For additive manufacturing applications where surface finish is important but volumes are too high for hand-finishing, I've long suspected that mass finishing would work. This time-tested method of polishing parts by the batch is traditionally used on metal components, so I set to work experimenting on Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) parts. After much testing with various mass-finishing media and processing times, I'm pleased to recommend this process for FDM parts built with ABS-M30, PC, PC-ABS, ULTEM 9085 and PPSF thermoplastics.
Deformation of the surface is the technical term for this process, which cuts and/or burnishes the surface to smooth out FDM layer lines. Economically, mass finishing makes it possible to process many parts at the same time to make them primer-ready or paint-ready, or give them a smooth finish that resembles injection molding. Consistency among parts is greater with mass finishing, as well as being able to repeat a desired surface finish time after time. My goal here was to save you a lot of manual work.
Mass finishing opens the door for many FDM applications. Adopting this process makes it possible to print and finish larger numbers of parts, just like a general manufacture could, making digital manufacturing feasible for higher volumes of finished parts.
We recently had a customer seeking a gloss finish on fifty parts, which would normally take days. With mass finishing, this takes hours. In another example, we include a painted FDM part in our sales kits. Mass finishing eliminated 90 percent of the hand finishing work on this repeatable part.
For an introduction into mass finishing, check out the video.
System owners can view recommended equipment, media and processing times by signing in to the Stratasys Resource Center and downloading the best-practices document "Mass Finishing for FDM Parts."