Can You Sandblast 3D Prints?

Can You Sandblast 3D Prints?
Unleash Your Creativity - Discover the Future of 3D Printing Today!
Unleash Your Creativity - Discover the Future of 3D Printing Today!

After seeing that my 3D printing parts weren’t printing smoothly, I did some research on how to make my 3D prints look like professional products. So, I thought I’d put together this helpful article to explain what I found.

So, can you sandblast 3d prints? Sandblasting is one of three ways to get a quality finish on your 3D prints. The others are sanding with sandpaper and vapor smoothing. Therefore, sandblasting is an effective way to get a professional-looking finish on your 3D printed items.

There is a range of sandblasting methods and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Also, there are different finishing techniques So, below I will discuss the different finishing techniques and how they work, as well as the different sandblasting mediums and when they should be used.

What happens when you sandblast a 3D print?

When you sandblast a 3D print, sand is shot very hard at the surface of the object. If you watch it happen the rough and uneven areas melt away leaving a rigid smooth surface.

Sandblasting is a quick and efficient method for smoothing surfaces of 3D printed objects. Because you don’t have to exert any elbow grease. It is very relaxing smoothing over the surface of you newly printed objects. It is solid method for enthusiastic hobbyists and manufacturing level production.

For testing the 3D print you won’t need to sandblast it, you can simply sand it down using sandpaper.

The individual particles of the medium hit the surface of the 3D print and break off tiny parts of it. Over many hundreds of particles, the surface of the 3D print wears down and the surface smoothens out removing any imperfections from printing.

You should be careful around the corners or weak areas as you can sandblast them right off accidentally. You will want to take a gentler approach using sandpaper from hand on delicate parts.

There is some equipment that is needed to make a sandblaster, and commercial quality sandblasters are inappropriate for the hobbyist in most cases. So I will explain about how to make your own sandblaster. Often times, the simplest solutions are best.

Can you sandblast PLA 3d Prints?

Sandblasting is too abrasive for PLA 3d prints. This is because the plastic is too soft and will show indentations. It will also remove too much of the material at a time. This makes it hard to get a good finish using sandblasting. You can experiment and see, in some instances, it may make sense for the specific project.

How do you make a sandblaster?

You can make a sandblaster from a cheap $5 air gun kit and a few random tools. The one we liked was the [affiliate link], because [benefits the manufacturer lists]. The equipment you will need are:

  • Air gun kit
  • A plastic bottle
  • A metal file
  • A craft knife or box cutter as some people call it
  • A drill

For how to put it all together check out this video below:

What are the different things you can shoot out of your sandblaster, what are the effects?

1. Glass beads

These beads produce a smooth matte finish. It is ideal for giving a professional look to parts that isn’t too glossy. It polishes the material slightly as it blasts it removing any unwanted shine. Some 3D print materials some out an unusual glossiness that is undesirable. So, many people use glass or metal beads to get a really nice finish.

The glass beads look like a beer bottle that has been crushed and ground into similar sized pieces. They come in varying grades.

2. Soda

Soda is good for sandblasting paint and rust from parts. The soda that is used is baking soda. You already have some of this sitting in a cupboard. It is sometimes called soda bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda.

It is also good for delicate blasting where you want to smooth the surface slowly. Just make sure it isn’t too slow, and you fall asleep from boredom.

3. Silica sand

This is a popular medium. According to Wikipedia, these are categorized by their grain size. These are fine, medium, and coarse. However, silica can be known to cause respiratory issues.

Therefore, when using this for sandblasting, you should wear a respiratory device that doesn’t allow silica in. These should be avoided according to Sand also contains water that can corrode sandblasting equipment quicker than other materials.

4. Silicon carbide

This is the most aggressive form of sandblasting and is very quick. It can remove too much material from the 3D print in some instances. It should be used on large areas that require a lot of time.

How do you finish a 3d printed object?

There are three primary methods for finishing a 3D printed object. These are sanding, bead blasting, and vapor smoothing.


Sanding is a good option to and can be done either by hand or with a machine. Sanding machines can be big ones the size of a desk.

Ones, you used to see in woodwork class. By hand just grab a strip of sandpaper from your local hardware store. If you take the piece in they will really be able to help you.

There are also handheld sanders. You’ll want to use a different method for the different areas of the 3d printed object. Use an electric sander for large areas that you can’t be bothered to sand.

Alternatively, if you print a lot of objects and it would be too labor-intensive. Once you have finished with an electric sander you will still want to use sand some areas by hand to really finish it off well.

Bead blasting

Bead blasting also called sandblasting as we already talked about can give an even finish and smooth out all the printing lines. Depending on the material used you can get a nice matte finish relative to what some 3D printers produce.

They come in different grades

Some 3D printers finish the prints with a semi-gloss finish which looks a bit cheap. If you bead blast them they like a professionally produced product.

The different material types are silica, soda, metal beads, and glass. Glass produces the best matte finish, but you should tinker with the other ones and see which you like best. Be aware, however, that the silica in silica sand can cause respiratory issues, and you should consult with your doctor before using silica sand.

Bead blasting has a huge advantage in that you reach tight spaces that can’t be reached by sandpaper. Bead blaster nozzles come in many sizes. The size of the nozzle gets adjusted in order to reach tight corners that can’t be reached normally.

Vapor Smoothing

Vapor smoothing is where the item is placed in a vapor chamber. The vapor melts the surface slightly smoothing out all the imperfections. This leaves a shiny finish and can be sandblasted afterward to give it a matte finish.

Due to the fact that only a small amount of material is adjusted (less than 2µm), the parts typically fit together. This typically doesn’t cause issues with parts fitting together but maybe a consideration in some instances.

This is the preferred method for consumer-level production of 3D printed items. Used in industries such as healthcare machines, building products, and car parts.


You can sandblast 3D prints. Sandblasting mediums come in a range of grades and materials. In most cases people should use glass beads. These strip away the imperfections on the surface. They also give a matte-like finish. If you have delicate areas on your print you should use sandpaper by hand. You can also use a sandpaper machine. They function similarly to a sandblaster but go more slowly and give you more control.

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