Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Access to vacuum systems is limited because of economic costs. A rapidly growing approach to reduce the costs of scientific equipment is to combine open-source hardware methods with digital distributed manufacturing with 3D printers. Although high-end 3D printers can manufacture vacuum components, again, the cost of access to tooling is economically prohibitive. Low-cost material extrusion 3D printing with plastic overcomes the cost issue, but two problems arise when attempting to use plastic in or as part of vacuum systems: the outgassing of polymers and their sealing. To overcome these challenges, this study explores the potential of using post-processing heat treatments to seal 3D printed polypropylene for use in vacuum environments. The effect of infill overlap and heat treatment with a readily available heat gun on 3D printed PP parts was investigated in detail on ISO-standardized KF vacuum fitting parts and with the use of computer vision-based monitoring of vacuum pump down velocities. The results showed that infill overlap and heat treatment both had a large impact on the vacuum pressures obtainable with 3D printed parts. Heat treatment combined with 98% infill reliably sealed parts for use in vacuum systems, which makes the use of low-cost desktop 3D printers viable for manufacturing vacuum components for open scientific hardware.

Publisher's Statement

© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Journal of Manufacturing and Materials Processing

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Publisher's PDF


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.