What are the post-processing trends for 3D printing in 2022?

(photo credits: Post Process Technologies)

Appearing later than 3D printers in the complex ecosystem of additive manufacturing, post-processing solutions are nevertheless one of the main levers for the industrialization of this technology. The reason is that today, it is rare that a part can guarantee perfect appearance and/or physical properties when it comes out of a 3D printer. Therefore, post-processing is an almost mandatory step to improve the rendering a 3D printed part, harden or smooth it. Moving a part from its raw state to a finished and ready-to-use part however requires procedures that are often time-consuming, costly and require skilled labor. Depending on the case, post-processing operations can represent between 30 and 70% of the cost of an additive part.

It is in this context that one of its main players, Postprocess Technologies, an American company leader in post-processing equipment for additively manufactured parts, published a new study on post-processing trends in 3D printing. A fourth annual survey, one of the first findings of which concerns the growing concern of users of additive manufacturing at the production level, about the adequacy of current offerings to meet their needs.

“I often hear post-processing referred to as a ‘dirty little secret’ in additive manufacturing, but it doesn’t have to be. » said Melissa Hanson, CMO of PostProcess. ” We are excited to continue our mission to bring this critical phase of the overall 3D printing workflow to the forefront and lead post-processing trend analysis, which is highly anticipated and critical to growth. of the rapidly evolving additive industry. »

In this new study where we can discover the supporting figures, the most used additive manufacturing techniques, it is not surprising that we find that with 54%, 48 and 37%, 3D printing processes by extrusion, photopolymerization and powder bed laser fusion, are still the ones that will dominate the uses. These three main printing technologies alone account for 65% of all responses. The most interesting figure is that 34% of respondents say they have used 3D printing for a decade or more. That’s twice as much as last year.

Post-processing operations most used by additive manufacturing users

Post-processing operations most commonly used by additive manufacturing users (credits: Postprocess Technologies)

In line with these trends, post-processing operations related to support (54%), resin (42%) and powder removal processes (35%) are still reported by respondents as the most important task. tasks focused on post-processing. When looking at the percentage of time spent on various post-processing methods, those using extrusion and material jetting 3D printers spend the most. Half of their time will be devoted to removal of support structures.

As for those using binder jetting systems, pure energy deposition and hybrid processes, they devote most of their time to post-processing on surface finishing. While light-curing users focus on resin removal and carrier removal, Multi Jet Fusion and Powder Bed Fusion users spend most of their time removing residual powder. More than just staining, painting or steam straightening.

The most interesting study in this genre study, are the complaints and difficulties that users can report. The most notable development comes from those using PBF (laser powder bed fusion). Where two years ago they were mainly concerned about labor costs, damaged parts and throughput, now they also report their staffing issues, but also their concerns about the plan in environmental and waste management. In general, among all printing technologies and all challenges, the highest percentage, at 52%, is related to the finishing time considered too long for parts resulting from extrusion processes .

Top areas AM users want to invest in to improve their post-processing operations

Top areas AM users want to invest in to improve their post-processing operations (Credit: Postprocess Technologies)

Where users of light-curing systems raise health and safety concerns, waste management is chosen by Material Jetting enthusiasts. Finally, in the 9th part of this study focused on the main areas of post-processing where the respondents want to invest to improve, for 76% of them the quality of the finished parts is higher priority. With 49 and 48% of the votes, other expectations are related to reduced operating times and better performance.

The PostProcess Technologies study also looked at costs related to post-processing operations. He revealed that they have remained consistent year after year. The majority of respondents allocated at least 25% of their additive manufacturing budget to post-processing activities. ” The data becomes more interesting when looking by vertical market segment commented PostProcess Technologies.

Similar to last year, automotive market respondents reported the highest spending on aftertreatment among the top 5 markets, spending 26% or more of their budget on aftertreatment. Users in the industrial machinery industry have a higher percentage. More than 51% of their AM budget goes to post-processing. »

Conducted with companies from 5 industries (automotive, medical, aerospace, manufacturing and machinery), and mainly belonging to the North American (52%) and European (31%) continents, the latest PostProcess report is can be viewed and downloaded for free here.

Alexandre Moussion
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