You use software and data upstream…but not at the finish line?

You use a software design package to create your 3D printed part. Data and analytics validate your design. A complex robot prints your part. And to ensure your part repeatedly meets specifications, you rely on yesterday’s labor-intensive tools for post-processing? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But there is a solution that leverages software and data through the finish line to fully optimize your additive manufacturing operation.

Operators have a keen understanding of what a final part should look like, feel like, and how to get there. But they are human – they get tired and their ‘look and feel’ will vary. At PostProcess, we have digitized tribal knowledge for all 3D print technologies to minimize human error with an automated solution delivering repeatable and predictable cycle with minimal attendance required.

Our AUTOMAT3D™ software is proactively sending ‘directions’ to our hardware every 60 seconds and reading key indicators every 30 seconds to ‘check its work’. This is like having an expert team surrounding your skilled labor performing a continuous quality audit. Our comprehensive solution of software, hardware, and chemistry work together offering a proven investment that will allow you to utilize those human experts more effectively.

Chart comparing PostProcess software design

These are just a few examples of how PostProcess’ technology maximizes your upstream technology to stabilize quality, rebalance your workflow, and free up skilled labor downstream. If you thought your 3D printer would get you out of the dark ages, but you are still relying on tools from yesteryear, PostProcess has a solution for you.

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Matching 3D Printing Application Innovations in Post-Printing

Gif of white PolyJet Wheel before and after with blog details flashingIf you’re as geeky about 3D printing as we are, you love seeing innovative applications of 3D print technologies in the news every day. This week’s story of the US Olympic Luge team utilizing FDM technology to manufacture prototypes of its racing sleds is another example of ingenuity in the application of additive materials.

The Team USA story reinforces the extensive use of FDM technology. FDM reigns as the most used 3D print technology for good reason – it offers advantages with its excellent strength-to-weight ratio and durability, low cost, and range of material options. However, with FDM prints, you are left with support material and seam lines between layers, requiring additional processing to become a functional part.

Today’s current methods of post-printing FDM parts certainly don’t align with the creative nature of the application of the technology…hand-held picks, pliers, sandpaper, and tubs using harsh chemicals requiring face masks and chemical-resistant gloves are the results you will return with a quick web search.

That’s why we’ve pioneered efficient and effective automated and intelligent support removal systems for advanced polymers like FDM. Our Support Removal Spray machines utilize multi-directional nozzles at high mass flow rates to provide an environment best suited for additive materials – hands-free, effective removal of support materials with low damage rates. Our systems adjust parameters such as speed, distance, direction, temperature, pressure, and pH all under software control. Driven by an intuitive software program, the system purposefully varies the levels of key parameters such as changes in spray pressure, duration of pause, and speed of travel to clean even the most complex geometries seen in additive manufactured polymer parts.

The PostProcess solution doesn’t end with hardware. In the constantly growing field of additive manufacturing, agile and responsive chemical development is constantly needed to optimize operations. Using a unique blend of eco-friendly detergents (aqueous in nature) at low concentrations in water, generally less than 10%, and a comparatively low pressure, the PostProcess solution is a faster, easier to use, and more production-oriented solution.

Our Support Removal Spray machines routinely achieve a 75% reduction in support removal cycle times when compared to old-school tub systems, largely due to our tireless chemical development. This is all achieved with an eye on the bottom line. Efficient support removal on FDM, SLA, and Polyjet parts is possible without exposing the workforce to harmful solutions, at a price that is marginal compared to the cost of traditional operations.

We promise to keep innovating to alleviate the post-printing bottleneck, so you can free up your precious time and resources and fill up our news feed with the newest and neatest applications of 3D printing.

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Mitigating Manual Labor in Creating Class-A Finishes for Additive Manufactured Prototyping Parts

Additive post-printing FDM part beforeWho loves spending hours hand-sanding parts? After seeing a 3D printer bring a design to life with little to no manual intervention required, this tedious post-printing step seems counterintuitive. Often times, modeling or prototyping personnel are required to achieve a very high level of surface finish quality on additive manufactured parts. Sometimes referred to as “class-A” or “mirror finish”, this level of smoothness is realized through a laborious process using many different grits of sandpaper and literally hours of a technician’s time that sometimes results in very inconsistent end parts.

Taking FDM models with obvious build lines and processing in large batch quantities resulting in unnoticeable build lines in a few hours of unattended run time and a few minutes of technician time is indeed possible. Moving away from tedious hand-work, PostProcess’ software-driven, intelligent surface finishing solutions and finishing consumables can help get close if not completely to that prized “class-A” finish, eliminating the first several post-printing steps.

Imagine if there was a machine that a technician could simply put a batch of freshly printed parts into, turn on, and in a matter of hours (unattended) could have parts representative of a 300-400 grit sanded finish. The good news is that such an automated machine, or rather, a suite of machines, does exist. One of the more popular versions in our surface finish family is our RADOR surface finish solution.

Using a modern take on vibratory action and with intelligent software controls, PostProcess is able to mitigate hand-finishing labor hours and cost, leaving a freshly printed part undamaged and sufficiently prepared for the final high-level fine finishing needed to create realistic models and prototypes. The FDM example shown here, printed with a layer height of 200 μm, demonstrates the initial surface finishing process achieving an Ra reduction from 800 to 40. This batch of parts is now ready for the final step of dying, painting, or even plating.

Time is one of the most precious commodities for a technician in any manufacturing operation. Freeing up some of these valuable labor hours for higher-value tasks is one of the most important advantages of automating the finishing process. We’re focused solely on additive manufacturing, so contact us today to talk about optimizing your post-printing for any print technology.

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The Economics of 3D Post-Printing Automation: An Example from the Field

Post-Printing Automation Analysis of systemsOne of the things that gets our team most excited is showing customers how automated post-printing can transform their business. While a full analysis of the ROI requires a rigorous quantitative approach, we’ve narrowed down the investigation to a few key drivers that help frame the value proposition for a company to invest in automated 3D post-printing.

The benefits that can be realized with automation go beyond “show me the money”. Customers begin to think about the limitless possibilities that additive manufacturing promised. Their throughput can be scaled to reach their business goals faster. Overall operational productivity can be increased with reduced manual labor and resource utilization in other critical areas.

So today we’re sharing a real example from a consumer goods customer who’s had that “aha” moment. Their implementation of our DEMI 800 Production Series submersible support removal system (formerly named the DECI 4) has opened up a whole new world of productivity for their PolyJet print operation:

-decreased technician touch time per part 90% from 35 to 3.25 minutes
-reduced total cost per part 86% from $31.04 to $4.83

Want to learn more about how the DEMI 800 works? Check out this video of automated Polyjet Support Removal with yet another customer application. You can also contact us anytime and we will help you walk through our ROI calculator to learn more about the benefits to your unique additive manufacturing operation.

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