Top Post-Processing Pain Points for Material Extrusion Technology Users

Post-processing has long been called the “dirty little secret” of additive manufacturing. But as additive manufacturing becomes more popular and additive users move into production with their additive solutions, the bottlenecks and problems become more and more apparent.

For our 4th Annual Post-Processing Survey, we asked respondents about their top post-processing challenges for each of the most popular print technologies. Here are the responses for the most popular technology used: Material Extrusion. Material extrusion includes FDM, FFF, and MEM print technologies.

The top pain points for this group remained consistent over the past three years of our survey, which indicates that while print technologies continue to advance, the traditional post-processing techniques still cause bottlenecks in the additive workflow.

Length of Time to Finish Parts

3D printed orange egg with lattice work on black table with grey background.
The first and most common pain point reported was the time to finish parts. Material extrusion allows for the 3D printing of complex geometries. However, these geometries then require support material to ensure the stability of the print. Often the traditional process of removing supports is cumbersome and requires a large amount of manual labor and/or soaking. Chemical baths are used to soak parts made with soluble supports. Lengthy post-processing time slows down production exponentially and can disrupt and even ruin an additive workflow if bottlenecks happen too often.

Consistency

Traditional support removal methods can lead to inconsistent results due to the manual labor required. With the need for skilled technicians to manually remove supports, parts cleaned by different technicians will be different, creating inconsistency in the final product.

Damaged Parts

Before and after black 3d printed chain.
Along with consistency, damaged parts are a common challenge with traditional material extrusion post-processing methods. We can look at well-known companies like Toro, who used to spend 2X as long to finish parts as they did to print parts.

Parts that are soaked to remove support material often need to be soaked for many hours at a time. With parts soaking in a caustic bath for ten or more hours, parts become saturated with chemicals or bloated, which makes them unusable.

These struggles with the length of time to finish parts, consistency, and damaged parts are common with traditional post-processing methods for not only material extrusion but all 3D print technologies. This is because traditional post-processing was pulled from other traditional manufacturing methods and wasn’t designed for additive manufacturing. With that in mind, solutions created specifically for additive manufactured parts can help ease these common post-processing concerns. Automated solutions built with additive in mind can help cut time, labor, and ultimately the cost associated with the post-printing step of additive manufacturing.

 

Want to learn more insights from the 2022 survey? Download the report here.

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