Stress-Free Cleaning for FDM Printing
23 June 2017
The good news is that FDM is an inherently clean technology, which means the cleaning stage will not typically be as involved as with SLS prints. However, while it does not leave the same volume of waste material as SLS — especially if you are using dissolvable support structures — it is still important to factor the cleaning of your part into your post-processing stage. This is especially important if you are planning on painting or finishing your part, as it’s vital that you begin with a clean surface to achieve an even, professional result.
Prepare a proper workspace
For FDM prints, you should have easy access to a sink and space for any tools or chemicals you will be using. If you are going to be cleaning and finishing a large number of FDM prints, it may be worth investing in one or more dedicated workstation units. If you are going to be utilising any chemicals as part of the cleaning and finishing process, make sure proper protection (i.e. gloves and goggles) is close to hand.
Remove the support structures and polish the part prior to cleaning
We looked at this part of the post-processing stage in detail in a previous blog post. This should take place before any cleaning takes place, to ensure there’s no waste material left on the part before you paint or finish it. You should then fill any gaps and sand it down to a smooth finish, as we discussed in our last tutorial.
Cleaning away any dirt or left-over material
Cleaning by hand is by far the simplest and most common approach to cleaning FDM prints. You can simply give the part a gentle rinse using warm, soapy water or alcohol, then allow it to dry.
Alternatively, dedicated wash-stations are available (Gemini’s Pro-1000 system, for example), which are designed to allow multiple FDM parts to be cleaned right after printing, before they are removed from the printing bed. This would be a good option if you have invested in a similar system for removing support structures, allowing another stage of FDM printing to be automated.
Clean your nozzles!
While it’s important to clean your part after printing, it’s equally important to do the same for your printer’s nozzle when using FDM techniques. This will help prevent any blockages and minimise the chances of any deformities in your parts. If you are using a multi-head printer that can print dissolvable support structures, this nozzle should be cleaned as well.