3D printing is one of the most exciting technologies to come out in recent years. It combines both design and engineering into a process that has limitless potential for creativity. In Malaysia, many businesses adopt it as a means of prototyping their designs before they’re manufactured or have the final parts produced all by relying on 3D printing services.
However, what you might not know is, your trusted 3D printing company can do more to make your prototypes better and more accurate than ever through post-processing, which is an important part of 3D printing. This is the final stage where the object is finished and made ready to be tested or used. Continue reading to learn more about the post-processing stages and tools used.
1. Cleaning 3D printed products
For starters, where there are overhanging features, support structures would have been used if your parts are 3D printed by Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing. Once the print job is complete, the soluble or insoluble support material will need to be removed before your part is ready for use. This can be done by either manually breaking it away or submerging it in environmentally friendly cleaning agent and water to dissolve.
On the other hand, as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing or Multijet Fusion (MJF) by HP is a powder bed additive manufacturing process, the finished product will have to be cleaned of excess powder. This can also be achieved manually at a cleaning station using compressed air or media blasters. Any residue powder will be filtered to remove it from parts and passed on for recycling, enabling minimal material wastage in the SLS or MJF 3D printing process.
In the case of Stereolithography or SLA 3D printing, the parts will first be removed from the build platform. They will then be washed in Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solvents to dissolve the liquid resin and soaked. Parts need to be dry with an air gun connected to an air compressor before proceeding to post-curing.
Should there be small gaps or cracks, this will also be manually corrected during post-processing. The 3D printing company may work on these areas using either fillers or hardeners. A thorough filling job can also reduce the amount of time spent on sanding when it comes to the surface finishing stage in post-processing.
As some designs may be too large to print as one piece, separate 3D printed parts can also be attached together through gluing and welding.
To increase the strength and stability of your parts, curing using UV light is integral to maximise your product’s mechanical properties. Under the ideal post-cure setting, SLA 3D printed products can be further hardened to achieve the maximum strength required of your product. However, take note that if your 3D printing company is not careful, it is possible to over-cure and result in brittle parts. Especially if your products are cured under a high-powered UV curing station, the expertise of an experienced 3D printing partner can make a difference in this crucial stage.
4. Surface finishing
Once the above stages have been completed, surface finishing will come in handy to enhance the appearance of your parts. Here, sandpaper is the most common post-processing tool used. It can help remove small surface imperfections and smooth out any rough edges left over from slicing up your prototype model into layers. There are many other surface finishing tools available and it is best to do further research to find the right tools to your needs.
To create a surface finish like that of injection moulding, vapour smoothing or vapour sealing is also used during post-processing to produce parts that are watertight, smoother and stronger – which Expert3D via our sister company Additive3D Asia is proud to be the first to offer the chemical Vapour Smoothing process in Malaysia and Southeast Asia to all our customers.
Finally, 3D printed products will be manually sprayed to achieve the desired colour and results. From sanding to applying an equal amount of primer to finally spray painting a few layers of color codes with the right techniques to achieve a flawless final surface finishing from glossy to matte. With the new PolyJet 3D printing has achieved a mutli color blended technology which is able to achieve Vivid, Opaque, Pantone and Voxel Color printing. This new technology is today available and within reach of the respective industry, but it required a high upfront capital investment on equipment and high material and year maintenance cost.
Get the Right Team on the Job
Post-processing in 3D printing is a vital step to the process. Though it may seem like a small detail, post-processing can make or break your final product. Ultimately, the level of quality you want for your end result will depend on the capabilities of your trusted 3D printing company. Explore how the necessary finishing touches of your product will be added with the team at Expert3D today.