Smoothing Acetone Vaporizer Instructions
Please note that having a 3D printer smoother eliminates the need for endless sanding and messing around and possibly destroying the part.
Make certain drain valve is closed.
Add 1” — 2” Acetone in bottom of tank
Using front panel switch/breaker turn unit on.
Using up / down arrows on the front controller, set temp to 125 degrees F, then press SET.
Allow unit to run for approx 10 minutes, take note of the height of the vapor on the walls of the tank.
Keep fumes 15 Inches from top of unit.
To raise vapor height, use up arrow key on controller to raise the temp 2 degrees, then press SET.
To lower vapor height, use down arrow key on controller to lower temp 2 degrees, then press SET.
It is IMPORTANT to maintain the level of acetone to 1” — 2” inches. “Heater failure may result if no Liquid is present” Keep lid closed when unit is not in operation.
Drain liquid from tank, when not to be used for prolonged time intervals.
Observe the 3D model in the smoother as the Acetone starts to evaporates, in a matter of seconds the model will start to shine and it will look smoother. There’s no formula for calculating the time the model needs to be in the smoother. The model should be removed when it reaches the desired amount of smoothness or when the Acetone evaporates fully. Leaving it for too long may cause some significant features to fade. When the desired outcome is reached, remove the 3D part from smoother. Caution: 3D part may be hot!
Leave the model for few minutes to dry.
Stradivarius Heat Controller Quick Start Guide
How does vapor smoothing work?
Vapor smoothing utilizes the chemical action of a compatible solvent to dissolve and reflow the surface of a plastic part. Under carefully controlled conditions this can produce excellent results without compromising part detail. Indiscriminant use of solvents can quickly destroy a plastic part. The Stradivarius vapor smoother provides a safe, controlled environment for smoothing parts without damage.
What happens to a part in the smoothing process?
The Stradivarius vapor smoother boils liquid Acetone to fill a controlled work volume with saturated Acetone vapor at about 125˚ deg F. A refrigerated cold trap above the work tank prevents vapors from escaping the work area. To process a part the user lowers it into the vapor tank and leaves it there for only 3-5 seconds.
An interesting series of events happen as follows:
The part at room temperature (say 70˚F) looks cold in the 125˚F vapor and immediately condenses gaseous acetone on all exposed surfaces.
The plastic part having low thermal mass and low thermal conductivity absorbs the Acetones heat of vaporization which raises the surface temperature to very nearly 125˚F. This temperature rise stays predominantly near the part surface.
The part now with an elevated surface temperature is a much less favorable condensation site and vapor to liquid conversion on the part surface nearly stops. The process self limits to an ideal dosage of Acetone on the part surface.
The liquid Acetone at high temperature aggressively liquefies the part surface to a shallow depth of only a few thousandths of an inch. The liquefied surface reflows to produce a smoother and shinier surface. The thin surface layer of solvent quickly evaporates when the part is removed and cools the surface in the process. Part show little overall temperature rise when removed.
The part surface will be soft and easily damaged if touched when removed from the polisher but it will harden to a touchable state in a minute or so. In thirty minutes it will have all it original properties.
What will Vapor Smoothing do?
Vapor smoothing utilizes the chemical action of a compatible solvent to dissolve and reflow the surface of a plastic part. It is essential that the solvent used is capable of dissolving the plastic part. Vapor smoothing is a controlled process that affects only the outer surface. It will improve between layer adhesion on the surface but won’t penetrate very deeply to affect inner layers. It will reduce part porosity, seal the surface and in some cases make the part “water tight”. The inherently shallow depth of penetration, typically a few thousandths of an inch, protects the detail of the part and determines how much smoothing will occur. Smoothing will virtually remove the layered look in parts made at .005 and .007 build heights. Parts made at .010 build height will be significantly improved and parts made at .013 slightly less so. Most plastics will take on a glossy appearance when polished, but the overall look is influenced by any underlying texture. Smoothing affects the surface but does not remove any material so parts size is nearly unchanged.
