Tumbling 3D Printed Plastic Parts
Additive manufacturing or 3D printing of plastic parts leaves a rough surface finish. The finish you see is the result of elevation lines used to print the part. This uneven surface is undesirable, especially for parts that need to have a pleasing aesthetic finish.
At least two steps are generally required to achieve the finish pictured here. The first step required an abrasive media, a Plastic Tumbling Media in this case, to remove the roughness and leave a smooth, matte finish. It’s important to not use anything too aggressive as it will make it very difficult to polish after. This part (before on the left) has a very rough finish so it took about 16 hours to get a smooth finish.
The second step is the polishing step. There are a few ways to polish 3D printed parts, but dry tumbling is the best – especially for plastics. A Hardwood Media and Polishing Compound were used to burnish the surface and get a glossy finish. In this case, the part was tumbled in this step for about 12 hours. Longer cycle times can produce near mirror finishes on plastic.