How Advantage Engineering is Leveraging Post-Processing to Turn 3D Printed Raw Parts into High Value Products
Additive manufacturing, popularly known as (industrial) 3D printing, has proved itself to be a reliable technology that produces high quality parts for prototyping as well as production/end use.
Industrial-grade 3D printed parts are manufactured using technologies such as HP’s multi jet fusion (MJF), which means that the production is largely automated. However, the job doesn’t end there. Once out of the printer, the parts are covered in powder and rough. As a result, they need to be cleaned and treated before they can be packed and shipped.
Since much of this work is still done manually, labor-related challenges including quality, speed, and consistency creep in. The question that most manufacturers and engineering professionals interested in this space, therefore have, is what can be done to overcome these challenges?
At a recent webinar organized by CAD MicroSolutions (represented by Doug Angus-Lee), Advantage Engineering’s Mark Rauth and DyeMansion’s Joe Dedvukaj delved into post-processing of 3D printed parts and the role sophisticated equipment plays in that workflow.
Mark Rauth VP Operations, Advantage Engineering Inc. Mark has nearly three decades of experience within the tooling, prototyping, and additive manufacturing space. In that time he has gained extensive knowledge about the industry. He adopts a consultative approach at Advantage Engineering with all his clients and tackles the need for innovation head-on at every stage of the customer journey.
Joe Dedvukaj Channel Manager, Americas, DyeMansion Channel Manager for the Americas, Joe Dedvukaj has 10+ years of experience in technical sales in virtually all industries from Medical & Automotive to Aerospace. Joe’s passion in building relationships with DyeMansion partners and customer base is unmatched.
Doug Angus-Lee Senior Additive Manufacturing Account Manager, CAD MicroSolutions Doug has more than 30 years of industrial sales experience with 10 years specializing in Additive Manufacturing solutions for automotive, medical, automation, and manufacturing companies across Canada.
Advantage Engineering was the first company in Canada to invest in an industrial 3D printer way back in 1996 and has seen the technology evolve over time, including in the post-processing space.
DyeMansion, for example, produces two pieces of equipment known as the PolyShot C and the PolyShot S (where C stands for Cleaning and S stands for Surfacing), which automate the post-processing of 3D printed parts.
Advantage Engineering invested in this equipment quite early on because the company realized that the purchase would be nothing short of revolutionary.
How automated post-processing of 3D printed parts delivers quality, speed, and consistency
Mark, who spoke at the webinar, explained that having an automated workflow made it possible for Advantage Engineering to tackle the quality, speed, and consistency issues that many others in the space face.
When removing the powder coating additively manufactured parts that come out of the printer, using a labor-powered workflow leads to inconsistencies and raises quality issues. Since labor isn’t always readily available, it also slows down production.
With regards to quality, an important thing to remember is that when manual labor is used to clean the parts, the exact results might not be reproduceable – especially a couple of months down the line if the team has moved on to other jobs.
Using an automated workflow that relies on sophisticated equipment, like the PolyShot C and the PolyShot S produced by DyeMansion, is the answer.
To illustrate how this really gives Advantage Engineering a leg up on its competitors, Mark shared the story of the company working on producing 3D printed face shields during the pandemic for the Canadian government as part of a consortium that included other manufacturers.
Since Advantage Engineering was the only company in the team that invested in an automated workflow, they were able to produce and ship high quality parts in record time while others struggled to get the job done because they faced pandemic-related labor issues. Once Advantage Engineering met its quota, it offered to help other manufacturers in the consortium to ensure the Canadian government’s expectations were met.
Taking a cue from results produced by the company, others in the consortium expressed interest in building an automated workflow as well.
Understanding the technology behind automated post-processing of 3D printed parts
Having mentioned the sophisticated equipment, let’s see what the PolyShot C and the PolyShot S actually do.
The PolyShot C cleans usually takes 10 minutes to clean a mid-sized build job, even when parts designs are complicated. The blasting cabinet is equipped with a stainless-steel rotary basket with different blasting nozzles and an ionization unit to ensure reproducible results.
The machine features a basket with a soft and replaceable lining that protects the parts from damage during the process. Two simultaneously working blasting nozzles are positioned perpendicular to the rotating basket and the contained parts. The cyclone cleans the blasting media constantly. This configuration guarantees an efficient powder removal and delivers residue-free parts for brilliant colors.
Once cleaned, most parts are moved to the PolyShot S which uses shooting beads accelerated with compressed air to equalize the peaks and lows on the surface of 3D printed parts, achieving a more homogenous quality.
Why use the PolyShot S after the part has already been cleaned? The equipment is critical to maximizing coloring results, delivering a unique semi-gloss look and pleasant haptics for almost every 3D-printed end-use product.
Like the PolyShot C, the PolyShot S also takes about 10 minutes for most mid-sized build jobs. Further, since DyeMansion’s surfacing equipment replaces abrasive methods like tumbling, it is perfectly suited for hard plastics such as nylons PA12 or PA11, across all geometries.
Advantage Engineering uses DyeMansion’s equipment to deliver the best results to customers who require 3D printed parts. However, experience does play a big role in the final output – which is why Mark’s team pays special attention to the first cycle of each part running through the two machines.
When the finish in one cycle doesn’t meet the baseline, the team knows to put it through another cycle and establish that as the ‘standard or default’ for upcoming post-processing tasks. The team’s acumen comes from years of delivering high quality 3D printed parts to customers across automotive, aerospace, medical devices, consumer goods, and other industries.
To learn more about why you should insist on automated post-processing of your 3D printed parts, watch a replay of the webinar or get in touch with Advantage Engineering now.