Vapor Smoothing Finish Options For 3D Printed Parts

The Vapor Smoothing process is a chemical surface smoothing method that improves the part performance, seals the surface, and offers a smooth / glossy look and feel. One of the popular applications for this finish is smoothing TPU nesting that will be holding parts with extremely delicate class A finish’s like Matte Black. The smoothing process prevents fine TPU powder from rubbing off the surface of the nesting and ending up on the surface of the part that is resting on it. This chemical smoothing process fully seals the TPU part and prevents this from happening:

We utilize both a proprietary inhouse process for TPU smoothing as well as traditional smoothing machines from AMT for other materials like Nylon 12:

Examples of Nylon and TPU rubber parts that have been Vapor Smoothed:

Here at Forerunner 3D printing we have developed a proprietary process that allows us to smooth Lubrizol Estane® 3D TPU M95A-545 OR UV Rubber material, we are one of only 2 companies in the world currently able to print parts in this material and also vapor smooth them inhouse.

Another option for a part that has been Vapor Smoothed is to combine it with another coating process like our Cerakote coating process. The following are examples of a vapor smoothed part that has had Cerakote applied to it:

Materials available from F3DP that are compatible with this finishing process:

NOTE: This smoothing process adds an extra  3-5  days to the lead time for the delivery of parts.

SLS 3D Printing Services

How does SLS 3D Printing work:

Selective laser sintering (SLS) was developed and patented by Dr. Carl Deckard and Dr. Joe Beaman at the University of Texas at Austin in the mid-1980s. Deckard and Beaman were involved in the resulting start up company DTM, established to design and build the SLS machines. In 2001, 3D Systems, the biggest competitor to DTM and SLS technology, acquired DTM. This page discusses in detail the advantages of using SLS technology to 3D print parts. It explains the most common SLS materials, offers rules for designers to follow when printing with SLS, and also shows a gallery of various parts that were produced using SLS 3D Printing equipment.

SLS machine running, parts can be seen being traced and hatched as the laser melts the powder.

Selective laser sintering (SLS) is an additive manufacturing (AM) technique that uses a laser as the power and heat source to sinter a powdered material (typically nylon or other plastic). At the start of a new layer the print bed is dropped by 0.004”- 0.006” depending on the material being printed. The recoater picks up a load of freshly heated raw powder from the material storage bin and moves across the build platform filling in the thickness that the build platform has been dropped with the fresh hot powder. At this point the laser comes on and begins tracing and hatching that slice of the parts being printed. The part slice is defined by a 3D model that has been loaded into the machines build management software. As the laser sweeps across the areas being sintered it is binding the material together to create a solid structure. After the powder is sintered, the parts must be allowed time to cool. Depending on the size of the parts, cooling time usually takes equally as long as the time it took to print the job in the first place. For that reason SLS jobs usually have longer lead times (at least 1 day for production and 1 day for cooling) when compared to other printing technology like SLA, PolyJet, or FDM. For extremely large SLS parts (something larger than 20″ x 20″ X 10″), printing can span several days followed by several days of cool down time.

Selective Laser Sintering uses high-powered lasers to sinter powdered material, binding it together to create a solid structure. This printing process is considered to be a support free process. The parts are supported by unsintered powder that is left over after that layer has been sintered. Once the printing of that build is complete, the part(s) are removed from the block of loose unsintered powder they are trapped inside of and cleaned by hand and using air jets and a bead blaster to remove all the excess powder that is still clinging to the surface of the part.

SLS is known for having a relatively good level of accuracy, cheap raw material costs, the ability to easily make complex geometries without supports, parts that are very strong, and producing parts that can handle high temperatures (300F+). This makes it an incredibly useful technology for a broad range of applications in things like prototype parts, investment casting patterns, automotive parts, and wind tunnel models. It is also commonly used for low volume manufacturing of end use parts for aerospace, military, medical, pharmaceutical, and electronics hardware. On a shop floor, SLS can be used for rapid manufacturing of tooling, nesting, and fixtures.

