So you’ve finished printing your FDM part, but how do you really make it stand out as a finished product? Color adds depth, contrast and character and ultimately brings a product to life. This is true for concept models, marketing samples and finished goods. The process of turning an FDM part into an eye-catching sample is the same as that for other plastic parts.
These are the five simple steps to make a part come to life:
Step 1: Preparation
The first step in preparing your FDM part is to remove any support structure. This can either be done manually, by hand or by dissolving it in a soluble support removal system. Rinse the part thoroughly in warm water until clean. Dry the part and be sure to remove any moisture from within it as well.
Step 2: Sanding
The next step is to sand all the surfaces to be painted. Start with a coarse-grit wet/dry sandpaper (180-to 220-grit) and sand until the surfaces are visibly smooth. Complete this sanding step with fine-grit sandpaper (320- to 400-grit). Once sanded thoroughly, wash the part with warm water to remove any dust from sanding, and allow to completely dry.
Step 3: Priming
The third step is to prime the part. Use a sand-able primer to remove any visible layering. Apply several light coats and allow the appropriate time in between coats. If noticeable areas need sanding, use an 800-grit sandpaper. Inspect your model for any large gaps or imperfections. A sand-able modeling putty can be used to address those areas. Sand and prime again as needed.
Step 4: Painting
The fourth step is to apply the paint. Your part can be painted with a spray can or spray gun. It really depends on your preference, resources and level of expertise. Start by cleaning and de-greasing the part’s surfaces and follow up with multiple coats of a good-quality paint.
Step 5: Adding a Clear Coat
The final step is to apply clear coat. A clear coat is both decorative and protective. It gives “depth” to the painted finish with sheens that range from satin to high gloss.
Clear coat also protects the paint from scratches. Apply a clear coat in the same manner as the paint, using either a spray can or spray gun. After applying the final coat, allow it to dry for 24 hours and wet sand all surfaces to remove any texture. For wet sanding, select a sandpaper with 600- to 1500-grit.
With all the part creation, maybe you also needs some tips on how to post-process your FDM prints? Read our related article “Post-Processing ABS and ASA 3D Printed Parts” to learn some more best practices!
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