the old blue Ultimaker that I heard you saying that is fenomenal. I will also order soon some transparent from Colorfabb... any colour recomended?

Quote by cloakfiend

Yeah we know, I have a massive thread about this, lol.

True, it's massive! Can you update me how many shells (considering a 0.4mm nozzle) are indicated to get a satisfactory result? I'm not sure if it's at least 3x0.4mm ... and sorry for the laziness but I've been back a hundred times on the topic and I never know if I'm updated

cloakfiend Becoming an expert Level: 53 Points: 2390
Posts: 1328
Location: London, United Kingdom Printers: Ultimaker 2
Posted by
cloakfiend

Posted Jul 31, 2017 - 7:24 AM

My best experience is print as low temp as you can get away with and either print three 0.4mm walls (1.2) or two 0.4mm wall with fake nozzle setting of (0.6 to save time) but you are still using a 0.4mm nozzle. To few shells and printer noise makes the surface less smooth in my opinion, but the extra thickness prevent cracking a bit too.

I have still old green tr filament from ultimaker that i am saving for special occasions. The blue was amazing though I only have a few meters left of that. But make sure your printer is working at its best!!

It the only way to go for an easy smooth finish. maybe not shiny, but definitely smooth. acetone bleaches though so this is perfect for those who paint their models rather than just leave it raw.

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