Empire Group Drives Workflow Gains with A Superior Approach to SLA Resin Removal

resin printed object printed with clear resin and supports visible.Yes, even companies who have been utilizing additive manufacturing for more than two decades can face challenges with the third step of the 3D printing process – post-printing. Empire Group, a service bureau specializing in rapid prototyping and industrial design/engineering, has long functioned to bring fast delivery times to its clients. They especially pride themselves on understanding the nuances of each material used within their shop, as well as the best finishing techniques for each, to ensure high product standards.

As veteran users of stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing, Empire Group reaped the benefits of the technology’s accuracy and flexibility. However, the lengthy and tedious resin removal process associated with this workflow soon proved problematic, as it became clear these inefficiencies would escalate into a more critical issue as the workload and number of printers grew. Without an automated solution, the amount of time dedicated to post-printing would only expand as well.

To stay ahead of these looming bottlenecks, Empire Group recently introduced significant time savings to its operation with the incorporation of the only full-stack digital post-printing approach on the market – the PostProcess™ DEMI 800™ Resin Removal solution. The DEMI 800, in combination with PostProcess’s proprietary detergents developed specifically for resin removal, transformed their workflow in a short amount of time. Subsequently, Empire Group was able to leverage shortened post-printing cycle times, refined high-volume production operations, and reallocation of their energy towards more value-added tasks.

View the full case study now to find more out about:

  • The scalability issues Empire Group was facing with traditional post-printing and how the DEMI 800 achieved an average time savings of 50%.
  • How these optimizations have improved overall productivity as well as Empire Group’s bottom line.
  • The details of PostProcess’s patent-pending Submersed Vortex Cavitation (SVC) technology, and how its cutting-edge software intelligence can be revolutionary for additive operations.

Access the Case Study here.

-> Learn more in our SLA Resin Removal White Paper

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4 Simple Ways to Optimize Your FDM Post-Printing During the Design Phase

FDM 3D printer printing a red part with white support structure.Why Think Post-Printing During the Design Phase?
As a whopping 23% of the average part cost for polymer 3D printing is attributed to the post-printing step alone (Source: 2019 Wohler’s Report). It is essential to take every provision possible to keep your post-printing process efficient and cost-effective. If this step doesn’t keep up with the rest of your workflow, it will be nearly impossible to support a sustainable additive manufacturing operation, much less grow your production.

One of the most essential factors in ensuring efficient post-printing is actually at the very first phase of the additive workflow – designing the part. If you’re not mindful of the post-printing step early on in the design phase, it’s very likely you’ll end up having wasted time, material, and resources on an iteration that you’ll have to alter anyways.

By having a more concrete understanding of what sort of processes your 3D printed parts will go through during the post-printing phase, you can incorporate simple design tweaks to ensure your workflow remains as streamlined as possible – therefore limiting the potential for design failures. Though this blog post will specifically discuss four different design tips and tricks for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), keep an eye out for upcoming blogs on these same sorts of tips for PolyJet, as well as Resin-based (SLA/DLP/CLIP) additive workflows.

1) Aim for Maximum Fluid Access
Traditional support removal and surface finishing methods for FDM post-printing typically encompass a significant amount of manual labor or the use of dunk tanks. To reduce the need for hands-on toil and let the detergent, or abrasive media in the case of surface finishing, used in automated solutions do more of the grunt work, you’ll want to design your part with maximized fluid access in mind. Exposing parts to detergents for the least amount of time possible will cut down on drying time, and as a result, help to speed up your entire printing production. To improve detergent flow, you’ll want to avoid incorporating any dead-end channels within your FDM part, and instead, look for logical places to add drain holes and improve detergent flow without compromising the design.

2) Limit Support Material
Another hallmark of FDM printing is its ability to complete “sparse builds” as opposed to solid-filled parts. This low-density style of part design is often self-supporting, requiring less support and material usage overall. Part orientation is another facet that directly impacts the amount of structural support needed. Keep in mind that the default parameters on design software often overcompensate with more overhangs than necessary. Specifically, limiting the number of overhangs within a part will notably reduce the amount of support material required.

FDM parts being removed from the FDM printer.3) Use The Build Envelope to Your Advantage
With FDM printing, you can also use the height of the build envelope to your advantage by stacking parts. Stacking parts will help to simplify post-printing down the line as build material from the other parts will act as support casings, therefore minimizing the need for excess supports.

4) Don’t Forget About Surface Finishing!
When it comes to optimizing an FDM part particularly for surface finishing, many of the same recommendations regarding support removal apply. Much like you’d design a part to have optimal fluid access, ensuring that circulating abrasive media has maximum contact with the part helps to guarantee a uniform finish. “Filleting”, or rounding internal corners, is a simple way to allow for better media contact. Similarly, printing surfaces perpendicular to the build plate, as opposed to parallel, will initially create a much smoother finish, allowing a part requiring a low Roughness Average (Ra) to be more achievable. Areas printed parallel to the build plate, known as the surface’s “rasters” or “upskin”, tend to have much rougher surfaces, so it’s best to try and keep these as small as possible. Finally, taking care to limit part angles to 45 degrees or less will optimize surface finishing, as angles greater than this can be quite difficult to smooth, even with an additional surface finishing step.

