October 19, 2021
Wohlers Associates releases a special report titled, “Post-Processing of AM and 3D-Printed Parts.” The publication details many steps in post-processing parts made by additive manufacturing (AM). Examples include support material removal, surface finishing, coloring and coating, and heat treatment. The methods and techniques described in this report can reduce trial and error that so many organizations use.
Post-processing is one of three major phases of producing 3D-printed parts. Nearly 27% of the cost of producing AM parts comes from post-processing, according to research conducted for Wohlers Report 2021. The study involved input from 124 service providers in 27 countries.
The post-processing steps for metal powder bed fusion (PBF) include the removal of powder, thermal stress relief, and the separation of parts and support material from the build plate. They also include the removal of supports from parts, media blasting, and machining and grinding. Some parts may require hot isotropic pressing, additional heat treatment, anodizing and inspection. If post-processing is not scaled and streamlined accordingly, bottlenecks will occur, especially with large quantities.
Design for additive manufacturing is a key to reducing time and costs associated with post-processing. For example, orient metal PBF parts so the faces to be machined are facing downward.
Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.