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Adding Texture to 3D Printed Parts

As more industries adopt 3D printing, specifically Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), expectations for enhanced surface features have grown as well. These features may include complex finishing such as coating or polishing, but customers increasingly may also want texture added to their parts.

There are two main reasons to add texture to 3D printed parts. One is based on aesthetics alone. Some end use parts are visible as part of a customer’s final assembly while others may be standalone. Texturing helps hide surface imperfections that would distract from the look of the part. Depending on the complexity of the texturing, these small surface imperfections will be more difficult to see. Texturing for aesthetics can also reduce glare by creating a custom undulating surface. Or texture can ensure that the 3D printed part better matches the conventionally produced parts around it. Or, on the other hand, it can be used to specifically differentiate the part from others.

The second reason for texturing 3D printed parts is functional. Texture can be added to a part to provide grip so that the part does not slip from the hand of the user during normal use. It may also provide traction for parts to make them less likely to slide or shift. And it can allow better handling of parts in wet environments to provide better grip and safer use.

Adding Textures to CAD Files

Adding texture to 3D printed parts makes sense economically too. In traditional manufacturing, such as injection molding, textures must be added at the tooling stage, adding cost and time to the tool. Another way traditional manufacturing adds texture is to have it etched, routed, or ground in, processes that add time and cost.

At GoProto, we can add texturing at the CAD file stage with no waste as there are no secondary processes required. The biggest challenge is in adding the texture to the CAD file itself. This will depend on complexity of the part design and the shape of the part. Flat surfaces can be easily textured in CAD. But if texturing is required on curved sections of the part or up to and into cavities and other internal areas, a high degree of expertise is required to match the texturing uniformly and consistently where it is required. But no matter how complex your project may be, we are here to help you from start-to-finish.

GoProto provides design expertise to help our customers in applying textures to the most complex parts, and then print them using HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) printers. MJF is a powder bed process that lends itself well to texturing as there are no support structures requiring removal. The part is supported by unused powder surrounding it, so textures come out consistent across the part. Other processes such as Digital Light Processes (DLP), Stereolithography (SLA), or Fused Deposit Modeling (FDM) all require support structures, the removal of which could interrupt or mar the visual quality of textured surfaces.


GoProto has partnered with many customers to provide texturing solutions for complex parts. One recently developed part required different texturing on two sides for a Tow Hook Cover. On the underside, GoProto applied geometric texturing. Shown below, these textures are representative of styles that could be used for functional grips or for knurling.

Above: The inner surface of the Tow Hook Cover with geometric texturing.

The reverse side of the part required an aesthetic textured look based on application itself. In this case, GoProto applied a textured surface to the CAD file to simulate a faux leather grain and then applied a hydrographic cosmetic treatment to complete the “leather” look (shown below).

Above: The outer surface of the Tow Hook Cover, textured and hydrographically dipped for a “leather look”

The parts above were delivered production ready, with a lead-time of 1.5 weeks. This included CAD design, printing, and the final finishing, including the application of the hydrographic effect.

About GoProto

GoProto is a rapid manufacturing company with customer service at the core of our corporate culture. We help manufacture parts for our product development customers in medical, aerospace, industrial, automotive, and many others. We utilize cutting edge technologies, methods, and the very best professionals to make 3D printing and conventional manufacturing fast, world class quality and great value.