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CLEANING and preparation:
The first thing to think about in preparing your model is cleaning. The idea might be unwelcome or look unnecessary but it is a simple process and with any 3D print will pay dividends, particularly if you intend painting your models.
I design all of my models for printing in either Frosted Detail or Strong and Flexible (S&F) plastics
The Frosted Detail models are made in a MJM ( multi jet modelling) printer. The resin layers are laid down with a wax support structure to hold all of the detail in place until the item is complete. Once out of the printer, the model has to be cleaned of this wax and Shapeways’ first step is to heat it in an oven so that most of the wax melts away. Wax residue still remaining is then removed by washing the model in hot oil – usually sunflower oil believe it or not. And finally, Shapeways remove the oil by giving the model a good rinse in warm water.
It is not unusual to receive a Frosted Detail model from Shapeways still wet with the water from this last part of their process. This in itself is not a problem, simply wipe the model with a tissue and it will dry completely quite quickly if left in a warm, airy place.
What is a problem is that as well as being wet, sometimes there will still be traces of oil and even wax left on the model. Either of these could ruin your glueing and will ruin your painting efforts. The model will feel greasy and will have a yellowish tinge in places and this was exactly the case with the rear half of my 1/350th scale NS11 shown here…
My advice is to clean all Frosted Detail models, even if they arrive apparently wax and oil free. First, give the model up to 5 minutes in a bath of Mineral Spirits (US)/White Spirits(Eur), gently rubbing at any problem areas with a soft brush.
A rectangular ice cream container makes a perfect white spirit/mineral spirit bath.
Then wash the model in a bowl of hand-hot water with dish washing(US)/washing-up(Eur) liquid(Eur) added. Use a soft artists’ brush to gently scrub corners and crevices clean and to make sure that holes where other parts attach are clear. If you have one, this is the time to get out that ultra-sonic cleaner and to let it do the job for you.
Finally, rinse off the soapy water with clean and shake off the excess. Sponge gently with a tissue and leave to dry.
When it is properly clean a Frosted Detail part will indeed look white and frosted. But don’t expect it to look evenly frosted all over. Where the wax support material has had to hold the plastic while it cures, there is often a slightly different surface texture. I find that a coat of paint usually covers the difference, but you can always sand an area with fine grit wet & dry paper if you wish.
More evident on my larger models : the whiter area in this photo is where the model was supported by wax during the printing process.
The issue with S&F can be that the parts arrive still dusted with fine nylon powder from the printer bed. On my smaller airships the hulls are sometimes like salt-cellars and go on issuing little piles of nylon for ever unless I clean them. If you have access to low pressure compressed air the easy thing to do is blow the parts clean. Otherwise shake them and blow on them yourself. ( Be careful of using a home garage/auto compressor: apart from potently wrecking your model with too high a pressure, the air is often not filtered and will contain tiny amounts of the compressor sump oil in aerosol form, and that is the last thing you want on your models.) Additionally give the parts a wash in hand-hot water with washing -up liquid added – agitate them briskly or use that ultra-sonic jewellery cleaner again if you have one, and rub at complex areas with a soft artist’s brush. Then rinse thoroughly in clean water, sponge off the excess with a tissue and leave to dry in an airy space. This will not only get rid of the last deposits of powder but help remove any oils that you may have deposited in handling the models.
FITTING Parts Together…
I take full advantage of the close tolerances that printing in Frosted Detail plastics in particular allows. But this means that CARE, and patience sometimes, is required in the assembly of my models. Nose cones, hull halves and other parts on my models are a sliding fit, NOT an interference fit and will go together easily enough AS LONG AS they are offered up squarely. Take a moment to check that things are properly aligned before mating them together. Often I will have built in a small location spigot to ensure the correct orientation of a piece, so check for these as well, before trying to push something home.
The GLUES I Use…
I have three that I use in building my 3D printed models.
Polystyrene cement , in a tube
Super Glue – these are NOT all the same, go for a good quality product – I use Loctite Super Glue, liquid.
Two-part epoxy adhesive .
Before explaining these choices I must stress that a clean part is key to strong glued joints. Check out my notes on cleaning if you are unsure.
The least obvious of my glues is of course the polystyrene cement because none of Shapeways’s plastics are styrenes that can be “welded” together using it. However, I find that it works perfectly well on my larger “Strong and Flexible” (sintered nylon) components. As it dries and contracts it latches onto the relatively open structure of the S&F and holds the parts together. Since it takes a little while to solidify, using it allows time to align parts carefully and time to avoid getting the cement all over the place! Once properly dry it can be cut/sanded/scraped as required, if it proves necessary to tidy up the joint.
I use Super Glue for joining Frosted Detail parts together, for joining Frosted Detail to S&F, and for joining the smaller S&F parts. Using it gives meaning to the old adage – “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. ALWAYS practice putting parts together with a dry run and always have any props that are going to be needed to hold the parts in place while they set, ready before you open the glue. Tiny amounts of the glue set very quickly but as the volume increases, so does the setting time. I am very rarely successful in holding two parts together by hand while they set: if by some miracle I don’t end up getting glue on my fingers (and thereby onto other parts of the model!) then the body movement that is always present despite how still I believe I am, results in a weak or poorly aligned joint. I have one of those little “helping hands” tools that comprises a couple of crocodile clips on fully articulated arms on a heavy base, which I often find indispensable. Also, careful use of Sellotape/Scotch tape can be really successful. Bear in mind though, that the super glue will reach unexpected places simply by capillary action, so only ever apply sufficient for the intended joint, and no more.
Last in the armoury is also my least used but is the best option where high mechanical strength is required. Five minute, two-part epoxy resin cement is perfect for repairing larger items or for joining dissimilar materials, for example, steel rods into plastic bases for displaying the finished models. The two parts of the adhesive have to be mixed together in equal quantities and it pays to have a supply of wooden cocktail sticks or matchsticks, and scraps of card available for mixing on and then throwing away. I have become quite adept at mixing up tiny amounts to avoid waste, the secret always being to ensure that the parts are mixed together thoroughly. One thing to watch out for is that once mixed the glue seems quite thick and well behaved. But once applied it will easily flow away from where you want it, even though it is due to set in minutes. Always try to use gravity to get the cement to fill or stay in the joint and keep it well away from hands and clothes!
That’s it. I know that other people will have other products that they prefer, so please don’t take my choices as the only ones.
One other bit of advice…
Please think about using a tray whenever assembling models. Some of the parts on my models are tiny and sometimes hard to see, let alone handle safely. If you haven’t got one already, get hold of a simple plastic dinner tray or knock one up from wood or even cardboard. It must have raised edges and it must be large enough to take the model you are working on and your hands, comfortably. I have lost count of the number of times I have convinced myself that it was perfectly safe to get out a couple of parts to have a look at them, only for something unexpected to happen to cause me to drop them. Even when I am at my desk, fate will conspire to ensure that the parts are somehow deflected onto the floor and I spend the next half an hour looking for them. Always expect the unexpected – use a tray to work on!
Good Luck with your modelling.
Don’t forget to use hand protection when using the white spirit – it will strip the oils out of your skin as well as it does off of the model! You’ll then need a good hand cream to replace them. Disposable, powder free, nitrile gloves are the better bet and very useful for many other jobs.
EYE PROTECTION – Think about it! Super-glue, two-part epoxy, white spirit, compressed air – using any of these must be done with care and certainly not when there are young children or animals about.