Post-processing, which used to be thought of as the 3D printing industry’s “dirty little secret,” is now a well-known fact and not something to hide. The various post-print finishing processes, from merely removing supports and washing parts to painting and polishing them, are almost always a necessary part of the AM workflow, and a growing number of companies, including AM Technologies and DyeMansion, offer these techniques. heliguy, a British commercial drone innovator that uses 3D printing to make parts, recently called on fellow UK company, AM post-processing solution provider AM Solutions—part of the Rösler Group—to optimize and improve the aesthetics and performance of some of its products.
AM Solutions, according to its Head of Sales Colin Spellacy, has been “working at the forefront of surface finishing for 80 years,” and acknowledges that when it comes to post-processing 3D printed parts, a “unique set of requirements” applies.
“Many companies planning to use AM as a production technology are unaware of the fact that post-processing can account for 50-60% plus of the cost of a finished AM part or component, and as such the use of efficient, automated post-processing technologies is vital,” Spellacy continued. “We are delighted to be working with heliguy, and it is great to see how our M1 Basic machine has become such an integral asset in the heliguy lab.”
heliguy already has a range of various 3D printing equipment in its production facilities, including a Formlabs 3L and Markforged X7, and has also added AM Solutions’ compact M1 Basic post-processing system to its in-house collection.
“It adds the finishing touches to treat or refine 3D-printed parts, such as removing excess material, washing and curing, or sanding and polishing,” heliguy wrote about the M1 Basic. “The enhanced surface finish helps to improve component performance and the general aesthetic of the part.”
The entry-level, all-round solution is used to smooth and polish the surface of both plastic and metal single parts and small batches. It’s supposed to be easy to use and integrate into manufacturing lines, and features an integrated process water recycling system, noise protection, and a comprehensive software package that allows users to store post-treatment processing programs, which helps reduce operator errors. Additionally, by installing divider plates, separate processing chambers can be set up to treat multiple parts at the same time and enable excellent, repeatable surface finishing.
“AM Solutions’ M1 Basic machine not only enhances the surface of our 3D printed parts which both improves performance and look and feel, but it has helped in the development of innovative drone solutions. It is a fantastic machine and it is helping to drive our in-house design and development capabilities to manufacture our own parts, as well as working with third-party organisations to bring their concepts to life,” said Ross Embleton, Lead Product Designer at heliguy. “The M1 Basic is refining the parts we’ve made using the AM process, providing better-looking and better quality commercial-grade end-use products. In smoothing and polishing parts, it also enables us to create a perfect surface for painting or dye, which is another important element of improving the aesthetics. Crucially, the M1 Basic is a very versatile machine, allowing us to work with a greater ecosystem of materials to expand our product offering and truly keep our manufacturing in-house.”
It appears that one of the specific products heliguy used the M1 Basic for comes from its heliguy Lab for 3D printing and rapid prototyping, which works to, according to the website, “create add-ons for drones to enhance their capabilities.” The heliguy design team created a Tactical Dog Camera for police and security personnel: a high-definition camera is attached to a trained dog via some cool headgear, and then transmits footage to a screen that police and surveillance crews can wear and monitor during firearms operations and search and rescue missions. Heliguy says that its bespoke dog cam “reflects our approach of taking drone-industry technology into other areas.”
By using 3D printing and its related technologies, such as AM Solutions’ M1 Basic post-processing system, to manufacture parts and products in-house, heliguy can help lower costs and speed up project timelines.
“AM truly democratises and localises production for manufacturers, and as such opens up huge possibilities for expanding companies such as heliguy,” Spellacy finished. “In the area of post-processing for AM parts, AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology provides a range of processes and machines that are all focused on elevating post-processing from a necessary evil to an enabling technology. We exist to automate the post-processing of AM parts in order to overcome the sometimes, slow, costly, and disconnected AM process chain, and to ensure that AM is an efficient and viable production alternative to legacy manufacturing technologies. We promote innovative, customer-focused process development for AM operations, and we collaborate with customers to ensure the optimal post-processing solution for each application.”
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