Acetone Smoothing an ABS Cone - (New to 3D printing)


Today marked my first time using a 3D printer - have to admit I was originally skeptical but am now incredibly impressed and am having to hold myself back from purchasing one for myself! Was a great experience.

Anyway, I build rockets, and decided to 3D print a bespoke nose cone (Link 1) to fit my rocket. However the sliced layers probably won't do great for aerodynamics, so I've looked into ways to smooth the cone out. I was wondering, using an acetone vapour bath as seen in Link 2, is it possible to smooth the surface of my print without loosing shape? It's only small (12x4x4 cm), and I'm worried that the acetone that smooths the surface could misshape the cone (which I would rather keep perfectly symmetrical!) or cause ABS to melt and pool around the base.

Will the acetone disfigure the print, or is it possible to give it a vapour bath without it pooling and melting?

Link 1: Thingiverse - Ogive Nose Cone

Link 2: Simple way to make ultra-smooth 3D prints at home


Posted 2019-11-19T10:11:08.900

Reputation: 131



is it possible to smooth the surface of my print without loosing shape?

That is by definition impossible. Smoothing the surface implies that the geometry is changed. Rather, the question is: how much does acetone smoothing change the shape, and is that change within the tolerances of your application?

Acetone smoothing is a fickle process, and how (much) the geometry is changed depends on a lot of factors, such as the concentration of the acetone vapor, the amount of time the print is exposed to it, the exact composition of the plastic, geometry of the print, etc... It is definitely possible to overdo it and melt your print into a puddle, but it is also possible to smooth it out without affecting the geometry significantly.

I would recommend experimenting with the process and seeing whether you can tune the process (time/concentration) so that you get a smooth enough part without affecting the geometry too much.

Tom van der Zanden

Posted 2019-11-19T10:11:08.900

Reputation: 14 003