Like most things in life, becoming adept at designing for post-printing and additive manufacturing in general simply takes time and practice. The more time you dedicate towards experimental printing, the more you will understand the nuances of your FDM printer, and the better you can optimize part builds. As the first to innovate automated post-printing solutions tailored specifically to FDM printing, PostProcess Technologies has an array of resources to help you unearth the tribal knowledge within the 3D printing industry, including white papers. Explore our product offerings to learn how our proprietary intelligent post-printing solutions are critical to further post-printing optimization, improve additive workflow efficiencies, and save on time, labor, and energy.

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Guest Blog: Post-Printing Automation Accelerates PolyJet Process for Protolabs

two 3D printed spines, one with polyjet support material around it, one cleaned of support material.In the midst of COVID-19, organizations are prioritizing mitigating risk, cost-effectiveness, and automation in general. As the world continues to place a progressively greater emphasis on efficiency, it’s safe to assume that many of these initiatives are here to stay. Compared to traditional methods like subtractive manufacturing, additive manufacturing excels in efficiency, enabling fast lead times, and more.

That’s not to say this is always a seamless process, however. Even additive leaders like Protolabs have experienced bottlenecks and inefficiencies during the final stage of additive workflows – the post-printing step. Previously notorious as a labor-intensive job requiring hours of picking, sanding, or soaking, post-printing is now able to be digitized for the first time ever, with the help of PostProcess Technologies. Our automated post-printing solution deploys a proprietary blend of software, hardware, and chemistry to revolutionize the post-printing step and streamline additive workflows as the industry currently knows them.

Particularly in the case of Protolabs, the PostProcess™ DEMI 800™ solution was able to reduce manual labor time spent post-printing their PolyJet parts by as much as 50%. These time savings allow Protolabs to focus on more value-added tasks and helped the company accelerate their speed to market. Our recent Guest Blog Post with Protolabs goes into much more detail on this case study in particular – read it now to learn more about:

– The value in fully digitized workflows and the role of additive in “lights out” manufacturing.
– Details about our post-printing technology and the benefits it can unlock.
– Protolabs’ own experience with implementing an automated PostProcess solution into their workflow.

Check out the Protolabs Blog Post

-> Learn more in our latest PolyJet Support Removal White Paper 

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New Case Study: Splitvision Builds on Additive Manufacturing Expertise with Automated Resin Removal

3 black resin printed parts with lattice structure.Having been in the product development world since 1989, Sweden-based industrial product design company Splitvision has always kept its finger on the pulse of what’s new in the design and manufacturing world. This is what eventually led them towards the adoption of additive manufacturing, specifically digital light processing (DLP).

Similar to continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) and stereolithography (SLA) printing techniques, DLP is a resin-based form of additive manufacturing that has a notoriously messy and cumbersome post-printing process associated with it. Traditionally, tools like handheld squeeze bottles, brushes, and dunk tanks have been used to finish resin-based parts – resulting in long cycle times, inconsistent finishings, and exorbitant amounts of manual labor. Meanwhile, the chemicals themselves commonly used for resin removal (e.g. isopropyl alcohol [IPA]) are known for their flammability and the danger that they typically introduce to workplace environments.

Splitvision benefitted from DLP printing in terms of improved fine feature details and mechanical properties, as well as Thermoplastic Elastomer-like performance on soft parts. However, along with other bottleneck issues, they particularly struggled to fully clean the many crevices and narrow interior tunnels of products like their design casings.

Upon implementing the PostProcess solution in January 2020, Splitvision did not just find an automated resin removal solution, but they discovered a superior chemistry alternative to IPA, as well. PostProcess’s proprietary, software-controlled Submersed Vortex Cavitation (SVC) technology uses ultrasonic cleaning, agitation, and controlled temperature to effectively and consistently remove uncured resin from parts. Plus, the technology was developed to be used in conjunction with PostProcess’s chemistries specifically made for additive materials.

Explore our new Case Study with Splitvision to learn more about how the elements of our automated post-printing solutions can revolutionize additive workflows and improve working environments. The case study will touch upon:

  • The benefits surrounding Splitvision’s implementation of an additive workflow.
  • The commonplace post-printing bottlenecks that arose in Splitvision’s additive manufacturing process.
  • The various time and cost savings that PostProcess’s SVC and chemistry solutions enabled for Splitvision.

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-> Learn more in our latest Resin Removal White Paper 

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