This last weekend I did some experimentation with finishing techniques on a 3D printed object. I started with the “Guardian Squirrel” object from Thingiverse. I printed this with natural PLA on my M2 printer.


Guardian Squirrel printed in natural PLA. Layer height .1 with 10% infill.

Next I sprayed on a special nickel coating that I have. It is designed to be used as a way to spray onto surfaces to give them EMF shielding. It is sold by Less EMF. I originally purchased it because it can also be used to take any surface and make it conductive. I was using it to design custom pressure switches along with other experiments with conductive materials. After a few coatings it looked like this.


Guardian Squirrel printed in Natural PLA coated a nickel spray.

I then made an initial attempt at polishing the nickel. I do not have a lot of tools available to do polishing and the coating was not very thick so if I applied too much pressure I could easily rub it off and also the plastic underneath. I tried using a soft polishing wheel on my Dremel but had similar results. In the end what worked out the best for me was a stiff nylon rush, rubbing with a piece of wood and also rubbing with a smooth steel rod. After some work it looked like this.


Guardian Squirrel printed in natural PLA with nickel coating. First attempt at polishing.

I was not completely happy with the results of the polishing. I believe I could have done better but I lacked the tools and a good technique for getting a really shiny polish on the nickel. I intend to try again after I find a better way to polish the nickel coating. In the mean time I decided to use some silver patina that I had available to give it a nice shine. The patina turned out to be really strong though and mostly covers any evidence of the underlying nickel. I need to find something that is not quite as strong as the silver. This is the final result.


Guardian Squirrel printed in natural PLA with silver patina rub over the nickel spray coating.

Lately working on different techniques for finishing the 3D prints is one of my favorite activities. I am also pleased to see PLA taking paint and other materials so well. In the past I printed with ABS because I felt it was better suited for post painting but so far I have had so many positive experiences with painting PLA that I no longer assume that I need to use ABS if I plan on doing some painting and other post processing.

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