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Post Processing in 3D Printing

Post-processing is an often overlooked part of the 3D printing process. As the additive manufacturing market moves from prototyping to tools used in production or final/end-use parts geared toward consumer markets, the physical and chemical properties and appearance of 3D printed products is becoming increasingly important. That's where post-processing of 3D printed parts comes into play.

What is post-processing in 3D printing?
Parts manufactured with 3D printing technologies typically require some degree of post-processing after production. This important step in the 3D printing process is known as post-processing. In short, post-processing in 3D printing refers to any process or task that needs to be performed on a printed part, or any technique used to further enhance the object. Think of it as a finishing touch to treat and refine the parts coming out of a 3D printer. Options for post-processing 3D printed parts include removing support or excess material, washing and curing, or sanding or polishing a model.

Costs of post-processing 3D printed parts.
Post-processing can be expensive, especially when done by hand. Manual post-processing is labor-intensive and not scalable. It is also unsustainable in large series production.

The cost of post-processing can account for nearly one-third of the production cost of a 3D printed model. According to Wohler's 2018 report, 27% of a model's total production costs can be attributed to post-processing related costs, which include part breakage costs.

However, the recent development of various post-processing systems means that the task of finishing 3D printed parts can be automated and, as a result, will drive down costs.

Different companies are developing post-processing equipment to automate the process. For example, our partners at AM Solutions offer automated surface finishing, ranging from rough treatment of parts to remove supports to mirror-like surface polishing.

Note that the post-processing technique may vary depending on the printing process used to create the model. While a part printed in resin on a Rapid Shape 3D printer would need to be washed to remove excess resin, a part printed on a Markforged 3D printer might require little post-processing except removal of supports. A metal part printed on the Kurtz Ersa Alpha 140 3D printer would require heat treatment to bring the part to the desired hardness and remove thermal stresses from the part.

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