Common applications for SLS parts:

SLS 3D Printing Materials:

PA 2200 (PA-12): White polyamide 12 powder with a well-balanced property profile and a wide variety of applications it can be used for

Laser-sintered parts made from PA 2200 possess excellent material properties:

  • Color: White
  • High strength and stiffness
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Excellent long-term environmental behaviour
  • High detail resolution on printed parts
  • Various finishing options available
  • Bio compatible according to EN ISO 10993-1 and USP/level VI/121 °C

Typical applications of this material are things like high quality fully functional plastic parts. Due to the excellent mechanical properties of this material it is often used as a substitute for Nylon injection moulding plastics. The biocompatibility of this material allows for its use on prostheses and the high abrasion resistance it possesses allows for part with movable connections.

More info on this material / full material spec sheet

PA 3200 GF (PA12-GB): White, glass bead filled polyamide 12 powder, characterized by excellent stiffness in combination with good elongation at break

PA 3200 GF is a whitish, glass-filled polyamide 12 powder, which is characterised by an excellent stiffness in combination with good elongation at break. Laser-sintered parts made from PA 3200 GF possess excellent material properties:

  • Color: White
  • High stiffness
  • High mechanical wear-resistance
  • Good thermal loadability
  • Excellent surface quality
  • High dimensional accuracy and detail resolution
  • Good processability
  • Excellent long-term constant behaviour

A typical application for PA 3200 GF is for end use parts within the engine bay of cars, for deep-drawing dies or any other application which requires particular stiffness, high heat distortion temperature and low abrasive wear.

More info on this material / full material spec sheet

DuraForm PAx Natural: High impact, high elongation, high recyclability SLS material with properties similar to injection molded polypropylene for tough, lightweight, production-grade parts.

DuraForm PAx Natural is a nylon copolymer that offers properties similar to injection molded plastic and features high impact resistance with high elongation at break in any direction, including Z. Engineered for easy processing and high recyclability, DuraForm PAx Natural is ideal for functional prototypes and end-use parts with good mechanical properties and long-term stability.

  • Color: Natural
  • Durable and tough for true functional plastic parts
  • Excellent long-term stability; 5+ years indoor for mechanical properties and color
  • Capable of being used for 3D printed living hinges
  • Enclosures requiring high impact and high toughness

More info on this material / full material spec sheet

Examples of SLS 3D Printing Parts:

SLS 3D Printing Design Guide:

Advantages of having parts 3D Printed using SLS equipment:

3D Printing / Additive Manufacturer For The Firearms Industry

Forerunner 3D Printing holds a Federal Firearms License for Manufacturing (FFL 07) as well as a Special Occupational Taxpayer for Manufacturing (SOT 02) and specializes in working with firearms customers to produce both their prototype and end use production parts. We offer a wide range of inhouse services to assist our customers with their projects which include Engineering, Reverse Engineering, Metrology / Inspection, Cerakote, and 3D printing.

F3DP Owner Paul DeWys standing in his office displaying FFL07, Paul has always been passionate about designing and building firearms. This attitude extends to the rest of the team at F3DP as well and is the reason we have pursued being a source for 3D Printing for the Firearms Industry.

Why use 3D Printing?

3D printing with polymers eliminates engineering constraints that are prominent in traditional design-for-manufacture projects. The emergence of this new manufacturing technology has lead to innovations that allow for weight reduction, superior performance, and new advancements in firearms and tactical gear. 3D Printing is also a great way to greatly reduce a companies time to market by shortening lead times for prototypes and also allowing for the bridge / low volume production of parts while traditional tooling is built.

“We usually get requests to deliver parts or products yesterday,” Bassoli jokes. “With AM we can now at least deliver them on the same day.” – Marco Bassoli, Firearm Research & Product Development Director, Beretta

We have printed a range of parts for customers in the defense and firearms industry’s over the years including:

 Most of the 3D Printing projects we do for the Firearms Industry is done on our HP MJF Machines using materials like:

With Forerunner 3D Printing having a Federal firearms License for Manufacturing (FFL 07), as well as a Special Occupational Taxpayer for Manufacturing (SOT 02) we can perform prototyping or contract manufacturing of your serialized or NFA firearm components in compliance with all ATF rules and regulations.

