3D Post Processing

3D printing post-processing can make your work look better and improve strength. Learn 10 methods of post-processing PLA, PETG, ABS, and more!

Table of Contents

Introduction: Unlocking the Full Potential of 3D Printing

3D printing has revolutionised the world of manufacturing, offering unparalleled flexibility and precision. However, the process does not end once the part has been printed. Post-processing is a crucial stage that can make all the difference between a high-quality, professional-looking component and a rough, amateurish one. This article will guide you through the essential steps for post-processing 3D-printed parts, helping you achieve the best possible results.

The following post-processing guide has been shared by Makerbot.com as Moose 3D does not provide these services. 

Removing Support Structures and Excess Material

The first step in post-processing a 3D-printed part is to remove any support structures and excess material. Support structures are temporary elements that provide stability during the printing process, while excess material can accumulate due to printing errors or material flow issues. Carefully remove these elements using tools like pliers, flush cutters or a hobby knife, taking care not to damage the part itself. Be sure to wear protective gloves and eyewear to prevent injury.

Sanding for a Smooth Surface Finish

Sanding 3D printed models can prove to be an excellent technique to eliminate the apparent layer lines, to prep the 3D printed model for the painting, silicone moulding, or vacuum forming.

In this tutorial, we shall divulge the best practices and techniques involved in the process of sanding your 3D prints.

The time taken to complete the process is dependent on the model you are working on. From start to finish, the demonstrated process consumed about 3 hours.

Tools for the job:


When considering the ideal finish of your 3D printed model, factors such as print settings, print orientation, as well as the number of build plates utilized, must be taken into consideration. The smoothest surface finish can be attained by printing the surfaces on the Z-axis.



A. Remove the print from the build plate.

B. Eliminate the rafts and support material from the model.

When using pliers or cutters to remove the supports, eye protection is necessary.

C. Begin by eliminating the large pieces of support first, and gradually approach the smaller pieces and fine details.

D. It is important to clean the edges and seams of your model to guarantee better alignment of pieces.

If you plan to glue your model, avoid removing too much material from seams or joining surfaces, otherwise, you will require the use of a filler later on.


A. Begin sanding with coarse (80 grit) sandpaper.

When sanding, particulates are released, therefore, it is important to wear eye protection and a respiratory mask.

B. The goal when sanding with 80 grit sandpaper is to eliminate any leftover blemishes from raft or support material and to create an even surface that you will later refine. This process removes the largest amount of material and takes the most time.

C. During the early stages of sanding, you will observe that the model’s surface which was once fairly shiny will become dull and rough and change in colour. The shine will return as you move on to higher sanding grits.

When sanding, avoid sanding in one place for too long, as heat generated from friction could melt the PLA.

D. To save time, you can use an electric sander or multitool. If you are using a multitool, select a low setting to avoid overheating or melting the PLA.

E. After each sanding stage, clean the model of any dust and inspect for a uniform surface finish.

Move on to sanding with higher grits when all large to medium-sized imperfections or blemishes have been removed.


A. Sand with 120 grit sandpaper (dry).

B. Sand with 240 grit sandpaper (dry).

C. If you notice any large imperfections that you have missed, return to a lower sanding grit to refine those areas.

As you progress through finer grits, sanding should require less time. Additionally, you will notice that the model’s texture becomes more refined and much smoother.


When your model’s surface is even and refined, it is time to wet sand the model using fine grit sandpaper. This process will not remove much material but will do the most to polish its surface.

A. Submerge the model in a tub filled halfway with water.

Take care around fine features, round surfaces, and other small or difficult-to-reach places.

B. Using 1000-grit sandpaper, sand the model until it is completely smooth to the touch.

C. Dry the model and inspect for a uniform surface finish.

If you have successfully sanded your model, its surface should now be even, blemish-free, and glass-like to the touch.


In conclusion, sanding your 3D prints is a crucial step in achieving a high-quality finish. It requires patience and attention to detail, but the result is worth the effort. By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you can achieve a smooth and polished surface on your 3D-printed models.

It is essential to take proper precautions and use the necessary safety equipment when sanding, as it can be a hazardous process. Make sure to wear a respiratory mask, eye protection, and gloves to protect yourself from any harmful dust and debris.

In addition, it is important to note that the time required for sanding will vary depending on the complexity and size of the model. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise patience and take your time to achieve the desired finish.

By using the right equipment and following the proper steps, you can achieve a flawless surface finish on your 3D-printed models. Happy sanding!


How to Glue 3D Prints: A Step-by-Step Guide

Glueing your 3D prints can be a powerful post-processing method if you’re looking to combine multiple components of an assembly or create a model larger than the build volume of your 3D printer. In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide to glueing your 3D prints, including the best practices associated with them.

Tools for the job:


Before you start gluing your 3D prints, you need to obtain your model either by designing it from scratch or downloading it from websites like Thingiverse or GrabCAD. You should also consider where you’d like the components to be joined. If creating joints or keys for your model, make sure to create joining features large enough that your printer can create them cleanly. Generally, features should be larger than 4-5mm in diameter.


When preparing models for gluing in MakerBot Print, keep in mind how your print settings will affect the gluing process. You should consider print settings, print orientation, and the number of build plates. Because of the size of our model, we chose to print on our MakerBot Replicator+ Desktop 3D Printer in MakerBot PLA. Surfaces printed in the Z axis will have the smoothest surface finish. You should avoid placing support material around joining features unless necessary. PLA is easy to print with and doesn’t shrink or warp during the printing process. Material such as ABS may warp or shrink, negatively affecting the fit of your model components.


Supplies used: Needle-nose pliers or flush cutters. Remove prints from the build plate, remove rafts, remove large pieces of support, and approach smaller pieces and fine details. Take care around the edges and seams to ensure your pieces fit together correctly.

Covered in the SANDING section


Your model is ready to glue when all surfaces and joints are smooth and fit together as intended.


Tools used: Rubber bands.

Join model components using rubber bands as they will better conform to the shape of your model. If rubber bands don’t work due to the geometry of your model, try straps, tape or clamps.


Supplies used: Cyanoacrylate glue, accelerator, paper towels.

A.Begin glueing by, spot glue around your model (this will ensure that your model is evenly attached in all places). Apply a small amount of glue to a seam in a central location. Work from the centre of your model outwards in regular intervals to achieve even glueing. B. Wipe away any excess with a paper towel. C. Use an accelerator and spray the area you just glued. Once the glue has cured, remove the rubber bands.