ProtoCAM: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping.

Additive Manufacturing Finishing Options: A Featured Technique

Clear PrototypeAll additive manufacturing pieces require some sort of final processing when they come off of the machine. In some cases, finishing is as simple as lightly sanding the areas where support structures were attached. In other cases, innovative finishing techniques are delivering beautiful end-use parts rugged enough to stand up to real-world impacts.

Not all finishing options are available for all rapid prototyping techniques, so process and finish selection should be two parts of the same decision-making process.

1. Research Your Options

ProtoCAM offers a depth and breadth of finishing options including a proprietary crystal clear bottle finish—a technique developed in-house and available only to ProtoCAM customers. Keep reading for a full list of finishes, or review the chart.

2. Look At Budget and Timeline

The more intense the finish, the higher the cost and the longer it will take to deliver. Assess the look you want versus the look you really need and balance it against your available budget and target deadline. If you are on a tight budget or time constraints, you may want to skip the higher finish levels.
For more detail on choosing a finish, click here. Or, contact ProtoCAM and talk with one of our engineers about what might work best for your particular situation.
ProtoCAM offers customers a wide range of finishing options, including a proprietary clear bottle finish that isn’t available at any other 3D printing service bureau. Of course, not all prototyping methods lend themselves to every finish – and selecting the right combination requires a careful balance of vision, budget and deadline.

Full List of Finishes


This is the most basic finish. The support structures that hold the part in the machine are removed and those areas are thoroughly cleaned or sanded depending on the material. Neither part details nor geometry are touched in any way.

Results: Nice sharp details; excellent for parts with smaller features
Available for: SLA, SLS, PolyJet 3D printing, FDM, MultiJet Fusion (MJF)


The standard finish is the most commonly chosen option. It starts with removal of the supports as with the natural finish, but the entire part is then bead blasted for a uniform matte look.

Results: Fairly uniform smoothness for good aesthetics
Available for: SLA

Standard + External

Standard + External (Std + Ext) begins with the standard finish, and adds another level of finishing. The entire exterior surface is sanded to remove any build lines or stair stepping, and to create an exceptionally smooth surface for the final product. For parts that need to slide against another surface, Std + Ext ensures the exterior surface of the prototypes is much more like that of the final product.

Results: Exceptionally smooth outer surface for superior aesthetics
Available for: SLA, PolyJet

Standard + All

Standard + All (Std + All) and also begins with the standard finishing, adding a full, exterior and interior sanding process. This finishing technique is most often used when creating master patterns for investment casting or some other type of foundry mold. Getting a completely smooth surface allows the manufacturer to easily remove the master pattern from the mold without get hung up on any build lines or stair stepping.

Results: Completely smooth surface inside and out; essential for foundry patterns
Available for: SLA, PolyJet


The primed finish takes a part that has been through the Std + Ext process and adds primer. The first layer of primer often highlights any flaws that may still be evident post-sanding, a second round of light sanding takes place, and a final coat of primer is applied. Primed parts are typically going to be painted by a customer’s own in-house paint department. Our goal is to deliver a part that is smooth and fully prepped so it can go straight to paint, saving the customer precious time.

Results: Exceptionally smooth, paint-ready part
Available for: SLA, SLS, PolyJet


The presentation finish delivers a complete, ready-to-show part that can be taken to a trade show, presented to a customer, or used for marketing photos with no additional work on the part of the customer. Painting is done by the ProtoCAM team to get the part as close to a final production look as possible. Mixing automotive grade paints in-house allows for fine-tuning of the color matching process.

Results: Ready-to-show, fully-painted display part with exceptional aesthetics
Available for: SLA, SLS, PolyJet


Stereolithography offers a clear material for prototyping. The standard clear finish involves removing the supports, sanding those areas smooth and applying a coat of clear urethane to counteract the matte look of the sanded areas. Clarity is on the lower end, as some areas are clearer than others. Build lines and stair stepping are not addressed.

Results: Basic look-through finish for clear parts; some opacity
Available for: SLA

Improved Clear

This finish also begins with an SLA clear part but is selected for projects that require a higher level of surface consistency and clarity. Build lines and stair stepping are removed and smoothed, the entire piece is sanded, and a urethane clear coat is added.

Results: Good clarity on most parts
Available for: SLA

Clear Bottle

While a good clear surface can be achieved on most prototypes with the improved clear finish, bottles and other parts with large internal surfaces and small entries have always presented a particular challenge for rapid prototyping companies. Inside surfaces remained somewhat matte resulting in a rather cloudy finished product. ProtoCAM customers can now achieve exceptional clarity on even complex pieces. The clear bottle finish addresses both the interior surface as well as the exterior surface, replicating a production bottle almost perfectly and creating truly clear, see-through parts.

Results: Exceptional transparency on even complex parts and bottles
Available for: SLA

USP Class VI

This finish is specific to medical-grade parts and prototypes that need to conform to USP Class VI certification. It ensures parts are safe for in vivo use.

Results: USP Class VI certified part; acceptable for in vivo use
Available for: SLA

Finishes at a glance

NaturalRemove supportsCrisp clean detailsXXXX$X
StandardRemove supports; sand and bead blastTypical model with consistent finishX$X
Std + ExtSand exterior surface to improve finishAesthetic modelXX$$XX
Std + AllSand interior and exterior surface to improve finishPart used for foundry patternsXX$$XX
PrimedSand, reduce build lines and paint with primer onlyCustomer may want to paint or a basic primer finish is sufficientXXX$$$XXX
PresentationSand, reduce build lines, prime and paintAesthetic models used for presentation or show samplesXXX$$$$XXXX
ClearRemove supports and clearcoatLooking into a partX$$$XXX
Improved ClearRemove supports, reduce build lines and clearcoatHigh clarity level is neededX$$$$$XXXXX
Clear BottleSpecial finishUsed for bottles only; replicates a production bottleX$$$$$XXXXX
USP Class VISpecial finishMedical useX$X