There’s one aspect of 3D printing technology that is consistently glossed over by many, and that is post-processing. Even as more and more people become familiar with 3D printing, there’s still a startling number of people who believe that it’s a push-button technology: you push a button, wait a while, and voila! You’ve got a beautiful, magical 3D printed object ready for use. If you’re at all experienced with 3D printing, however, you’ll be well aware that that isn’t the case.
It’s especially not the case with industrial 3D printing. It’s true that with some consumer-level 3D printers, very little post-processing is needed, particularly for simple objects. I’ve 3D printed, for example, a soap dish that I pried off the print bed, plopped a bar of soap into, and moved on. You can’t do that with a 3D printed rocket engine component, however, or even with most industrial prototypes. A part rarely resembles its final form when it’s on the build platform – most parts are encased in a resin support mold, which is lots of fun to remove, especially from more complex parts.
It can be extremely tricky to remove support material without damaging a delicate part, and sometimes post-processing can take longer than the print itself. It’s not something that can be rushed, though, if you don’t want to risk gouging or breaking a part and having to start all over again. Several companies have been working to make post-processing easier, either by developing easy-to-remove supports or by creating new support removal solutions. The latter is what Omegasonics has done.
Omegasonics is a manufacturer of ultrasonic cleaners, which are composed of non-toxic, bubbling solutions capable of removing even microscopic contaminants without harsh chemicals. Ultrasonic waves create the bubbles, which contain vacuum pressure. The vibration creates a scrubbing action called cavitation, which dissolves the resin support without damaging the part itself.
Stratasys Direct Manufacturing became a big fan of the technology after purchasing an Omegasonics SST4030 ultrasonic cleaning machine. The Stratasys subsidiary had been removing support material either with a heated circulating bath washer or by manually breaking or cutting off the support material, but both methods took too long and were too labor-intensive – it could take as much as 24 hours to remove supports from large parts with the circulating bath washer.
When they found out that Omegasonics cleaning units could clean common 3D printing materials such as ABS, nylon and polycarbonate, they decided to visit the nearby company for a demo. They were sold right away.
“It used to take a full day to manually remove support material from some 3D parts,” said Armen Boyajyan, Product Finishing Manager, of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. “Now we just put the parts into the ultrasonic cleaner and do something else while they’re being cleaned. After three hours, we have nice, clean parts.”
“We’ve been able to reassign three full-time workers from the cleaning process to other revenue generating activities,” added Bill Bryan, Product Manager at Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. “And because parts are clean in just a few hours, we can deliver them to clients a day sooner, which enables us to generate revenue more quickly.”
Recently Omegasonics introduced a detergent called CleanMor 706, which is specifically designed to remove support material from prints made with Stratasys Objet 3D printers utilizing 706 material. The solution was created in order to help a hospital remove delicate, complex support material from pediatric heart and other organ models before surgery. Prior to the development of CleanMor 706, the hospital was using a harsh powder that released dust particles into the air, and the facility was considering the necessity of installing an eye wash station. With the new method, that won’t be necessary.
“With the development of CleanMor 706, operators simply pour the liquid detergent into their ultrasonic tank and it will quickly dissolve the support material,” said Joe Gilbert, Vice President of Sales at Omegasonics. “It’s truly a game changer and the perfect solution for medical applications and any other industrial application requiring 3-D prints involving 706 material. The detergent does not discolor the piece or dry it out.”
While you may not need an ultrasonic cleaner for a 3D printed figurine, the technology could make the lives of industrial 3D printing companies a lot easier. You can learn more about Omegasonics’ ultrasonic cleaning technology below:
Discuss in the Omegasonics forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Omegasonics]