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What Happens After the Print Completes?

When we talk about additive manufacturing and Direct Metal Laser Solidification (DLMS®) the idea is usually around the printing of the part itself. What happens to the part once the build has finished printing? There are many different routes that can occur in post operations, some are able to be completed in-house and some are completed by sub-contractors.

Once the print finishes in the machine and the build plate is removed from the machine it then will go through powder removal process.

After powder removal depending on the material, support strategy, part geometry, and application the build plate may go through a series of heat treatments. Hot Isotropic Pressing (HIP), stress relief, solution anneal, or age hardening are the most common. Some applications require none of these processes and some require two to three of these. These processes may or may not be done on or off the build plate, it is determined by the part geometry and thermal stress that the part went through during the printing process.

Once the parts have gone through the heat treatments if required, they will get cut off the build plate or this step may have already happened prior to heat treatments. Typically done with an Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM), a band saw, or even utilizing hand tools to knock them off the build plate.

Now that the parts are off the build plate, they will go through support removal and cleanup. This can be labor intensive or very simple, it always comes back to part geometry and how the part grew on the build plate. Cleaning of the part can include bead blasting and tumbling of the parts, ultrasonic cleansing, or just plain old water. Technicians also utilize hand tools to clean up rough surfaces that may be due to support structures or how the part was orientated on the build plate, downward facing surfaces will be rougher than upward facing surfaces.

After support removal and clean up the part may need to get a coating of some sort or go to a post machining sub-contractor to get the parts to very precise measurements for the specific application or both. The additional processes to coat the parts are options such as a chemical conversion, anodizing, or a custom coating.

Often customers have requirements for strength, yield, and elongation test to be performed on tensile bars that nest with part on the build plate during the part print.

Another post operation that customers sometimes require is for a CT scan or X-Ray to be complete to see the internal part geometry that cannot be seen after the part is printed.

Final steps include a quality assurance process and finally packaging the parts for shipment to the customer.

For more information on our post operations please contact Stephanie Bonfiglio fobasvtyvb@v3qzst.pbz or Robbie Rosten eebfgra@v3qzst.pbz.

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