A lot of hard work goes into making 3D printed parts shine once they come off the build bed. As revolutionary as 3D printing has been for hardware development, there’s still some manual labor that goes into every part.

Here’s a quick tutorial that shows how we clean PolyJet parts fresh off the build bed before delivering them to customers.

For this tutorial, we’re cleaning a VeroWhite part, since it’s the most common material used for visual models, which require a more polished look. That said, this process is largely similar for most of our materials.

Tools

  • Spatula
  • Probe Set
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Sodium Hydroxide Solution
  • WaterJet
  • Compressed Air

Step 1: Remove part from build bed

Carefully remove the part (covered in support material!) from the build bed using a spatula tool.

cleaning a PolyJet 3D printed part
Cleaning a PolyJet 3D printed part

You’ll notice a footprint from the part left on the build bed—this is removed using a scraper tool, being especially careful not to damage the metal print bed. Spray the build bed with water and wipe it down with polyester wipes.

Step 2: Clean the printer nozzle

Clean the nozzle with Isopropyl alcohol to prevent material build-up and to keep the extruder and wipers clean. This process differs depending on the machine, but on the Objet 500, we drop the build bed and use a mirror to ensure the nozzle is clean.

polyjet 3d printed part cleaning
Clean the nozzle with Isopropyl alcohol

Note that it’s important to do Step 1 and Step 2 after every print to avoid buildup on the print bed which could damage the nozzle and impact the quality of future prints.

Step 3: Hand clean the part

Now focus on the part, which you will see is encased in a wax-like material. Start by hand removing as much of the material as you can (a probe set can be handy here).

polyjet 3d printed part hand cleaning
Hand cleaning a 3D printed part

Step 4: Clean with a WaterJet

Once you’ve removed as much of the material as you can by hand, a waterjet will give the part a deeper clean and get into some of those hard-to-reach corners.

Cleaning 3D printed parts with a waterjet
Cleaning 3D printed parts with a waterjet

Make sure to set the water pressure and stream appropriately for the part. Fragile parts should be cleaned using a low pressure, fan stream while sturdy parts are okay with a high pressure, jet wash.

Step 5: Leave part in a Sodium Hydroxide bath

First. dry the part with an air compressor.

cleaning a 3D printed part with an air compressor
Cleaning a 3D printed part with an air compressor

If you still see noticeable support material, repeat Step 4. If not, it’s time to place the part in a Sodium Hydroxide bath. We used a Stratsys solution here, but there are many different options available that work just as well.

The purpose of the bath is to remove any residue that might be left on the part from the support material. The part can sit in the bath anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours depending on the part geometry.

Cleaning a 3D printed part in a Sodium Hydroxide bath
Cleaning a 3D printed part in a Sodium Hydroxide bath

Step 6: Rinse and dry

Remove the part from the Sodium Hydroxide bath and run it under water to remove any loose support and leftover solution. Finally, give the part a few blasts of the air compressor to dry it up, and behold—your squeaky clean 3D part!

Check out the difference before and after cleaning:

3D printed parts, before and after cleaning
3D printed parts, before and after cleaning. The cleaned part is on the left.