Tools of the Trade - Part 3: Post-Processing

19 Aug 2021
Welcome back to our Tools of the Trade series. This article is part 3 in the series. If you missed parts 1 and 2, check them out here:
 
This series is designed to get you equipped to start 3D printing your own model car and truck parts quickly and as inexpensively as possible.
Let's save you money!
In this series, I outline everything you need to get started 3D printing your own model car and truck parts with a resin SLA 3D printer. I share with you the tools and materials that I use personally in my successful 3D printed parts business. Where there are free or cheap alternatives, I point those out, and where there are dedicated tools for a certain purpose that are more expensive, I share those too so that you can see all of your options. In some of these cases, the expensive object may make life a lot easier, but in general I think you will see that you can start 3D printing for your model car builds for less money than you might think!
Please note: links to products in this article may be affiliate links. This means that when you purchase an item from an affiliate link, you pay the same price you normally would but I earn a small commission. My goal is to bring you accurate and helpful content, therefore I only recommend products that I myself have used and stand by. If I mention a product that I do not have experience with, I will clearly state that.
 
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Part 3: Post-Processing
Once the print is complete, there's still work to be done.
  • In part 1, we looked at what you need to print safely and keep your space clean and organized. Part 2 was devoted to tools used in resin handling. So, you've added resin to the printer and sliced your print. You've copied the printer file onto the flash drive, and plugged that into the printer. You've pressed the "Print" button and walked away to let the printer do its thing. Now after a couple hours, the print has finished! Your parts are ready, right? Well, not quite.
     
    You see, once a print has finished, you still must remove the print from the printing plate, clean the excess resin off, dry the print, remove supports and then do a final post-cure to fully cure the resin. These post-processing steps require some additional tools.
     
    Many people will tell you you need to get a Wash and Cure machine, but as someone who has sold thousands of 3D Printed model car parts and still doesn't own a Wash and Cure machine, I'm here to tell you that you don't. Instead of spending a couple hundred dollars on a Wash and Cure machine, this article will show you how to post-process your prints for cheap -maybe even using stuff you already have! Instead of buying a Wash and Cure machine, I made my own curing chamber that's 10x bigger and 10x cheaper than the Wash and Cure Machines on the market. Members get access to a video tutorial on how to construct your own curing chamber. Learn more here.
Tools for print removal and support cleanup
  • Hobby knife set: A good Xacto-type knife set will be a multipurpose tool and one of your most-used tools in resin printing. Useful for trimming away "elephant's foot" on the bottom of your print, cutting away supports and general use around the shop, this tool has endless uses. However, there's one key use that I rely on every day: The large knife handle with a #18 blade (1/2" chisel blade) works wonders for removing prints from the build plate. Care must be taken to avoid gouging the plate, but this tool works so much better than the plastic scrapers that come with the printer. Note: Get one, like this set, that has all-metal handles. Resin will quickly destroy plastic-handled knives.


    Cheap/Free Alternative: None. C'mon, you're a modeler, you probably already have this. If not, get it - you'll use it all the time.

    Order now:

  • Sprue cutters: Another modeling tool you might already own, I love these sprue cutters for removing supports from prints cleanly and with precision. These cutters from Xuron are flush-cut so they allow you to cut the supports off right at the model. They are sharp, durable and inexpensive.

     

    Cheap/Free Alternative: Some printers, such as the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro come with a nice set of cutters. Otherwise, you might get away with a small pair of scissors or hobby knife.

     

    Order now:

  • Plastic razor scraper set: These plastic razor blades are handy for removing stubborn bits of cured resin on the build plate or screen without scratching them and causing damage to your printer. One of the best tools to have around for crummy situations.


    Cheap/Free Alternative: You can achieve the same results by being EXTREMELY CAREFUL with a #18 Xacto blade, but this tool makes it a lot safer.

    Order now:

Print Cleaning
  • Denatured alcohol: This is the only cleaner I use for my prints. Hands down, it is the fastest, most thorough, cheapest cleaner around. People who use isopropyl alcohol, Mean Green, or specific resin cleaners talk about having to scrub their prints clean. With denatured alcohol, two quick 30-second swirls in alcohol are enough to clean all the resin from the print - no scrubbing needed and for a lot less money. Denatured alcohol also dries quickly, allowing you to take your part from cleaning to post-curing faster. One possible downside is the smell - denatured alcohol has a stronger odor than the other cleaners.
     
    Note: good, intact nitrile gloves are a must when handling denatured alcohol. Most denatured alcohol contains some methanol which is toxic and absorbs through the skin. Use appropriate personal protection equipment whenever working with denatured alcohol. It's also flammable, so do not expose it to any open flame, sparks, cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or any other sources of heat, flame, or sparks and use in a well-ventilated area.


    Cheap/Free Alternative: None. You can buy water-washable resin, but it's just not that good yet, and water with resin in it still cannot just be disposed of down the drain.

    Order now:

The great Wash and Cure Machine debate
  • If you've done any research into resin 3D printing, by now you've no doubt seen people talk about Wash and Cure Stations. Like 3D printers themselves, these Wash and Cure machines used to be giant, industrial units with a price tag in the many thousands of dollars. Now, as consumer-grade, desktop 3D printers become more and more commonplace, so do similarly inexpensive Wash and Cure Stations. 
     
    How do they work? While every machine is different, they all basically work the same. When your print is finished, you remove the build plate with your prints attached and then you secure the build plate to the mount on the Wash and Cure unit. Just like your printer, the unit lowers the build plate until it is inside a vat of cleaner. Then, a mechanism (usually a magnetic stirrer) agitates or swirls the cleaner inside the jug, cleaning excess resin from your prints.
     