What are the licenses we hold?

Federal Firearms License for Manufacturing (FFL 07)

There are multiple types of Federal Firearms Licenses each enabling the person or company holding them to transact in different areas of the firearms business. The chart you see to the right (click on it to view in full size) shows all the different types of FFL’s available and gives a summery of each.

At Forerunner 3DP we hold and FFL 07 which is a manufacturing FFL. This allows us to have customers ship their firearms directly to us for use on R&D projects, testing the fit up of prototypes, and for use as check fixtures during production runs. It also enables us to work as a contract manufacture making firearm parts for customers that are considered the registered (serialized) part of the fully assembled firearm. Without an FFL 07 it is impossible to manufacture any firearm part that requires a serial number to meet ATF requirements. 

Special Occupational Taxpayer for Manufacturing (SOT 02)

Just like with the FFL system, there are various different classes of SOT as well, each allows the person or company that holds it the ability to transact in different parts of the National Firearms Act (NFA) business.

At Forerunner 3D Printing we hold a SOT 02 which allows us to manufacture and serialize NFA firearms. These include:

The History of 3D Printing in the Firearms Industry

As 3D printing gained popularity in the early 2000s and desktop printers became more affordable, new possibilities opened for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. Private owners of the first 3D printing machines were able to access CAD files and print simple objects from a variety of plastics. Amid this new wave of 3D printed creations, the first models for firearms and firearm components in polymers began to pop up. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that the first fully functioning 3D printed gun, the notorious Liberator, made its appearance.

Liberator, first fully 3D printed firearm, also a notorious piece of crap and just as likely to blow up in your hand as actually fire.

The Liberator is a single-shot, polymer-based pistol created by Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed. He published it on the company’s open-source file repository, DefCad, in May 2013. The gun’s publication came in reaction to Makerbot Industries removing firearm blueprints from its popular 3D model repository, Thingiverse in late 2012.

After only two days online, the US Department of State had the files pulled offline on the grounds of an infringement of the ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) – that the publishing of the files equated to an illicit export of firearms.

Solid Concepts 1911 DMLS, a real gun that was printed on a DMLS machine in Inconel and fitted and tuned by a gun smith. THIS is a real 3D printed firearm and blazed a path for the wide adoption of 3D printing for use in the firearms industry.

The same year that the Liberator ignited a fiery debate about 3D printed guns, additive manufacturing company Solid Concepts printed what’s thought to be the first industrially manufactured gun. Made from Inconel using the DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) printing process, the gun is called the 1911 DMLS and is a replica of the Colt Government Model 1911.

Forerunner 3D Printings entry into the world of 3D printed firearms

Fast forward to 2020 and Paul DeWys (owner of Forerunner 3D printing) set out to see if it would be possible to 3D print a homemade functional AR-15 lower receiver out of Nylon 12 on an MJF machine. He started with printing a mil spec lower and put it on a .300 AAC Blackout upper receiver. After 2000rds were fired through it without any issues it was time to take things to the next level and see if the lower would survive firing a larger caliber round.

First Mil Spec 3D Printed AR-15 lower paired up with an upper receiver chambered in .300 AAC Blackout.

The mil spec lower was then paired up with an upper receiver chambered in .450 bushmaster, a MUCH larger cartridge. On test shot number 7 the lower broke at the connection point between the pistol grip and receiver. This was not entirely unexpected due to how thin the Nylon 12 material used to 3D print the lower got in this area.

First Mil Spec 3D Printed AR-15 lower paired up with an upper receiver chambered in .450 Bushmaster
First Mil Spec 3D Printed AR-15 lower after breaking on round #7 of .450 Bushmaster

After some review of the design of the mil spec lower receiver and how it failed, a new design was made that integrated the pistol grip into the lower receiver which eliminated the failure point. This design passed extensive testing by Paul on the range using the .450 bushmaster round (Paul’s shoulder is still sore).

