4 ways of Finishing 3D Printed Objects

Finishing the Dutch Lions

To finish off a 3D object might not be necessary for most industrial components, but for some consumer goods, prototypes and other items that will be on display, you want your product to be as aesthetically appealing as possible. For example, adding color, shades, or creating an illusional appearance such as a stone-like look. Or even choosing to apply a different surface structure. This is why customers often ask us about the best way to finish off their 3d print.

We like to be honest on this topic. Thinking that a 3D print leaves the printer looking completely perfect, is a misconception. When the 3D printed object serves as an autonomous statue or is part of a visual communication concept, it will need extra attention to add the desired characteristics.

Since we are a 3D printer manufacturer and not a designer company, we do not have a wide range of finishing equipment available. For this reason, we are always in search of easy and quick finishing methods ourselves. To show the results of our experiences, we decided to print four identical Dutch lions and finish off only one -half of each object.

1. Tiger Lion | Hydro Dipping
  • Also known as water transfer printing or water dipping. A great technique for transferring a print onto a 3D object. During this process, the film dissolves caused by a chemical reaction (the activator), allowing you to transfer the print to an 3D object. This way, the print becomes one with the object. We used a basic home hydro dip kit which included a tiger striped patterned film, activator, topcoat, basecoat and universal primer.

2. Red Lion | Spray paint
  • When you remove any 3D printed object from the printer, you might see thin lines where each new layer begins. Sanding removes imperfections and leaves you with a more even surface. It takes quite some time and patience to and your 3D object thoroughly. This is why we decided to use tools from a professional car paint shop. The red lion was treated with liquid plaster after sanding and finished with red satin gloss car paint.

3. Grey Lion | Stone textured paint spray
  • The easiest finishing method we used is a simple stone textured paint spray from our local hardware store. We did not even sand the object in advance. Do make sure you apply this in a well-ventilated location, preferably outdoors. Sweep the spray can across the object and apply multiple thin layers. The spray provides a unique, multi-dimensional finish to create the look and feel of stone.

4. Blue Lion | Flocking
  • Flocking is the process of depositing millions of little individual cut fiber particles (called "flock") onto the surface of an object. Flocking allows you to create professional looking suede-like objects. The flocking powder adheres to a sticky surface such as glue or an adhesive powder teamed with pigment inks. One of the easiest ways of using flock is to simply add glue to the surface of a project and pour flocking powder over the top. However, our blue lion is flocked by a professional company that uses a machine which electrostatically charged synthetic fibers. No sanding or preparation is needed up front and the technique is not overly expensive.

Watch the finishing in our video