UK-based Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) is looking closely at an aspect of 3D printing that is critical but all too often swept under the rug in conversation: finishing. Optimization in design, speed and innovation in 3D printers, and strong, high-quality materials are only the beginning of the story of what constitutes a remarkable, useful print. Post-processing has long been heralded as the dirty little secret of the 3D printing world, and it’s easy to overlook what happens after a print job concludes in light of the technological achievements that led to that print job even starting in the first place.
AMT, though, is unafraid to confront post-processing — and its efforts have been rewarded by a receptive industry. Innovate UK awarded AMT as a recipient of a major grant early this year, and that influx of capital was just the jumpstart the company needed to advance its PostPro3D technology.
At the recent formnext event in Frankfurt, I met with AMT CEO Joseph Crabtree to see the new machine in action:
The PostPro3D is now in beta testing, Crabtree told me. Its promise is undeniable; at formnext, AMT was among the five winners of this year’s Start-up Challenge.
“Fine features are still seen, along with improved mechanical properties. There’s still that snap on pieces with components like living hinges,” he explained.
These features are seen on parts that come off machines from the likes of HP and voxeljet. AMT is working with Midwest Prototyping in a recently established partnership to bring the technology into the US market, as well as with Germany’s CIPRES in the European market. Work with partners in a variety of markets and with different expertise is key to innovation and, eventually, to boosting adoption. When we spoke at the recent TCT Show in Birmingham, Crabtree noted that AMT has been “doing loads of testing” and working with “loads of partners.”
At formnext, Crabtree noted that the company is anticipating a commercial release in early Q1 of 2018 for the PostPro3D system. In the future, AMT will additionally be introducing a metrology learning system.
The automation in this post-processing system is, AMT says, a world first.
“We’ve done a lot of market research; that’s not a bullshit statement,” Crabtree said with his trademark straightforward style.
“We are the first to introduce an automated finishing solution, that’s digitally connected, for nylon. It connects to your software and works via the cloud, allowing as well for automated reordering of cartridges.”
Automation, in addition to speeding up the workload for the manual labor-intensive post-processing process, simplifies it for operators.
“This was invented by PhDs, but simple enough for everyday use,” Crabtree said. “You don’t need a PhD to use it.”
We’ll be taking an inside look at AMT’s facilities in the near future as well to get a closer look at just what the Sheffield-based company is offering; for now, they allow this glimpse into operations:
Discuss post-processing, and other 3D printing topics, at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.[All photos: Sarah Goehrke]