Unless something goes wrong, 3D printing is a fully automatic process that your 3D printer should be able to handle from start to finish once you ensure that everything is configured correctly, allowing you to collect the finished product without the need for any manual effort.
On the other hand, getting a 3D printed model to reach its final state, especially if it’s a decorative object, often requires some extra work that you will need to perform manually, known as post-processing, which involves procedures such as cleaning, sanding, painting, gluing, and smoothing.
In today’s article, we will be talking about the post-processing side of 3D printing, sanding in particular, and examine whether it’s possible to make the otherwise tedious sanding process more convenient by utilizing a Dremel instead of the standard method of manually sanding with sandpaper.
So, can you sand your 3D printed models with a Dremel?
You can indeed sand your 3D printed models with the sanding bits of the Dremel rotary tool, which will allow you to go through the sanding process much quicker than hand sanding.
On the other hand, it’s vital to be careful when using a Dremel to sand your 3D printed model, as you can easily cause damage by sanding off more than you intended.
Moving forward, we will discuss the possibility of sanding 3D printed models with a Dremel in more detail, learn about the process of using a Dremel to smoothen 3D printed models, discuss whether using a Dremel is an effective way for the sanding process, and finally, go through some safety tips.
Can You Sand 3D Printed Models with a Dremel?
While a Dremel is frequently used for the purposes of sanding in woodworking projects, there isn’t much talk about whether it would be suitable for sanding 3D printed models, even with the fact that sanding is a vital step for post-processing.
You can sand your 3D printed models with a Dremel rotary tool without any issues, as it will essentially allow you to obtain the same results you would get by hand sanding with regular sandpaper, but with much less effort and time spent.
Especially considering that it’s possible to attach distinct sanding bits with varying grits to the Dremel rotary tool, you can conduct the entirety of the sanding process with it and avoid the hassle of hand sanding altogether in most cases.
On the other hand, one thing to be aware of is the fact that a Dremel can easily cause damage to your 3D printed model if you aren’t careful, to the point where you might need to re-print it, as you can over-sand particular areas, or even melt them with the heat that the tool generates.
Alongside sanding, you can also use a Dremel rotary tool for applications such as removing the support material from your 3D printed models in a much more efficient manner, polishing your 3D printed models, cutting your 3D printed models into multiple pieces whenever necessary, and even welding 3D printed parts together by using the friction welding technique.
How to Sand 3D Printed Models with a Dremel?
As a 3D printed model is a lot more prone to the damage that a Dremel can cause in the case of misuse, it’s vital to be careful and follow the appropriate steps to conduct the sanding process as correctly as possible.
The first step we recommend taking to sand your 3D printed models with a Dremel is to prepare by following the pointers below, which will ensure that you can go through the entire sanding process in one sitting:
- Clean your workspace.
- Fix your 3D printed model in a vice.
- Pick out all the different grit sanding bits you plan on using and put them aside for easy access.
- Attach the coarsest grit sanding bit to your Dremel.
Now that you have done the necessary preparation, it’s time to move on to the sanding process.
While sanding your 3D printed model with a Dremel rotary tool essentially works the same way as hand sanding, there are a few things to be careful about, which we have listed below:
- Be gentle and avoid pressing too hard on the 3D printed model.
- Start with the lowest speed possible and move up slowly if necessary to avoid melting your 3D printed model, especially if you have used PLA to print.
- Allow the sanding bit to cool down now and then, especially if you are working on large areas where it’s more likely to get too hot and melt the plastic.
Once you’re done with a round of sanding with the currently attached sanding bit, clean your 3D printed model to get rid of all the dust that has accumulated and move on to the next sanding bit until you’re done with the whole sanding process.
Finally, for the finer details, feel free to do a pass with regular sandpaper after you’re through with the Dremel, as the Dremel can sometimes be too strong, even at the lowest speed, for particular areas of your 3D printed model that require small touches.
Is Using a Dremel an Effective Way to Sand 3D Printed Models?
While using sandpaper is the most standard way of sanding a 3D printed model, which allows you to smoothen your model without any problems, there is no denying that the manual work involved can become slightly tedious.
We can consider using a Dremel rotary to be a much more effective way of sanding your 3D printed models compared to hand sanding, especially if you frequently end up having to sand large areas, as it will reduce both the effort and the time you will need to spend on the sanding process.
While there is no denying that using a Dremel will require more focus, as you can easily sand off areas that you do not intend to if you aren’t careful, or even melt your 3D printed model if you use too high speeds, it will, without a doubt, make your life much easier once you get used to sanding your 3D printed models with it.
Safety Tips for Sanding 3D Printed Models with a Dremel
Just as with using any other power tool, you will need to take some safety precautions before moving forward with using a Dremel to sand your 3D printed models, as safety comes before anything else.
Below are the safety measures we recommend taking when sanding your 3D printed model with a Dremel rotary tool:
- Clear your workspace. While it’s ideal for your workspace to not contain anything other than the Dremel and your 3D printed model, you should especially refrain from keeping any food, drinks, electronics, and flammable material in close proximity.
- Wear a dust mask. As the sanding process will constantly cause dust particles to mix into the air, a dust mask is necessary to ensure that you don’t inhale anything harmful.
- Wear safety glasses. Safety glasses will protect your eyes both from the dust that comes out from the sanding process and any potential dangers that can occur when using a power tool such as a Dremel.
- Ensure that the Dremel bit you’re using is locked in. As the bit will be spinning at extremely high speeds, it can easily fly off if you don’t secure it into its place before powering on the tool, which can be highly dangerous.
- Refrain from holding the 3D printed model in your hand. The best way to avoid any hand injury is to entirely refrain from holding the 3D printed model in your hand while working on it with a Dremel and fixing it into its place with a vice instead.
- Let the Dremel stop before you put it down. As it can take some more time for the Dremel to entirely stop after you power it off, ensure that you don’t put it down until it comes to a complete stop to avoid damage.
We can consider the safety measures we have recommended above to practically be the bare necessities when working with a Dremel rotary tool and highly recommend against using a Dremel to sand your 3D printed models before taking these measures.
As sanding can be as tedious as it is necessary for successfully post-processing a 3D printed model, anything that makes the process quicker and more convenient is definitely a welcome addition, especially when you need to frequently and consistently sand the new models you have printed.
To quickly recap, you can use the sanding bits of a Dremel rotary tool to sand your 3D printed models, which will allow you to go through the sanding process with much less effort and time spent compared to hand sanding with regular sandpaper.
On the other hand, keep in mind that sanding your 3D printed model with a Dremel will require more attention compared to hand sanding to avoid causing damage, such as sanding the areas that you don’t intend to or melting your 3D printed model due to the heat that the Dremel generates.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.