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This $8 tool has dramatically improved my 3D printing results

A tool normally used for metalwork is surprisingly perfect for tidying up my 3D prints and it's so satisfying to use.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Amy Lieu
AFA Tooling deburring tool on a blue background

AFA Tooling deburring tool is displayed with spare blades.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

3D printing still feels like Star Trek technology to me. I input some code, and the printer transforms that into plastic reality.

But sometimes -- usually because of my lack of 3D printing prowess -- prints come out with some rough edges. 

Also: How to get into 3D printing without breaking (too many) things

Most of the time this doesn't matter, but if the parts are supposed to fit together (such as this awesome SD and microSD card holder) or be comfortable to hold (as with these cool print removal wedges), then smoothing off the edges can make a huge difference.

I've been using a knife to do this. Don't do this yourself. It will likely result in a deep cut to your thumb (ask me how I know this). After stemming the bleeding, I had a think as to what else I could use.

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Something safer.

Something more suited to cleaning up edges.

I looked through my toolbox and came across a deburring tool.

It's perfect. 

This is a deburring tool


AFA Tooling Deburring Tool

Normally used to remove sharp edges from metal parts, a deburring tool comes in surprisingly useful for cleaning up 3D printed parts.

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A deburring tool is a swiveling curved metal blade that's used to remove burrs -- the rough, sharp bits -- on the edges of metal parts after cutting or machining.

Turns out it's great for cleaning up the edges of 3D printed parts, helping to smooth out the edges of the print.

Also: Why every 3D printing enthusiast needs this $20 vacuum sealer (and how to use it)

And it's very, very satisfying to use!

Deburring a 3D print

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The deburring blade has a safety tip to make it harder to cut yourself, but it's still wise to take precautions, and if you want to be extra cautious, cut-resistant gloves are a great idea.

Deburring blade

A safety tip is a feature of the deburring blade.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The idea is simple -- run the blade along the edges. I recommend using light pressure and working slowly so as to not take huge chunks out of the print in the process.

Also: The best cheap 3D printers under $300

I suggest practicing on some scrap plastic before going to town on your 3D prints.

Smoothing the edge of a 3D print with a deburring tool

The deburring tool does a great job of smoothing the edges.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

You can buy the deburring tool that I use for $8. For that, you get the handle and a single deburring blade. 

If you're only going to be deburring plastic 3D prints, then one blade will last a lifetime. If you think that you're going to use this on metal as well as plastic, then you can pick up a kit that comprises the handle and blade, and a pack of 21 replacement blades of different types for only $20

Replacement deburring blades

You'll only need replacement blades if you deburr metal.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
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