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How Effective Is Sanding 3D Prints With a Dremel?

Many people enjoy 3D printing as an exciting hobby, especially now that 3D printers have gotten more accessible. The idea of making something solid out of our designs resonates with many of us. But often, 3D printed plastic objects still come with bumps that still need some sanding and polishing.

Sanding using a Dremel is an effective way of ironing out imperfections in 3D prints. This tool, along with its many attachments, makes polishing more precise and time-efficient. However, you must always be careful when operating a Dremel to avoid accidents and damage to your 3D prints.

This article will explain what a Dremel is and how it works, the steps in sanding 3D prints with a Dremel, and some helpful safety tips.

How Does a Dremel Work?

A Dremel is a multifunctional tool that uses rotary motion for various applications. Depending on the bit attachment you use, it can be used for carving, sharpening, drilling, cleaning, cutting, polishing, and sanding.

It is powered by a high-speed motor capable of spinning between 5000 and 35,000 RPM. This motor is connected to a spindle, and you can attach different accessories to this spindle.

When you use your Dremel to sand your 3D print, you can attach the sanding drum bit accessory to the spindle, then cover it with a sanding sleeve of the appropriate grit or grain size.

When compared with doing things by hand and using sandpaper, the motorized action of the Dremel makes sanding more time-efficient. With practice, it can provide a precise finish to your 3D print.

How To Sand 3D Prints With a Dremel

Sanding your 3D printed object is a meticulous process that requires patience and skill. This is a multistep process that will enhance the quality of your 3D print. Below is a concise guide on how to sand 3D prints with a Dremel.

1. Prepare Your Workspace

An excellent place to start in sanding your 3D print is to prepare your workspace. This includes ensuring that you’re working correctly and that you have the needed tools and attachments close at hand. 

While there are multiple Dremel models available that you can use, I recommend using the Dremel 8220-1/28 12-Volt Max Tool Kit from Amazon.com. This kit includes the Dremel tool, as well as 28 different accessories. It comes with a 2-year warranty, so you don’t have to worry if anything happens to it.

2. Prepare and Install Your Dremel Attachments

When you sand any object, you have to match its current roughness to the grit size of your sanding material. 

The same is true for 3D prints. You have to remember to start with sanding sleeves of lower grit or coarser grain and move your way up to the finer ones. 

This technique ensures that you progressively remove the larger bumps and other imperfections instead of just smoothing them in place.

I recommend starting with the TEMO Sand Drum Grit 120 from Amazon.com. These sanding bands aren’t just compatible with a Dremel, and they can also be used with multiple different rotary tools. 

Once you’ve completely sanded your object with this band, you will then need to replace it and sand it again. Each successive round of sanding will use a higher grit. 

If you’re wondering how to sand your objects, read on to the next step.

3. Sand Your 3D Prints

After preparing your sanding sleeves and installing your sanding bit on the Dremel, you can now start to sand your 3D print.

Remember to be gentle while sanding. The sanding drum can become hot due to friction. If it becomes too hot, it may melt your 3D print. 

Additionally, pressing on the plastic too hard can result in new dents that will require additional sanding or, worse, reprinting.

To avoid unwanted plastic melting, adjust your Dremel to a low RPM and allow the sanding drum to cool down first before using it again on a different area of your 3D print.

4. Clean Up

Clean your 3D print after every round of sanding to see areas in need of more smoothing. Cleaning the plastic residues also prevents particles from dispersing in the air, which can be a health hazard for you and anyone else in the room with you.

dremel 8220 set

Safety Tips When Sanding Your 3D Prints With a Dremel

Just as with any activity that involves motorized tools, safety should be your number one priority. Here are some tips to keep yourself safe in sanding 3D prints with a Dremel.

Wear a Facemask

Sanding can dislodge tiny plastic particles in the air, and without facemasks, you can end up inhaling some of them. Studies have shown that ingesting these particles causes various adverse health effects. Wearing a face mask while sanding ensures you stay healthy and can continue enjoying working on your 3D printed projects for years to come.

Wear Safety Goggles

Safety goggles are a must-wear for those using rotational tools such as a Dremel. 

The high speeds by which this tool operates can pose multiple hazards for your eyes. 

For instance, a piece of plastic can break off during sanding. If the speed of the Dremel is high enough, it can turn this chunk of plastic into a fast projectile which can harm your eyes.

In addition, the metal attachments installed on the spindle may inadvertently dislodge during use and propel themselves towards your eyes, causing severe harm.

Remove Any Dangling Jewelry and Tie Away Long Hair

Dangling jewelry items like bracelets and necklaces can get caught on the spindle while you use the Dremel and drag you into it. This can be a health hazard if you can’t get the Dremel switched off in time. 

Similarly, if you have long hair, you’ll need to wear a hairnet. If your hair is loose, it can get tangled with the Dremel when it’s switched on and drag you along with it.

Keep Food and Drinks Away

It’s essential to keep your food and drinks away from your workspace while you work on your 3D prints with your Dremel. This ensures that no plastic particles can contaminate your food. This is especially important as ingesting food and drinks contaminated with plastic has been linked to multiple diseases.

Conclusion

Using a Dremel to sand 3D prints is an effective way to enhance their quality. Since it is a motorized tool, you can expect a shorter sanding time compared to sanding by hand. The available attachments also make it versatile and allow you to achieve different levels of smoothness.

However, keep in mind that proper control is crucial to ensure your safety and avoid damaging the object you’re sanding.

To minimize risks, wear proper protective equipment such as face masks and safety goggles, tuck away long hair, remove any dangling jewelry, and keep food and drinks away from your workspace.