Automated post-processing of 3D printed metal and plastic components



Automated post-processing of 3D printed metal and plastic components

By Alexander Stark

Companies in many industries have come to the conclusion that additive manufacturing will make them less dependent on traditional supply chains. However, an essential prerequisite for this approach is that post-processing operations must comply with volume production requirements.

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3D printed components produced with a powder bed printing system.” alt=”The S2 is to date the only continuous flow shot blast machine for the post-processing of 3D printed components produced with a powder bed printing system.” src=”×0/smart/” data-sizes=”auto” id=”articleimage”/>
The S2 is to date the only continuous flow shot blast machine for the post-processing of 3D printed components produced with a powder bed printing system.

(Source: Roesler)

Additive manufacturing offers companies the opportunity to become less dependent on traditional supply chains and, at the same time, to make their production operations more flexible and faster. However, post-processing of 3D printed components is often a stumbling block against the achievement of these goals. On the one hand many post-processing steps still require expensive manual labor, and on the other hand the post-processing operations are limited to the handling of unit parts or extremely small production batches. This does not allow adherence to the standards set for volume production, namely consistent and reproducible product quality, process control, profitability and sustainability. AM Solutions Р3D post-processing technology, a division of the R̦sler group specializing in the automated post-processing of 3D printed components produced in large quantities, now offers new equipment to overcome this dilemma.

Safe and stable post-processing of plastic components in 24/7 operation

With the new S2 AM Solutions system – 3D post-processing technology so far offers the only Continuous flow shot blasting machine for post-processing of 3D printed plastic components produced with powder bed printing systems. The Atex-compliant plug-and-play machine has been designed for three-shift operation 24 hours a day and is equipped with interfaces allowing its integration into interconnected production lines. The parts are loaded into the machine as complete print jobs. Loading is carried out either by hand or automatically. Once in the machine, plastic components pass smoothly through a special feed buckle belt in monobloc flow. The tumbling action of the components ensures that they are evenly sanded from all sides so that any residual powder is consistently and completely removed from the surface of the component. Depending on the blasting media used, the surface of the workpiece can also be homogenized and / or shot peened. The machine can be equipped with up to four sandblasting nozzles. The number of blasting nozzles, the blasting pressure and the transport speed can be individually adapted to the respective workpieces. These process parameters can then be saved in the control panel as individual process recipes. On average, a print job requires cycle times of 15 to 20 minutes. Depending on the condition of the blanks, the Ra surface roughness readings can be reduced down to 13 µm.

To ensure that the sandblasting media remain of a consistently high quality, the compact shot blast machine is equipped with an efficient cleaning and recycling system for sandblasting media. This, in combination with the integrated electronic reporting tool, ensures repeatability of blasting results, complete process control and high profitability of the post-processing operation. A patent application covering the machine and the process is pending.

The innovative C2 system enables fully automatic chemical smoothing of the surface of serially printed plastic components from standard polymers and elastomers (including TPU).

(Source: Roesler)

Environmentally friendly chemical surface smoothing and application of color dye

The C2, presented as a conceptual solution, illustrates that AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology has its origins in the development and production of machines and consumables for series production. This patent pending innovation enables fully automatic chemical smoothing of the surface of 3D printed components in common polymers and elastomers (including TPU) in series. Thus, the costly one-piece handling of the workpieces is completely eliminated for this post-processing operation. The bounding box allows the processing of parts with dimensions ranging from 10 x 10 x 10 to 300 x 300 x 300 mm and a wall thickness of at least two millimeters. In addition, the process includes a new, non-hazardous processing medium specially developed by AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology. This ensures that the surface smoothing operation is not only environmentally friendly, but the subsequent disposal of waste is not subject to any environmental restrictions and is cost effective.

The C2 chemical surface smoothing system, for which a patent application is pending, can be retrofitted to apply color stain to plastic components. The C2 will be commercially available in the first quarter of 2022.

metal components.” alt=”The versatile S1 Wet sandblasting system not only allows the removal of residual powder, but also the surface finish of 3D printed metal components.” class=”inf-inlineimage__img lazyload”/>
The versatile S1 Wet sandblasting system not only allows the removal of residual powder, but also the surface finish of 3D printed metal components.

(Source: Roesler)

Wet sandblasting system specially developed for 3D printed components

Wet sandblasting is a well-established and effective surface refining process for metal or plastic components produced in large quantities. With the S1 Wet system, AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology has adapted the advantages of this surface treatment method to the specific requirements of additive manufacturing. The S1 flexible sandblasting system can be used for cleaning as well as surface homogenization and smoothing of a wide range of workpieces. A key feature of this technology is that the sandblasting media and process water are mixed to create a suspension. Depending on the initial surface roughness of the workpieces, their Ra readings can be significantly reduced. To some extent, this is even possible on internal surface passages and cavities. Since the water in the slurry creates a protective layer on the components, the process is very gentle. It also prevents media particles from entering the surface of plastic and soft metal components. Another advantage of the wet process is that it maintains dimensional integrity and prevents warping of delicate parts with complex shapes and thin walls. Wet sandblasting also prevents the creation of dust and therefore does not require any Atex protective accessories.

Another feature of the compact S1 Wet plug-and-play system is its small footprint. In a space of only 2.6 m2 it offers everything necessary for efficient and long-lasting operation. The control panel is integrated with the machine, but also the monitoring of the blasting system to ensure a reproducible process, the air filter unit and the wastewater management. The rejected wastewater flows into a settling basin to collect most of the sludge. This sludge-like material can be further dehydrated by a optional process water cleaning and recycling system integrated into the machine S1. This significantly reduces water consumption and waste disposal costs, the company says. Additional equipment options, tailored to the respective processing tasks, allow the use of the S1 Wet ranging from manual processing of individual components to fully automatic processing of complete batches of parts.

Manufacturing service partner – support from idea to post-processing

AM Solutions РManufacturing service partner specializes in particular in services related to additive manufacturing. the the range of services covers the entire AM process chain and is also designed to meet the demands of series production. To this end, the Italian company of the R̦sler Group covers all phases of the process of creating the product, from the basic design and testing of the product idea, through the technical and economic feasibility studies, the development of products and the creation of prototypes, up to large-scale production, including post-processing. The aim is to harness the advantages of additive manufacturing in a component-specific way through the optimal use of advanced technologies and comprehensive know-how, so that innovative parts are created in a development and significantly shorter focus times. market periods.

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