Redesigned 3D Printed AR-15 lower that has been strengthened to prevent failure when being used with large caliber rounds like the .450 bushmaster.
Redesigned 3D Printed AR-15 lowers fully assembled and rocking a fresh coat of Armor Black Cerakote.

After these early experiments with using HP MJF Nylon 12 3D Printed lower receiver parts we found them to be not only viable, but quite impressive. At this point the team at Forerunner 3D Printing decided to start pursuing customer projects from the firearms industry. In September of 2022 F3DP pursued and was granted a Federal Firearms License for Manufacturing (FFL 07) in order to expand the range of prototype and production work we could take on from our firearms customers.

Solidworks design for 3D Print tools

How To Use The SolidWorks 3D Texture Tool for 3D Printed Parts

Want to add texture to your 3D printed part? Check out this guide on how to use the Solidworks texture tool to make that happen!

How To Use The Solidworks Mesh Editing Tools

Guide showing how to use the new mesh editing tools in SolidWorks 2022 in order to edit STL files for use with 3D Printers.

How To Use The Solidworks Sketch Picture Tool

Need to trace a complex logo for use on your 3D printed parts? Check out this video explaining how to use this hidden gem in the SolidWorks software.

Full Presentation: Design for 3D Printing Manufacturing Processes

Design Guides For Printers Discussed in Presentation:

Questions? Contact us at:


3D Printing Glue Strength Guide

This 3D Printing Glue Strength Guide was built due to questions we have repeatedly gotten from customers over the years when they are planning to glue 3D Printed parts they have sourced from us together after they receive them. The most common questions are:

In order to do this testing we printed the same base part in a large number of the most common materials we produce parts in for our customers:

The glue joint design that was settled on was one that is considered a worst case scenario from a strength perspective, its called a butt joint. The flat area that made up the butt joint was .1″ wide, this is a common thickness we see for these types of joints and also acts as a worst case scenario due to its small size. For a look at other types of glue joints that are much stronger check out our HP Multi-Jet Part Design Guide and look at the section titled: “Glue Joints”.

We put both of these questions to the test with a collection of tensile strength and shear strength pull tests designed to come up with an approximate breaking force for each combination of materials. Check out the following videos and tables to see the results:

Tensile Strength Pull Test

Shear Strength Pull Tests

3D Printing Glue Strength: Adhesive Recommendation

Based on our research prior to filming this test we narrowed down the best all around glue to Loctite HY4070. It had the best average holding power across all of the different material and printing processes we tested it on verse other epoxies and super glues. This glue is also commonly available and can be found on

3D Printing Glue Strength

3D Printed Welding Fixtures

3D Printed Welding Fixtures for use with prototype or low volume manufacturing applications have become a reality in recent years. This is due to advances in the types of materials that are printable along with the machines that run them coming down in cost and increasing in speed. The reason we are seeing metal fabrication shops starting to use 3D printed details on there weld fixtures are the following:

The best process / materials we have found for these 3D printed details is the HP MJF printer coupled with either Nylon 12 or Nylon 12 with 40% glass in it. This was the machine used to produce the parts you see in the example below:

Thank you to Ludlow Manufacturing for helping out with this video.

It is important to note that these 3D printed details will not hold up as long as traditional steel details so they should not be considered for use on long running production fixtures. Instead, they are very well suited for things like prototype, low volume production, and service part production.

Forerunner 3DP / HP / Lubrizol Webinar Assets

You will find both the webinar recording (above) as well as the PowerPoint slide deck recapping the webinar “8 Robotic & Automation Applications Using Flexible 3D Printed Parts

Here are a collection of links to other pages on the F3DP website that are relative to the topics covered during this webinar:

Have questions? Our sales engineers (Paul and Dylan) would be happy to talk with you further! You can reach them at:


Design Guide: Threads In 3D Printed Parts

Printing the threads in 3D printed parts is possible, and as you can see from the testing video below it works quite well even in high load end use applications. Through testing we have done here at F3DP we have found its possible to print threads as small as 6-32 or M3 into 3D printed parts. This page will teach you how to go about designing in these threads for 3D printed parts.

