Inside Chemistry for Resin Removal: 5 Questions with an Expert

Working in tandem with our proprietary hardware and software, our unique chemistry formulations play a critical role in all of our automated post-printing solutions. We recently sat down with our in-house PhD chemist to talk through our newest chemistry solution for resin removal for SLA, DLP, and CLIP print technologies.

Could you begin by giving us an overview of the challenges in the 3D printing resin removal from the chemistry perspective?

The thing that makes resin removal so tricky is that you are dealing with especially fine chemical differences between the build material itself, and the actual resin that needs to be removed. To successfully clean a part, you need to find the best solution to target the non-polymerized oligomers of the resin, but not the polymer itself.

Why does chemistry specifically play such a critical role in the process of removing resins from 3D printed parts (perhaps even more so than support removal)?

Support removal, while it does typically utilize chemistry, is a lot more reliant on ultrasonics and pressure to physically remove support materials. That’s probably the largest difference between cleaning resin parts and removing soluble support materials. Take SLA post-printing for example. Because it is a single vat printing technology, both the structure and build are made out of the same material. For this reason, effective chemistry is crucial, as resin must be pulled from the surface of both the build, as well as any supporting structures. To avoid the need for constant washing, chemistry for resin removal submersion must be extremely effective on its own. That’s what we set out to create at PostProcess.

What were the goals that PostProcess had in mind when formulating a novel chemistry solution for the resin removal process?

Our main goal has always been to create user-friendly resin removal chemistry that works longer and faster than comparable options on the market. I’m proud to say that we’ve achieved some really significant improvements in efficiencies compared to isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and tripropylene glycol methyl ether (TPM), the two main alternatives for resin removal.

In addition to being more effective, we’ve also managed to make the PostProcess solution a lot less hazardous, and less flammable, than IPA. At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about – enabling a safer work environment for the individuals working around these materials.

How do the benefits of PostProcess’ resin removal chemistry, in combination with its software and hardware system, enable a more streamlined additive workflow?

Every part of this automated process was designed to work together – the entire streamlined system means you can avoid compatibility issues that you might have with a 3rd party detergent or machine. We’ve developed smart hardware with software-enabled safeguards, which means they’ll shut themselves down before they even reach the point of potential flammability hazards. Because PostProcess is the only solution on the market implementing all three pillars of software, hardware, and chemistry together, our solutions have shown really impressive results that are pretty incomparable to competitors.

Actually, our recent white paper found that our solutions removed 4.2x more resin than IPA, and 1.8x more resin than TPM, all in notably faster cycle times. As a general rule of thumb, the less time that a finished part spends submerged, the better, as this lowers the risk of surface chemistry effects.

Because of the hydrophilic nature of resins, it’s also common to see swelling in finished parts during submersion as they absorb water. Unlike most IPA solutions, the PostProcess detergent does not contain any water, so we don’t see a lot of the swelling that occurs with the use of other chemistries. That’s definitely been a benefit that we’ve noticed as well.

Chemicals used in post-printing can be notoriously harsh in regard to health, safety, and environmental considerations. How does PostProcess’ resin removal chemistry enable a safer working environment?

As I mentioned before, the safety improvements and minimization of waste handling that our resin removal solution enables is really our crowning achievement. Resins used in additive manufacturing tend to be very toxic. This can make for a very hazardous workplace and means that liquid waste needs to be sent out for proper disposal. Not only is the disposal process costly, but unloading and reloading machines creates a lot of downtime, and is one of the most notorious times for chemical spills to happen. Thanks to its ability to be distilled, our detergent can vastly extend the lifetime of an individual unit of chemistry, therefore minimizing overall waste, downtime, disposal costs, and spillage risk.

Lastly, if you’ve ever been in a room with an IPA dip tank, you can testify that it’s intense. The vapors are strong, and while it may not be outright toxic, it’s uncomfortable and irritating at the very least. We engineered our resin removal solution to be much less obtrusive on the system, and more enjoyable to work around.

 

You can learn more about our solutions for resin removal here or by emailing us at info@postprocess.com. Also, you can see our resin removal solutions during live tours guided by an engineering expert every week during June – reserve your spot here.

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