    Then, once the print is clean, you remove the build plate from the unit, and remove the print from your build plate. Once the print is dry, you remove the cleaner vat from the Wash and Cure machine and place your print on a turntable in the unit and press a button to turn on UV LEDs. Your print spins on the turntable to cure on all sides.
     
    By now, many printer manufacturers have jumped into this market - Elegoo, Anycubic, Creality, Sovol, and others all now have at least one entry in the field.  And why not? If someone is spending several hundred dollars on their printer, it seems natural to try and upsell them on adding a matching Wash and Cure Station, right?
     
    So is a Wash and Cure Station necessary? Absolutely not!
     
    Do they make life easier? Perhaps.
     
    My suspicion is that the people who swear by them use less effective cleansers for their parts which require a longer time being swished around in that cleanser. Using denatured alcohol instead cleans your prints so quickly that a quick swirl is all you need.
     
    Additionally, I have little interest in the curing function of these machines as I have found that curing your prints under water is more efficient and creates a better cure. This is due in part to the chemistry (resin cures better in a more oxygen rich environment, water contains oxygen), and in part because the water refracts the UV light for a more even cure.
     
    Finally, I simply believe that the money I would spend on one of these units could also be spent on many other aspects of my printing (like more model kits!).
     
    If you just would prefer an out-of-the-box solution, Anycubic's Wash and Cure Plus works with prints from any brand printer and has a large capacity for cleaning and curing even very large parts. Order the Anycubic Wash and Cure Plus here:
     
If you'd rather save money, read on below for some great, inexpensive options.
Inexpensive Cleaning Setup
  • One very popular container for cleaning resin prints are these plastic pickle jars. Made from polypropylene (a kind of plastic which is resin-resistant), these jars have an inner basket to allow you to clean your prints and then remove your parts easily by lifting the basket out of the alcohol.
     
    Pros:
    - Inexpensive
    - Durable
     
    Cons:
    - Parts of certain sizes may get stuck in the basket
     
    Order now:
Basically Free Cleaning Setup
  • Are you a coffee drinker? If so, you may already have some of my favorite cleaning containers laying around. That's right, large-sized coffee cans are now mostly all made of polyethylene, which means they are resin- and alcohol-resistant. Large coffee cans provide plenty of space for cleaning even moderately large prints. Plus the built-in handles are easy to grip while wearing gloves. Instead of throwing out your coffee can, next time repurpose it into a  great cleaning container.
     
    Pros:
    - Basically free
    - Large capacity
    - Handles make for easy swirling of prints in cleaner
     
    Cons:
    - You may get the jitters trying to drink all the coffee in order to get yourself a free cleaning container.
     
    Pick one up at your local grocery store, or order here:
Inexpensive Curing Setup #1
UV Lamp and Turntable
  • One of the least expensive curing setups available, a simple UV lamp and solar-powered turntable does the trick just fine. I used a setup like this for quite some time, until my production volume outgrew this setup. The turntable allows the object to cure on all sides. For more efficient curing, place your print in a clear cup of water on the turntable to boost efficiency and quality of curing.
     
    Pros:
    - Inexpensive
    - Even curing
     
    Cons:
    - Turntable motors can be weak, especially when used with a container of water
    - Limited capacity
     
    Order now:
Inexpensive Curing Setup #2
Nail Salon UV Lamp
  • Another popular option for a budget curing station is a UV nail polish dryer. These units also use long-lasting UV LED lights. Make sure to choose one with 405 nm UV wavelength for proper curing.
     
    Pros:
    - Inexpensive
    - Long-lasting LEDs
     
    Cons:
    - Limited space inside for prints, water curing may not be feasible due to size constraints
    - Bottom of print will not receive any light, so you will have to rotate the part for full curing.
     
    Order now:
 Recommended:
Inexpensive Curing Setup #3
UV LED Strip and Reflective Chamber
  • This is the setup we use for curing all of our prints for Scale Speed Garage and Bolide Plastic Motorworks! Waterproof UV LED strips allow you to create your own curing chamber inside any enclosure. This option offers unlimited flexibility - you can build your curing chamber to suit your needs, the size of your workspace, your budget, and your style. Want to cure your parts inside a beer fridge? You can do that! Star Wars more your style? Why not build a curing chamber inside your life-size R2D2 model!
     
    A custom-built UV curing enclosure is one of the best additions you can make to your workspace!
     
    Pros:
    - Totally customizable, from paint can to cabinet-sized
    - Waterproof LED strips offer long life and excellent durability
     
    Cons:
    - Requires assembly and (easy) wiring.
     
    Order now:
Scale Speed Garage members receive access to a full video tutorial on how to create their own UV curing chamber, including enclosure suggestions and LED strip wiring instructions. Click here to learn more about membership.
Bonus:
Free Curing Setup
Sunlight
  • Want a totally free way to post-cure your prints? Put them in a clear container of water and place them outside in the sun for a few minutes. That's right, regular old sunlight will cure your prints. Make sure to rotate your prints as needed to cure all sides.
     
    Pros:
    - Free
    - A nice excuse to get outside and enjoy some sunshine
     
    Cons:
    - Inconsistent light strength can cause over- or under-curing
    - Weather-dependent (Sorry Seattle!)
     
    To order, simply step outside.
Check out the rest of the Tools of the Trade article series here:

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Author: Chris Bell
Chris Bell is a passionate model car builder, resin 3D printing expert and owner of Scale Speed Garage and Bolide Plastic Motorworks.

(He's the one on the left in this picture.)

Want to check out the accurate, detailed model car and truck parts that Bolide Plastic Motorworks creates? Check it out at: www.bolidemodels.com