Thread Strength Testing: Nylon 12 Material

Tensile strength test of MJF parts with larger printed in threads

Tensile strength test of MJF parts with smaller printed in threads

Thread Strength Testing: TPU Rubber Material

Tensile strength test of TPU Rubber MJF parts, helicoil thread insert vs. printed in thread

What machines is it possible to print threads into 3D printed parts with?

3D Printing for Automated Equipment
Threads in 3D printed parts using an HP MJF machine with Nylon 12

This guide will be specifically talking about threads for 3D printed parts coming off of the HP MJF technology. The MJF machine is unique in that it allows for very fine features to be printed in any orientation without the need for support while still being able to use high strength materials like Nylon. The next closest technology that would be able to produce threads would be SLS, but these machines can’t capture the same level of detail as the MJF so they are limited to 1/4-20 or M6 threads or bigger. Then there are the liquid polymer machines like Polyjet, SLA, CLIP, DLP, ect. These machines can absolutely print threads down to 8-32 or M4, but the hole must be oriented in the vertical direction from the print bed. If the hole is horizontal it will end up with support in it and the 3D printed thread will not turn out. Lastly, FDM technology is not suited to print in any threads under 1/2-13 or M12, and they have to be oriented vertically from the machines print bead.

What software is used to design threads?

Our in-house engineering group works with all the major CAD software’s, but the one that is the easiest to use for adding threads into a 3D printed part is Solidworks. The reason for this is that it has a built in tool that will automatically add in the correct thread profile for you. For this reason this guide is built around this software, and the following video is a tutorial that will walk you through how to add threads in 3D printed parts:

How To Design 3D Printable Threads – NUT
How To Design 3D Printable Threads – BOLT

Here is a really good tap / drill chart for reference.

For those not using Solidworks for their CAD design software we have also collected thread design how to video’s for a lot of the other major CAD design software’s on the market:

Designing 3D printable threads with Autodesk Fusion 360

Designing 3D printable threads with Autodesk Inventor

Designing 3D printable threads with CATIA V5

Designing 3D printable threads with PTC Creo

Designing 3D printable threads with Google SketchUp

Designing 3D printable threads with OnShape

Designing 3D printable threads with TinkerCAD

Want a second set of eyes to check over your design or have a question? We offer free Design for Additive Manufacturing (DFAM) consulting for our customers:

End use part with a 10-32 thread printed into it.

Cerakote Express – AR Platform Part Pricing / Color Guide

Here at Cerakote Express we are specialist in applying Cerakote to a range of materials like plastics, metal, composites, and more. The coating can be used for adding a cosmetic finish, wear protection, or a low friction surface finish among other things. Unlike traditional coatings like 2K automotive paint or powder coat, Cerakote goes on extremely thin (.001″ thick or less in most cases) and is one of the must durable coatings on the market today.

Whether you need 1 part coated with a single color or a full production run of multiple parts with complex masking and multiple colors the team at Cerakote Express can help!

Stocked Colors:

Custom Colors:

If you would like a color other then one that is stocked in our inventory we can order it for you. Please check out the color list available from Cerakote, make note of the Item code (for example: H-190) of the color you want, and include that information when you reach out to us with your order.

Average Lead Time:

*NOTE: Lead time is based on an average size job, larger quantities or bigger projects may drive longer lead times. A firm lead time will be given at the time a formal quote is generated for a project.

Miscellaneous Item Price List:


Yeti Tumbler – Single Color

Yeti Tumbler – Multi Color

Other Firearms Price List:



Bolt Action Rifles

AR Component Price List:


Full AR Platform Rifle

Stripped Lower Receiver

Stripped Upper Receiver

Stripped Upper Receiver + Controls Kit

Stripped Upper & Lower Receiver

Stock & Buffer Tube Assembly


About. Services. Contact. Industrial Codes.

616.604.1977 -

US Government CAGE Code: 9D4M6

Locally owned and operated from Coopersville Michigan.

Our other divisions:

logo-horizontal logo-de google-plus facebook instagram twitter youtube3 linkedin2 email linkedin