3 Considerations to Improve Your Additive Manufacturing Operation in 2023

What’s on your to-do list for your additive operation in 2023? Additive manufacturing continues to grow in popularity and become a major part of a wide variety of industries. It’s important in today’s economic climate to evaluate your overall workflow and how you can improve upon your operation for the new year.

Back in December, we released our 4th Annual Post-Processing Survey. Within the survey, we asked respondents from all over the globe about their current additive operations, including post-processing, and how they planned to advance and alter their plans in the upcoming year. Let’s look at some of the common themes to see what to evaluate in your additive manufacturing operation for 2023.

Environmental Health & Safety Are Paramount to Effective Workflows.

Environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) considerations have always been important to anyone in additive manufacturing. The safety and well-being of their operations continue to be critical to maintaining an effective facility.

57% of respondents stated they want to improve their operation’s environmental, health, and safety in 2023, with the largest concentration in the EU. Those that use DED, Vat Photopolymerization, and Powder Bed Fusion print technologies reported the highest percentage of respondents looking to improve EH&S. When reviewing by industry, the medical industry is looking to improve EH&S most, with 71% prioritizing it for 2023.

As new print technologies emerge, so do new environmental, health, and safety risks. The standard ISO 17296-2 lists seven major groups under the heading “3D printing,” which shows that operating in an additive environment is not without danger. Many risks are linked to the technology itself, as well as the risks of the raw printing material. Powdered materials used in technologies like SLS, DMLS, and SLM are finely milled and increase the risk of anoxia. Liquids like resin used in technologies, such as DLP, SLA, and CLIP print technologies, can irritate and/or burn the user if they come in direct contact with the skin.

Finish 3D Printed Parts Faster.

Traditional post-processing methods are notoriously time-consuming. For the third year in a row, our respondent’s number one post-processing concern was the time it took for them to finish parts. While material extrusion remains the print technology that reported this pain point the most often, the time to finish parts is problematic across all technologies. Post-printing can be labor and time-intensive, leading to bottlenecks that can derail the entire additive workflow if you aren’t careful.

Why does it take so long to finish parts with traditional post-processing methods? One reason is that most of these post-processing methods are taken from traditional manufacturing. They weren’t designed to work specifically for additive manufacturing, so they aren’t efficient in removing support structures or excess resin in any sort of optimized way. This leads to greater bottlenecks, part warpage, and part breakage. Automated solutions that allow for reduced manual labor and increased efficiency can ease some of these common bottlenecks.

The Growing Importance of Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing.

Another buzzword heard around the additive field is the increased emphasis on sustainability. While often lumped into environmental, health, and safety, we can say based on our respondent’s input that sustainability is an important factor to consider for any additive operation. 38% of the people we spoke with are looking to increase sustainability in 2023.

Many printing companies emphasize sustainability, with companies like EOS taking a serious stance on integrating sustainability into their overall company mission. They’ve even offered powder for 3D printing that can be reused. Stratasys also maintains a commitment to what they call Mindful Manufacturing™ and have published a Sustainability Report

We here at PostProcess also feel that this dedication to sustainability should extend through to the post-printing step in the workflow. That’s why we also are committed to continuously improving our additive-tailored solutions’ efficiencies and cutting down on material usage and waste.

 

As the additive market continues to grow, post-processing methods can cost companies a lot of time, money, and resources and impact the overall efficiency of an operation. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your current processes and how you can improve them.

If you’d like to learn more about our insights from our 4th Annual Post-Processing Survey, download the full report here.

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