What will Vapor Smoothing not do?
Vapor Smoothing will not work on plastics that are impervious to chemical solvents. Material like Nylon are used to make bottles for solvent storage so they won’t work. We are constantly researching solvents for new materials. Vapor smoothing will not remove gross imperfections or textured surfaces. This is a significant benefit because it won’t destroy part detail either. Processing textured surfaces first with mechanical smoothing techniques like sanding, bead blasting or tumbling and then finishing with vapor smoothing can be deliver beautiful results on most surfaces.
Solvent vapor may change the color of some parts.
Smoothing affects the surface but does not remove any material so parts size is nearly unchanged.
Can I achieve an Injection Molded appearance?
Parts can be processed to shiny molded appearance with a combination of mechanical and vapor polishing means in much less time than using traditional mechanical means. As any skilled craftsman knows, the path to mechanically achieving a smooth finish starts with coarse abrasive and proceeds through a long sequence of ever and ever finer grits until a rubbing compound and then polishing compound finishes the job. Each finer grit is used to remove the scratches from the previous larger grit. It takes a dozen or more tedious steps to complete the job.
Vapor polishing delivers better results in much less time. It takes the place of the last 80% of the mechanical finishing. Sand the part with coarse grit (if necessary) and then medium grit. Follow with an abrasive pad like Scotchbrite and then vapor polish. Repeat the medium and Scotchbrite steps - then vapor polish. In only three or four iterations you can achieve incredible results.
What Plastics Can be Vapor Smoothed?
ABS is readily processed with a variety of solvents. Methylene Chloride, Trichlorethane, and Acetone give good performance each with slightly different behavior.
Methylene Chloride is very volatile and vaporizes at a low temperature. It readily dissolves the surface and quickly evaporates when removed. It is the active ingredient in acrylic glues and will glue ABS too. It is not easy to find in retail stores except in plastic glues but is available from industrial chemical suppliers. It is not inexpensive, has low toxicity and a modest odor. Its biggest drawback is it will quickly disappear if not kept in a sealed container.
Trichlorethane was once a widely used solvent for many cleaning and degreasing application. It has fallen from favor because of its toxicity and atmospheric effects. In some places it has been banned or being phased out for certain cleaning application. It is common ingredient in plastic glues. It boils at a higher temperature and is the most aggressive of the three listed here. It is best used in very short duration exposures because it cause the part to drip fairly quickly. It is still readily available from industrial chemical suppliers.
Acetone is the most widely used and readily available solvent of the bunch. Hardware, Auto parts, Home Improvement, and paint stores all carry it. It cost about $15-20 /gallon. It vaporizes at about 125 deg F and reacts quickly on the ABS surface with controlled shallow penetration. It is easy to use and gives well controlled results. Like all these solvents it has a terrible smell is not good for you. When used in the vapor smoother the vapors are well controlled and little escapes in to the work area. Some Acetone will be carried out of the tank on the smoothed part surface so use it (or any solvent) only in a well ventilated area.
Poly lactic Acid is a widely used in printers without heated platens or heated build envelopes. It melts at a low temperature, sticks well and doesn’t warp like ABS does on unheated platens. It is not soluble in commonly available solvents and therefore difficult to vapor polish. There is one solvent Tetrahydrofuran that works well. It is used in PVC pipe primer/cleaner. It is not available in retail outlets in solvent form. It vaporizes about 10 deg hotter than Acetone and works well on PLA but parts remain soft for 20-30 minutes after processing. Don’t touch the parts until they are ready. Tetrahydrofuran is available at industrial chemical suppliers and may cost as much as $100/gal. It stinks more than most solvents and is very unpleasant. Be sure read the Material Data Safety Sheet. Use in a well ventilated area and wear a solvent approved respirator. Nevertheless it produces great results.