Unlocking FDM Post-Printing: An ROI Story

Thanks to its reliability, versatility, and affordability, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) has long stood its ground as one of the most popular 3D print technologies on the market. FDM allows for a wide range of practical material options, as additives and pigmentation can easily be combined with the raw polymer prior to extrusion. To simplify the post-printing support removal process, this technique often utilizes soluble support materials.

While the benefits of FDM are often leveraged to generate fixtures and tooling, enable rapid prototyping, and test form, fit, and function for end-use, its cost-effectiveness can be limited by bottlenecks. Most often, these bottlenecks occur in the third and final step of the additive workflow: post-printing. The current industry-accepted support removal method for FDM is by way of submersion tanks, which carry a variety of limitations.

Searching for a Solution: An FDM Success Story

Traditional Workflow for FDM Additive Manufactured Parts. Design Step with computer, Arrow, Print Step with 3D printer, Arrow, In Queue, Showing 3D printed parts completed, Arrow, Conventional Tank, 3D printed parts in a submersible tank. Like many, a manufacturer who came to PostProcess was relying on submersion tanks to finish their complex FDM part and was saddled with especially lengthy cycle times. Because it is difficult for submersion tanks to consistently reach all of the internal support structures of complex FDM geometries, results can be inconsistent. They frequently had to employ manual labor to finish the job.

Not only is this time consuming, but for this user, it was costly; especially considering that technician time could be better spent on more value-added tasks. The excessive amount of time spent cleaning parts after submersion often prevented this user from achieving their ultimate post-processing goals, or properly engaging with their customer base.

As a high-volume operation, they found the patent-pending PostProcess BASE™ solution to be best suited to their specific support removal needs. Software-driven post-printing would be instrumental in alleviating these issues to unlock the potential of their additive workflow.

Defining ROI: Our 4-Step Process
Before we delve into more of the exact savings that the BASE solution offered, let’s take a look at the considerations we take into account when calculating our ROIs. We begin by ensuring that we fully understanding a user’s current operation, including total print costs, and what portion of these costs are due to post-printing. This includes numbers like labor costs, the time spent processing each part, and the percentage of parts that come out warped or damaged. These numbers are then compared to what post-printing costs would look like with the implementation of a PostProcess solution. The result is an ROI unique to each specific operation.

The ROI Results
In this particular case, the user was processing approximately 36 parts daily. Based on the size of their parts, our BASE solution was able to fit 6 parts per cycle and decrease their cycle times by 85%. These shortened cycle times resulted in an average decrease of 2.75 hours in technician time per cycle. That frees up more than 25% of a standard workday! This resulted in a weekly saving of 14 technician hours saved per week.

With a labor rate of $40 per hour, these time savings enabled monetary savings of $26.08 per part, and $4,817 per week. Overall, our solutions unlocked a 19-week ROI. This operation has immensely benefited from implementing the BASE into their value stream. The solution’s data-driven platform stores settings to be reused at the operator’s convenience, so technicians have the ability to simply ‘press play and walk away.’ This takes focus away from support removal, and instead direct it towards more important production goals.

How it Works
Now that we’ve run through the real-life quantitative results that PostProcess solutions can achieve, let’s explore the technology behind these results and the full set of benefits it can offer.

At the heart of the BASE and its smaller counterpart, the PostProcess DECI™ solution,  is our patent-pending Volumetric Velocity Dispersion (VVD) technology. VVD employs our exclusive AUTOMAT3D™ software control to monitor energy through a network of high volume jet streams. This results in a low-pressure sweeping agitation enabling unique mechanical and chemical rates of removal, with a proprietary detergent designed especially for FDM.

  • Rapid Support Removal
    VVD’s constant support removal action allows it to achieve the fastest cycle times in the industry. Additional concentrated flex nozzles work to dissolve support material in very hard to reach internal geometries and rush it away quickly.
  • Reduced Dry Times
    Minimized exposure to chemistry reduces absorption, leading to faster dry times.
  • Consistent Results
    Our technology enables a predictable workflow for users with the ability to bundle key parameters into ‘recipes’ that ensure consistent processing. Sensor monitoring is also employed to guarantee that energy sources stay within optimal ranges.
  • Damage Mitigation
    Low-pressure agitation, refined temperature control, and limited exposure time combined with auto-dosed chemistry minimize the risk of warping fragile geometries.

Designed to overcome the bottlenecks associated with traditional submersion tanks, PostProcess’s full-stack solution combines proprietary software, hardware, and chemistry to streamline FDM workflows. Across 3 separate material types, VVD shows a 73% average decrease in cycle time compared with a standard tank solution. Digitizing your additive workflow with a software-driven solution can have a revolutionary impact on your throughputs and operating efficiencies, just like it did for this user.

Get a live, real-time review of this technology in an upcoming Live Solution Experience tour.

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