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Taking Your Product to the Finishing Line

- December 13, 2021
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Taking Your Product to the Finishing Line

Additive manufacturing can make materials come to life in a single print. Fresh off the machine, a 3D printed part can look like a nearly finished product. Depending on your requirements, the natural surface finish of an additive manufactured part may or may not meet your needs. When cosmetics, specific surface roughness, or functional coatings are needed, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing’s expert finishing department rises to the occasion. With skilled professionals working to deliver your project goals, we offer a variety of options, including sealing, painting, dyeing, EMI/RFI shielding, and texturizing.

In the examples below, you’ll be able to see how technology, material and product life cycle stage all contribute to the various options we can provide to get your product to the finish line.

Finishes for Every Product Stage

EMD Millipore Corporation utilized our finishing services from prototype to production parts when manufacturing the Millipore Muse™ Cell Analyzer. Looking to use the functional Muse prototypes for market research and feedback before tooling and injection molding, we printed Stereolithography (SL) models that mimicked the look of the finished product.

The SL pieces were sanded to ensure an even surface and provide the desired surface smoothness for the application. After, they were primed and painted to match Millipore’s color and texture specifications. Finally, the models were assembled and decals were applied.

Once Millipore approved the finished SL prototype models, secondary SL parts were built as master patterns for urethane castings. We then applied a cast-in texture onto the master patterns per Millipore’s mold-tech specifications. Texturizing and detailing the master patterns expedites the process and enables a uniform look across multiple cast pieces. We took color specifications from Millipore and color matched the urethane parts and assembled the pieces.

Comfortable and Decorative Prototypes

Finishing can be utilized in the prototype stage for cosmetic presentation and functional testing.

Pillar Product Design LLC designed an advanced hand tool for the urban gardener that provided maximum performance and ergonomic comfort. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing developed a prototype using Laser Sintering (LS) technology with Aluminum Filled Nylon 12 to emulate the billet forged Aluminum used in the final product. Hoping to present the prototype as close to the final product as possible at a low cost, Pillar requested the finishing department remove all traces of build lines on the product.

The part was smoothed by sanding and given a cosmetic clear top coat for a clean surface. Since the product was ultimately going to feature a soft touch TPU grip for easy handling, our finishing department also applied a rubberized soft touch black paint. The paint not only provides a more comfortable grip when testing the product, but gives the illusion of the final product’s feel and comfort. The rubberized black paint is a fast and cost-effective alternative to over molding or bonding a grip onto the part.

Assembling a Functional Form

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company was seeking a more efficient satellite design, when they approached us to prepare form, fit and function simulators for the satellite’s fuel tanks. Although Lockheed Martin owns additive manufacturing machines, the size and post process requirements of the prototype posed a challenge.

We took on that challenge, proposing Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) for the tank simulators and offering an array of functional finishing options available for the project. The prototype was built in 16 sections and hot air welded together. Hot air welding melts a filament of the same material to fill seams, allowing pieces to be brought together without adding foreign material. Because of the weight and rounded shape of the tank pieces, we built customized fixtures to hold the sections while welding the parts together.

After fusing, the surfaces and seams were sanded to provide a uniform surface finish. Additionally, we offered an integral fuel tank (IFT) coating which protects materials against corrosion from fuel contaminants.

Applying Aesthetics and Smoothing Functionality

These examples highlight a few of the finishing options we offer to our customers. Other functional finishes include:

  • Media blasting for a fast alternative to sanding that creates matte finishes
  • Tumbling durable materials, such as metals and polycarbonate, in vibratory units with ceramic, plastic and synthetic media to smooth surfaces
  • Bonding sections together with either two-part epoxy or cyanoacrylate
  • Sealing products that need to be water-resistant or airtight

Additional cosmetic finishes include:

  • Dyeing parts color matched to your specifications
  • Vapor polishing FDM ABS and PC/ABS materials by melting the outer surface with a solvent
  • Electroplating with EMI/RFI shielding, which can block electromagnetic and radio frequency interference
  • Clear coating to add water resistance and desired sheen

Achieving Final Products with Additive Manufacturing

As you choose the materials and technology to manufacture your product, we can provide guidance on which finishing options can help you realize your product objectives. From providing aesthetically pleasing finishes to achieving necessary durability, our finishing services are at the ready to enhance your 3D printed part.

Interested in what finish is right for your project? Contact Us