AMS Spring 2023

Post-processing to Automate 3D Printing at Formnext 2022

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According to the new “Post-Processing for Additive Manufacturing: Market Analysis and Forecast” report from SmarTech Analysis, this niche segment of the 3D printing sector is expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2031. This explosive growth from just $320 million today is already taking shape at Formnext 2022, where numerous companies are introducing unique post-processing solutions that will automate what is generally a labor- and cost-intensive aspect of the 3D printing workflow. These are just a few of the announcements that have been made ahead of the event.

Depowdering Software for Metal 3D Printing

The post-processing segment is extremely small, with about 80 percent of the providers being 3D printer makers themselves. Outside of these original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), there are just a handful of leading names, among which is Solukon. The company focuses on automatic depowdering, boasting such clients as Siemens, Audi, and Lockheed Martin. After releasing depowdering machines, as well as a sensor and interface kit, the Augsburg firm is now commercializing a unique software dubbed SPR-Pathfinder.

Not to be confused with strategic petroleum reserves, SPR-Pathfinder is a tool that makes a digital twin of a 3D printed part in order to generate the best operation for removing powder from the prints. Solukon’s depowdering machines work performing rotation and targeted vibration to remove loose powder from 3D printed parts. Using flow simulation and the part’s digital twin, SPR-Pathfinder performs the ideal motion sequence to clean complex items.

SPR-Pathfinder was developed by Siemens Technology in a joint project with Solukon, resulting in the team receiving the TCT Post-processing Award for 2019. The software was used solely by development partners, but now that Solukon has acquired exclusive rights to the software, it is now being released commercially to Solukon customers.

Depowdering for Polymer 3D Printing from EOS

Already a user of Solukon’s metal depowdering, EOS is now partnering with PostProcess Technologies to distribute the latter’s Variable Acoustic Displacement™ (VAD) technology. VAD performs the release, transfer, and recovery of loose powder in a thermodynamically controlled process with video and infrared monitoring. In addition to improved post-processing time and overall lower operating costs, VAD is said to improve employee safety, repeatability, and productivity.

The VAD system from PostProcess Technologies.

Nikolai Zaepernick, Chief Business Officer at EOS, said, “This partnership with PostProcess provides a digital connection that enables traceability and connectivity. We found the perfect match with PostProcess in providing our customers with sustainable automated post-processing for their delicate and complex parts manufactured using the EOS P 500.”

VAD was introduced in 2020 and is still under an Early Access Program for customers to use the technology. PostProcess suggests that it “been operating successfully with large industrial customers, processing hundreds of SLS cakes and thousands of parts in production environments.” Now, EOS will help spread VAD further with its own selective laser sintering customers.

Digital Manufacturing Factory of the Future

Another leader in the post-processing space, AMT, will be presenting a two-story, nearly-200-square-meter booth at Formnext as a means of conveying a Digital Manufacturing Factory of the Future concept. The booth will feature a PostPro DP Max cleaning system, more than one SF chemical vapor smoothing machines, an End-to-End Digital Manufacturing System (DMS), and a new “ground-breaking material-specific Surface Finishing system” to be announced at the event.

A rendering of AMT’s Factory of the Future concept booth. Image courtesy of AMT.

Altogether, this will be arranged in such a way as to communicate a factory of the future, created with Steel Roots Design. Additionally, the company will be hosting its second annual PostPro Fest Formnext networking event on the night of Wednesday November 16, 2022, at Chinaski Frankfurt. Information about the event and how to register can be found here.

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