Yes, you did read that title right. It may seem counter intuitive and may go against everything you have been taught about 3D printing, but in reality ABS and ASA material have a few tricks hidden up their sleeve. There is a common notion to use ABS and/or ASA for strength and PolyJet/SLA for surface finish. However, you can get the strength and part stability ABS is known for, as well as the surface finish that rivals injection molded parts. And there are multiple methods of achieving this.
One very fast option is blasting the part in a blasting cabinet using a Polyhard Type III bead media that takes a few minutes compared to sanding. The bench top cabinet and bead media can be purchased for less than $250.
Another post process option is the finishing touch smoothing station, which gets tremendous results. Combine this option with bead blasting and you have an injection molded quality part with all the benefits that come with ABS. Here you can see the part finish comparison after using the smoothing station.
Tumbler (Mass Finishing Process)
For stronger thermoplastics such as ULTEM and Polycarbonite, a tumbler can be the best approach. A tumbler is a centrifugal barrel machine that smooths parts. Depending upon the media and settings, you can achieve a matte or polished finish, providing the best of both worlds, strength and finish.
The next time you're in the market for surface finish, don't overlook the FDM process. To learn more about surface finishing parts or to see if FDM or any other additive technology can benefit your company, contact TriMech.