Post-Processing

As additive manufacturing technologies experience greater use for batch, serial and mass part production, post-processing becomes increasingly relevant. Our main focus at VoxelMatters is on digital additive mass production – a market described by the acronym AMP – so the need to produce fully finished parts and the enabling technologies to achieve this via AM have always represented a key area of interest.

One of the biggest hurdles to the greater adoption of AM in production was always a tendency to underestimate the impact of cost-effectively post-processing large series of prints. On unique, ultra-high-value parts such as prototypes and tools, post-processing is a relatively minor concern. But the challenges grow exponentially when it comes to post-process tens, hundreds and even thousands of parts in a few days.

Producing fully finished parts presents significant challenges in the polymer AM market and it presents even bigger challenges in metal AM and ceramics AM. So much so that even metal PBF technologies, where part sintering/fusion takes place during the printing process, resulted more time-consuming in terms of their post-processing phase than binder jetting technologies, where debinding, infiltrations and sintering are all carried out as additional post-processes.

The segment for AM post-processes differs for each major technology but can be generally intended as including these main areas: Powder Removal and Sieving systems, Debinding and Sintering systems, Material and Parts Handling systems, Measurement and Inspection systems, Support Removal systems, and Thermal Treatment/UV Curing systems. Automated quality control systems, as well as sorting and packaging systems are also increasingly relevant elements of post-processing in fully automated workflows targeting additive mass production.

Today there is a much greater awareness of the various post processes that are required in all AM technologies, both through operators such as AM Solutions, PostProcess Technologies, AMT, Solukon and D-Lyte (among others) that focus specifically on automating AM and several other companies specializing in automated post-process solutions for injection molding and other traditional technologies now looking more closely at the AM market.

In this month’s VM Focus, we will highlight many of these companies and their capabilities. For a complete list of companies specializing in the various phases of pre- and post-processing AM solutions, visit the VoxelMatters Directory dedicated section on Automation and Post Process companies here.

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