Sanding 3D Printed Models with Dremel Lite Rotary Tool

The Dremel Lite rotary tool is perfect for sanding 3D printed parts before painting. Let’s back up for a moment. Sanding of 3D printed models is not necessary unless one plans on spray painting for a smooth finish.

Cyber Monday had a tempting offer on Amazon. As a designer, I am always interested in exploring better ways to showcase my ideas and models. Naturally, I was drawn to 3D print some of my designs. To do so, I took advantage of the Black Friday / Cyber Monday offer which brought the Artillery Sidewinder X1 down to CAN $549.xx. That was a good deal and I am glad that I bought that printer.

Now that I have printed about 20 models / parts, I am beginning to explore how I could add a more polished finish after printing. The best way is to paint them. Before painting, models need to be sanded in order to remove uneven surfaces left behind from supports. Sanding of 3D printed plastic models is somewhat tedious but the right tool makes a big difference.

Dremel Lite for sanding plastic 3D models

Dremel is a brand that needs no introduction. Many home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Hardware sell it and a few days ago, I bought that tool so that I could save time when preparing 3d printed models for painting.

Dremel Lite included accessories

The more powerful versions of the Dremel rotary tool come with a nice assortment of accessories. The Dremel Lite includes a few but is sufficient to get started. Later on, when I know which add-ons work best for my needs, I will buy additional bits like different sandpaper rings.

The good news is that the Dremel Lite can use the same accessories as the more expensive and stronger models. Wallmart caries a nice assortment of rotary tool accessories which, as I already mentioned, will eventually make it’s way into my toolbox.

Other helpful tools to smooth out and refine 3D printed parts are wire brushes. Amazingly, many accessories for 3D printing can be bought at the Dollar Store which is close by. I was able to get a set of six brushes for only four dollars. That includes three large and three small brushes of which four are wire brushes. Those also work best and can be used in combination with sanding.

Use a respirator mask

Note to myself. ALWAYS USE A RESPIRATOR MASK when sanding 3D printed plastic models. I bought a respirator mask and if you don’t have one then please don’t sand plastic before you get one. The dust particles which a Dremel rotary tool releases are very harmful and a quality respirator can filter them out. It also goes without saying that protective eye wear is also a must.

As with all things in life, there is always more to get. 3D printing is an amazing technology but after getting a quality 3D printer, one has to be prepared to invest in the tools listed below.

  • Caliper
  • Small toolbox
  • Sandpaper
  • Sidecutter
  • Dremel rotary tool
  • Respirator mask
  • Safety goggles (if you don’t wear glasses)
  • Plastic crates
  • Crazy glue
  • Assortment of filament
  • Assortment of spray paint
  • Small shop vac

Besides the above listed things, cleaning alcohol is needed to clean the 3d print bed as well as little paint accidents which can happen unless you have a shop.

Conclusion

Just printing models might not be enough. If one must have that perfect smooth “store-bought” look and finish, then sanding and painting is required. There are a lot of YouTube tutorials which cover the sanding and painting process in great detail but the basics are the same.

First, the surface must be made smooth. If sanding is not able to achieve this then some filler material should be used to fill in the cracks. After the surface is smooth, several layers of paint will eventually provide that perfect look. And yes, in between the paint coats, additional sanding is required. For that, the Dremel Lite is unfortunately not ideal. Sandpaper with a very fine grit such as 600 is best. Wet sanding is even better and yes, the Dollar Store caries a small but useful variety of sand paper. So go ahead and give your models that perfect shine.
If you paint a lot then safe yourself some time by using a rotary tool. I picked the Dremel Lite and so far, the results confirm that it was the right choice. Thank you for reading. Have fun and enjoy your new shiny models. I do.

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