Buffalo (NY) based PostProcess Technologies is a pioneer in the automated post-printing industry. As a provider of automated and intelligent post-processing for 3D printed parts, the company worked toward increasing the consistency, throughput, and productivity of the third step of 3D printing – post-processing. The company’s CEO Jeff Mize recently explained the latest Hybrid DECI Duo System (see the specs), which provides both support removal and surface finish on plastics and metals.
The post processing phase currently represents one of the most significant bottlenecks in the automation process however it is also undergoing some of the most rapid evolutions in terms of automation, especially in the realm of polymer powder bed fusion based technologies.
As new technologies have been introduced which are capable of cost effectively 3D printing batches of several thousands and even tens of thousands of parts, the demand for automated, highly efficient post processing solutions has emerged. HP multijet fusion (MJF) technology and the recently announced high speed sintering (HSS) from voxeljet and Xaar are expected to drive demand for fully automated post processing systems as part of independent and integrated cell manufacturing units. Two companies that are working to cater to this demand are New York State based PostProcess Technologies and UK based AMTechnologies. Both companies offer a number of automated post processing solutions for polymer based processes.
PostProcess Technologies now offers 10 different solutions (under brand names MILLI, MICRO, DECI, BASE, CENTI) for support removal and surface finish, which include various different sizes, shapes and automation features. The latest Hybrid DECI Duo provides both support removal and surface finishing of 3D printed parts in an automated in a single, multi-functioning system, designed to optimize production floor space. The system was engineered for support removal and surface finishing of both advanced plastics and metals, including light-cured resins, high performance Ultem and superalloys.
“We first understand the 3D printing methodology, material and geometry; and then implement a solution for your requirements. Our proprietary software has been developed to include variable levels of focused agitation which adjust for tightly controlled heat, constant detergent flow and variable air pressure to ensure the right level of support removal and/or surface finish,” Mr. Mize explained.
It works through a combination of optimized energy, exclusive detergents, and suspended solids, and it is guided by patent-pending Agitation Algorithms to remove support material and provide the desired surface finish while preserving fine-detail part geometries. Compressed air works as a propellant for suspended solid media, within the Hybrid chamber, to deliver accurate support removal and surface finishing. Detergents and suspended solids have been developed specifically for 3D metal parts and high-performance plastics.
“Working in conjunction with our proprietary software, patent-pending hardware and our exclusive consumables we produce the right mixture to be discharged over the surface and provide exacting support removal and surface finishing,” Mr. Mize added.
The DECI Duo also offers the flexibility of a manual mode to allow for hands-on part finishing however it also integrates a wastewater management system to easily dispose of all removed materials during support removal and smoothing.
In this patent-pending system, support removal and surface finishing of 3D printed parts is automated in a single, multi-functioning system and designed to optimize production floor space. The company estimates that on average at least one finishing station is required for every 3D production-ready 3D printers, depending on the technology. The system can work with FDM, SLS, SLA, Polyjet, Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), CLIP. It can process aluminum and steel form all major metal 3D printing technologies however it is very much dependent on support design for effectiveness. The same machine can also finish the surface, both external and internal (anywhere water flows) of geometrically intricate parts.