FDM 3D Printing for Automotive Applications: Are you losing the race with archaic support removal?

As Automotive continues to be one of Additive Manufacturing’s top growth markets in both the number of applications and volume of printed parts, the importance of increased productivity, consistency, and quality is also ramping. Automotive applications are heavily weighted towards the use of FDM in rapid prototyping to help cut timelines and allow companies to iterate more effectively. But with this advancement of significantly improved design and build processes, the post-processing step is often overlooked as an opportunity to further optimize overall production times.

To date, many companies printing for Automotive applications have leaned on subtractive equipment from their factory floor and tried to adapt them for Additive, including hand tools, submersible tanks, and traditional tumblers. While this can work in some cases, as volumes ramp issues are arising. Even with assistance from these machines, there is a high component of labor, or what we call attended technician time. It is not uncommon for the attended technician time to last the entire cycle with a tumbler or submersible tank due to the frequent monitoring of the systems that are required.

Even with the best technicians, there can be inconsistent results. Variations in the level of precision and issues of rework are common. With traditional machines not optimized for Additive Manufactured parts, breakage levels can also be especially problematic. As print materials and labor are expensive, re-printing could be significantly affecting the ROI of your Additive operation overall.

Consider how automating the FDM support removal step of post-processing, such as with the PostProcess BASE™, can address these common issues in terms of productivity, consistency, quality, and of course, overall cycle time:

  • Improves overall cycle times to enable rapid prototyping with over twice as many prototypes able to be produced every week
  • Reduces processing time by over 50% and drying time by over 60%when compared to submersible tank systems.
  • Minimizes part warpage and breakage without changes to dimensional accuracy due to lower temperatures and less liquid exposure. These challenges are almost inevitable in a submersible tank.
  • Reduces attended technician time up to 90% from traditional solutions due to the system’s AUTOMAT3D™ software.

Maintaining a competitive edge will continue to propel prototype volumes in Automotive and other markets from thousands per year to hundreds of thousands per year, particularly in companies that rely on fast innovation to drive growth. Here at PostProcess, our mission is to help the industry move beyond brute-forcing post-printing with manual labor and traditional mechanical solutions towards software-based automated solutions to ensure throughput and consistency in line with the market’s expectations.

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