There are several additive manufacturing value chain steps before you get to the finished part. Naturally, there is the printing phase, but there is also the modeling phase, which is where any project begins. 3D Printing Post processing, however, is the process of altering the part itself after the 3D printer has finished its work.
What is post processing in 3D printing?
In 3D printing, post processing is the term for any operation performed on a printed component or for any method used to improve the object. Any work done after the part has left the machine, such as cleaning, surface finishing, annealing, and even coloring, is called post processing.
Each 3D print post processing method has unique requirements and is as diverse as the manufacturing processes. However, why is this step important in 3D printing? How are markets organized?
Continue reading to learn the answers to these inquiries about post-processing. In 3D printing, post processing is primarily used to enhance manufactured parts’ appearance and/or functional qualities. For instance, refining a surface or annealing a component to boost strength and improve resistance. While some post processing methods can be applied to any 3D printing method, others depend on a particular technology.
Undoubtedly, an FDM part requires a different approach than a metal part. Thus, post processing is crucial when beginning a 3D printing project.
3D Print Post Processing Techniques Introduction
This introduction is one of several articles written about 3D print post processing to help readers better understand the various types of 3D printing post processing.
The parts need to be cleaned first. As the name implies, this includes all methods for cleaning our components, such as de-soldering, rinsing, brushing, blowing, etc. Whether powder or resin, the aim is to eliminate all extra material. The time required for this step will vary depending on the printing method used. For instance, when powder sintering is involved, this is frequently a time-consuming step that extends the production schedule.
This entails raising a part’s temperature to enhance its mechanical qualities. These might include heat resistance, traction, UV protection, strength, or thermal stability. This step primarily relates to polymer parts; for instance, “curing” machines for resin processes are specifically made to be used with a specific printer, as with Formlabs solutions. For powder bonding or indirect metal 3D printing processes, a debinding and then sintering stage must be completed using a specialized oven. Thus, annealing techniques enhance the part’s final characteristics and usability.
Enhance the Visual Appeal
The categories of surface finishing and coloring are used to enhance the parts’ aesthetics. All techniques used to enhance appearance, such as smoothing, polishing, sandblasting, infiltration, or milling, fall under the first category. A part’s surface can be altered using various processes, either by adding or removing material. Sanding, for instance, will smooth out surface irregularities, while spraying will add a layer of product to enhance shine.
If we now consider staining, the end result is adding color to the final product. The choice between painting and dyeing depends primarily on the printing medium used. For instance, dyeing is more popular with processes based on polymer powder, whereas painting is more popular with parts created with FDM.
The Advantages and Drawbacks of 3D Print Post Processing
As you can see, post-processing in 3D printing is an important step to enhance a part’s final characteristics and visual appeal. The 3D printed part can now be used to its full potential or sold as an end-use part because of the various techniques. Through post-processing, users can fix some flaws and occasionally even “camouflage” a 3D-printed component by erasing the appearance of the printed layers. Additionally, some plastic parts now have characteristics akin to metal parts at a significantly lower cost due to post-processing.
Of course, post-processing also has its difficulties and restrictions, which the market has been working to overcome for a while. The time required for post-processing in 3D printing is one of the biggest obstacles. The 3D post processing cycle duration, according to 53% of participants in Post Process Technologies’ yearly study, is their biggest challenge. They contend that these procedures require too much time, preventing them from fully utilizing the faster manufacturing times provided by 3D printing. As a result, finding automated processes is now a top priority for many industry professionals.
Automated processes free up labor put to use in more strategic roles. Additionally, worker safety is guaranteed by automating specific post-processing methods. Automation is one of the major market trends right now, both for post-processing and for printing actual parts, and we’re excited to see more advancements in this area!
Is post processing necessary?
It depends on your preferences however, in any 3D printing technique, there will be one or more steps to proceed after the 3D printer finishes its job. Sometimes, you should remove support, or in SLA, powder 3D printing parts must be cleaned.
Has this overview of 3D print post processing helped you better understand its role in 3D printing?
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*Cover photo credits: Protiq