Laser polishing of thermoplastics fabricated using fused deposition modelling

  • Yuan Chai
  • Rachel W. Li
  • Diana M. Perriman
  • Song Chen
  • Qing-Hua Qin
  • Paul N. Smith


Fused deposition modelling (FDM) is a technique of additive manufacturing (AM) which is capable of fast construction of plastic prototypes. AM technology has been utilised in orthopaedics and traumatology to fabricate patient-specific models, surgical guides, and implants. However, the layering build-up by FDM usually generates a deleterious rough surface that limits its application to items such as surgical guide and surgical operating guide, because these items require a highly resolved surface quality. The advancement of laser polishing has been offering a cost-effective and fast manufacturing solution for FDM-constructed patient-specific guides and implants. This investigation explores application potential using a contactless laser scanning to improve the surface quality of FDM-fabricated thermoplastics. The results show that a maximum [68%] reduction in surface roughness was achieved at 3 W CO2 laser power, 150 mm/s scan speed, 30 ms scan delay and 0.025 mm line gap. Laser polishing is suitable to treat the surface of polylactic acid (PLA). This study provides data which supports a new approach to the manufacture of AM-fabricated thermoplastics utilising a laser scanning technique to improve the surface quality.


Laser polishing Fused deposition modelling Additive manufacturing Thermoplastics 


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The authors are thankful to Mr. Khu Vu in the Research School Physics, Dr. Hua Chen in the Centre of Advanced Microscope, and Chao Hu in the Research School of Engineering at the Australian National University for the technical assistance.

Funding information

This work has been financially supported by the Australian Research Council PhD Scholarship (LP150100343).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuan Chai
    • 1
  • Rachel W. Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Diana M. Perriman
    • 3
  • Song Chen
    • 4
  • Qing-Hua Qin
    • 4
  • Paul N. Smith
    • 3
  1. 1.Trauma and Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Surgery, The Medical SchoolThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease, John Curtin School of Medical ResearchThe Australian National UniversityActonAustralia
  3. 3.Trauma and Orthopaedic Research UnitThe Canberra HospitalGarranAustralia
  4. 4.Research School of Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer ScienceAustralian National UniversityActonAustralia

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