Since March 2020, additive manufacturing has gained a lot of press for the way in which it was relied upon for pandemic emergency supply production. When hospitals and healthcare facilities were suddenly short on everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) to breathing apparatuses, additive manufacturing stepped up to the plate to produce mass volumes of these critical supplies.
Specifically, additive users often turn to vat photopolymerization print technologies like stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) for benefits like highly accurate part builds and cost-effectiveness. However, the final leg of this process, post-printing and especially resin removal, has traditionally been prohibitive to this technology’s progress, until recently.
The Issues with Traditional Resin Removal
The tricky part of vat photopolymerization post-printing is that engineers must find the best solution to target the non-polymerized oligomers of the resin, without affecting the polymer itself. Traditionally-used solvents like isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or tripropylene glycol methyl ether (TPM) can be exceptionally harsh, and may even put a strain on safety initiatives. Additionally, the frequent chemical change-outs associated with these chemicals often lead to a significant amount of downtime and an increased risk of hazardous spills. Moreover, using handheld tools and laborious manual methods to clean 3D printed parts can lead to repeat-use injuries and burgeon into bottlenecks that cost operations significant amounts of time and money.
Even with a large product availability of finishing solutions meant to lessen the burden of resin removal, these technologies often result in unfinished parts and lengthy cycle times. Needless to say, automated systems designed specifically for additive manufacturing can be revolutionary for additive operations. Solutions from PostProcess Technologies are the only one of their kind to combine software, hardware and chemistry to transform resin workflows.
The Empire Group, a U.S.-based service bureau, as well as Splitvision, a Swedish industrial design agency, are two companies who experienced workflow benefits as a result of incorporating PostProcess solutions into their workflow.
Bolstering Scalability with Automated Technologies
Empire Group, based out of Attleboro, Massachusetts, has been giving their customers faster prototype delivery times and increased productivity since 1999. However, when it came to finishing their stereolithography-made 3D printed parts, Empire Group faced bottlenecks that prohibited the company from achieving optimal finishing results. The company’s traditional post-printing methods grew more problematic as the service bureau’s workload and amount of printers increased. As the company scaled, it quickly became obvious that without an automated solution, the amount of time dedicated to resin removal would unfavorably increase as well.
To keep their scale-up going smoothly, Empire implemented the PostProcess DEMI 800, an automated resin removal submersion system complete with proprietary detergent specially formulated for stereolithography. The DEMI 800 effectively removes excess resin via software-controlled agitation algorithms. This patented technology, Submersed Vortex Cavitation (SVC), ensures consistency and prevents part damage. The PostProcess chemistry also enables a longer lifespan than the IPA solvent, which Splitvision was using previously.
Now that Empire’s engineers can dedicate less time to resin removal, the staff is able to direct their energy on more valuable tasks such as performing maintenance, quoting orders, build tray optimization and more. The automated SVC technology has reduced stereolithography resin removal times by at least 50% on average for Empire Group.
Improving Workplace Safety with Proprietary Detergent
The Swedish industrial design agency Splitvision found instantaneous improvement in the process efficiencies, mechanical properties and fine feature details of its prototypes with the implementation of a vat photopolymerization printer. Previously, Splitvision always made prototypes from polyurethane (PU) foams or solid plastic materials to evaluate form and ergonomics. This was traditionally done using hand tools, so to develop more detailed prototypes they typically had to outsource the process.
Their new printer solved the outsourcing issue, but without an automated post-processing system, Splitvision was left to deal with several cumbersome and inhibitive bottlenecks in its new additive workflow. With regards to the design casings, it was especially tedious to fully clean the resin off of the casings' fine-feature details using a traditional solution like IPA. As it took excessive amounts of time, the extra labor unnecessarily drove up unit costs. Splitvision found that their work environment was also compromised by the strong smell of the solvent and by the hazard created by its flammability.
An automated post-printing solution from PostProcess Technologies functioned not only to streamline the resin removal process, but to improve overall workplace safety. Unlike the highly flammable IPA, the PostProcess detergent has a high flash point so it will not ignite from a spark at the working temperature of the machine, thus alleviating fire hazard worries. In addition to being more pleasant to work with, the detergent is especially efficient at dissolving uncured resin. Even in parts with deep narrow features, the time for one cycle never exceeds ten minutes.
Another benefit that Splitvision has found with the PostProcess solution is its ability to leave the support structure intact during UV post-treatment of the resin parts. This is vital as the presence of support structures during post-zEtreatment lessens the chance that part geometries will warp or change during the curing process and ensures high part quality and consistency. Thanks to the many benefits of the PostProcess solution, Splitvision offers their printed parts at a reasonable price and can effectively print multiple items in one run.
As you can see, when throughput is essential, PostProcess automated support and resin removal solutions are engineered to help you optimize in the ways that matter most like improving your bottom line while efficiently meeting the demands of volume production.
How it Works: Meet the Demi 800 in the video below!
Learn more about the PostProcess Demi 800 support removal option to make your final step in production go from overwhelming to automated.