3D-Print Finishing

3D-Print finishing

A 3D-Print made with ABS filament is easily polish-able with acetone. ABS plastic dissolves in acetone like PVA dissolves in water. This way you can polish ABS with acetone vapor to create a smooth and glossy finish. This will not only make it smooth and shiny but it will also remove the build lines that are left by the 3D-Printer in the form of layers.


Aceton vapor bath

An acetone vapor bath is nothing more than a container filled with a layer of acetone in which your ABS 3D-Print is standing. The 3D-Print does not come into contact with the acetone but because acetone evaporates very quickly, it will saturate the enclosed container quickly with a high density acetone-air mixture. This mixture will slowly etch the outside layers of your 3D-Print to create a homogenous and smooth surface.


Here is a list of the requirements that you will need to create an acetone vapor bath:

-        The ABS 3D-Print
-        Acetone (about 100 ml)
-        A sealable airtight container large enough to fit your ABS 3D-Print. Of course make sure that the container is NOT made out of ABS plastic. Because the acetone will eat through it.
-        Aluminium foil
-        Kitchen paper/well absorbing towel


Step 1

Cover the bottom of the container with a layer of aluminium foil. The layer aluminium foil will protect the 3D-Print from sticking to the container. It is also possible to prop the 3D-Print up on a plinth in the middle of the container to make it float in the acetone vapor.

Step 2

Take a piece of kitchen paper or towel, fold it a couple of times lengthwise and soak it with acetone. Place the drenched paper/towel around the 3D-Print or plinth and make sure that it does not touch the 3D-Print as shown in the picture below.

Aceton verdamper

Step 3

Close the container and make sure it is air tight. You can check this by placing the container in a different room and check if you can smell acetone. If you cannot, then the container is sealed and the air inside the container will start to absorb acetone. The vapor will then start to etch away the ABS plastic and smooth out the exterior of the 3D-Print. After about an hour or 2, you can start to see that your 3D-Print is starting to become smoother and that the build lines are starting to fade. The longer you place the 3D-Print inside the container the smoother it will become. When you achieved the desired smoothness, simply open the lid and let the acetone escape from the container. Make sure you do this in a well ventilated area or outside. Acetone can cause dizziness and headaches when exposed to it for a prolonged period of time!


Attention: The acetone will soften the ABS during the vapor bath process. Make sure you let the 3D-Print solidify for about 15 minutes before touching it. You can easily leave permanent finger prints on your 3D-Print.


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