February 2, 2016

Accelerated Aging For Your Metal-Bearing 3D Prints

bronzeFill, copperFill, and Magnetic Iron PLA can be oxidized to achieve an aged appearance through the use of commonly found household items.

Rusting (oxidation) occurs when metals undergo an electron exchange between substances. This is commonly encountered with iron, copper, bronze, and brass. This chemical reaction occurs when ions are released from the metallic object and pulled into the surrounding environment. We can accelerate this process by increasing the electrical conductivity of what we apply to the object, or by applying an oxidizing agent.

While the following compounds are both easily obtainable and commonly found in the home, extra care must be taken when handling them. DO NOT MIX anything with bleach, or bleach-containing products. Use of Personal Protection Equipment (such as gloves, aprons, and eye protection) is strongly recommended. Treat your 3D printed objects in a well ventilated environment.

Tip: When 3D printing with metal-bearing filament on the LulzBot® TAZ 3D printer suspend the filament reel across the top frame extrusions. This allows the filament to feed directly into the extruder, minimizing the chances of binding or snapping. To make this easier, print the spool mount found in our Four 3D Printable Modifications for your LulzBot TAZ tutorial.

Vinegar (acetic acid) and salt

Works best with: Magnetic Iron PLA

Will work with: copperFill, bronzeFill

Do not use any bleach-based cleaners or treatments after using a vinegar-based treatment as it may create and emit chlorine gas, potentially leading to serious injury.

Dissolve salt (kosher, sea, or iodized) in vinegar. Add enough salt so that the solution becomes saturated. When you can no longer dissolve the salt, you have added enough.

Place your 3D printed part on a non-metallic object. Glass or ceramic will work well. Avoid using wooden plates or bowls as they can absorb the rusty solution.

Pour the solution into a clean plastic spray bottle. Alternatively, pour the salted vinegar solution into a glass or plastic container. Label the container to prevent accidents and potential cross-contamination.

Over the span of several days, spray the 3D printed object. Take care to liberally cover the desired surfaces. If you are soaking your part, stir the vinegar solution, and rotate the 3D printed object. If possible raise or suspend the object to allow maximum contact.

After a few days, you'll notice that the vinegar solution will become darker. Your 3D printed part should have developed a nice red, orange, or even black layer of rust. Thoroughly rinse the printed object under running water and allow to dry.

Alternatively, you can also spray your printed object with vinegar, wrap it in a paper towel soaked with vinegar, and place them both in a plastic sandwich bag.

Ammonia-based polishing compound (such as Brasso® metal polish)

Works best with: copperFill

Will work with: bronzeFill

Do not use any bleach-based cleaners or treatments after using an ammonia-based treatment as it may create and emit chlorine gas, potentially leading to serious injury.

Ammonia-based metal polishes will rapidly oxidize copperFill 3D printed objects. Not only will any left over polishing compound residue will continue to oxidize the printed part, but it will also start to visibly color and oxidize itself. The flaky residue that is left behind can be kept, or if desired, wiped away to highlight depressions and cavities.

For a stark contrast, first sand or file, then polish the 3D printed object. This will allow the oxidation to stand-out from the polished metallic finish.

Liberally apply the polishing compound for a large oxide build-up. For a more reserved finish, use a smaller amount.

Place the treated object in an uncovered glass or ceramic container. Avoid placing it on anything that will absorb liquids.

To achieve a maximum amount of oxidized finish leave the polishing compound in place and allow to dry for several days. To highlight cavities and depressions wipe off the excess.

Bleach

Works best with: Magnetic Iron PLA

Will work with: copperFill

Do not use any other cleaners or treatments after using a bleach-based treatment as it may create and emit chlorine gas, potentially leading to serious injury.

Treating your Magnetic Iron PLA 3D printed objects with household bleach is a rapid method of creating a rusted, aged appearance. This method works quickly and can achieve an aged look in just a couple of days.

Place your 3D printed part on a non-metallic object. Glass or ceramic will work well. Avoid using wooden plates or bowls as they can absorb the rusty solution.

Pour household bleach into a clean plastic spray bottle, or pour bleach into a glass or plastic container. Label the container to prevent accidents and potential cross-contamination.

Over the span of several days, spray the 3D printed object. Take care to liberally cover the desired surfaces. If you are soaking your part, rotate the 3D printed object. If possible raise or suspend the object to allow maximum contact.

Rather quickly your 3D printed Magnetic Iron PLA part will have developed a nice red, orange, or even black layer of rust. copperFill objects can have a dark molted or a light oxidation layer depending on the treatment time. Thoroughly rinse the printed object under running water and allow to dry. Reminder: Do not attempt to use any other treatments or polishing compounds as they may react poorly with any bleach residue.

Hydrogen Peroxide, with table salt(sodium chloride)

Works best with: Magnetic Iron PLA

Will work with: copperFill, bronzeFill

Do not use any bleach-based cleaners or treatments after using a vinegar-based treatment as it may create and emit chlorine gas, potentially leading to serious injury.

Perform this treatment in a well ventilated area. Do not cover or tightly enclose the hydrogen peroxide solution, as it will be emitting gas.

Submerge your part for a gentle patina. Suspend the parts over the solution for a more developed patina.

Perform this treatment in a well ventilated area. Label the container to prevent accidents and potential cross-contamination.

In a large glass container or other non-metallic, non-organic container, add table salt to hydrogen peroxide until the solution foams vigorously. Excess salt will encourage further oxidation.

Submersion tip: Keep your 3D printed metallic part above the salt. In our testing less oxidation occurred when the part was buried under the undissolved salt.

Suspension tip: Hang your 3D printed object over the solution, but below the lip of the container for maximum exposure.

Leave the parts submerged until bubble formation has ceased, or until your objects have the desired finish. After the patina has developed, gently rinse off the printed objects as aggressive cleaning can remove the finish.