Protolabs improves surface quality options

1 min read

Protolabs has announced the availability of new surface quality standards for 3D printed prototypes and parts. Thanks to the new and improved post-processing steps, customers can now benefit from an even higher quality standard for additively manufactured parts.

Protolabs has always provided its customers with options around surface structure, offering a versatile range of materials and various methods of secondary processes. Now customers have flexible surface finish options when producing prototype and production components through Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

“Surface roughness plays a critical role in the performance of 3D-printed parts,” said Daniel Cohn, general manager & 3DP lead EMEA, Protolabs Europe.

“However, we recognise that not every project requires the same level of surface finish, and quite often, what is optimal for one industry is not for another. Through the new, flexible surface finishing options, customers can opt for a standard finish to suit their needs or can benefit from superior levels of quality when required.”

The new quality standards are categorised as Pure, Smooth and Vapour Smooth. Each of the three quality levels has different properties and benefits that optimise a component's functionality, integrity, and design aspect, meaning there is a suitable secondary available for every project. The individual standards differ primarily in terms of their surface roughness coating and availability in terms of colour and material selection.

The 'Pure' quality grade, with a roughness value of approx. 20-30 µm and Rz = 120-160 µm respectively, has a comparably high degree of roughness.

Parts with the 'Smooth' quality level have a reduced surface roughness, with a value of approx. 10-25 µm and Rz = 60-140 µm respectively, and can be used for a wider range of materials. This form of post-processing is suitable for the series production of components as well as prototypes. The ‘Smooth’ finish is now the default finish offered by Protolabs for most materials.

Parts with a 'Vapour Smooth' finish demonstrating a value of Ra = 5-15 µm and Rz = 25- 65 µm respectively (for some materials even lower, so ensure to check out the data sheets) have a very low level of surface roughness compared to the other two quality levels, close to the smooth finish that you usually associate with injection moulded parts.

The 'Vapour Smooth' quality grade delivers waterproof, airtight components that are easy to clean and meet high aesthetic requirements due to the extremely smooth, sealed surface. This level of finish makes it especially popular in the automotive, medical technology industries and housing technologies.

For more on how you can access a surface finish to suit your individual requirements, visit