When post-processing 3D printed pieces, there are some challenges that need to be considered. If those challenges are not considered, it will be difficult to avoid the bottleneck that will often affect the overall production throughput. The bottleneck is created due to methods and workflows that were adopted by the process when the market was in its early stages. Current post-processing methods are manual, have poor and limited throughput, have long lead times, and often result in inconsistent quality. The post-processing bottleneck can cause a lab’s printing operations to come to a halt and productivity can suffer while waiting for the post-printing process to produce ready parts for your customers.
Most dental labs are concerned about the length of time it takes to finish parts and to have consistent results whether you are printing a medical device - such as splint or denture - or a non-medical device such as printed models and dies. The availability of skilled labor is an increasing concern in addition to technicians with limited skills being used for non-value-added activities.
There is good news, however. The industry has started to tackle post-processing challenges by introducing solutions that help automate and optimize the post-processing workflow. These automated solutions take care of loading and unloading the printed parts and the proper timing to do that. In addition, they use high-efficiency cleaning with powerful oscillating stirrers, which produce a tornado-like vortex every 30-seconds.
In addition to the manual considerations, the detergent used to clean printed parts plays a big role in avoiding the bottleneck. These detergents can clean more effectively than IPA (no tackiness or cracking), their cleaning time is shorter, and they last longer (they don’t get saturated as quickly as IPA). This can be considered qualitative, but many automated cleaning units have a Hydrometer tool that can give quantitative measures.
You should examine post-processing costs to see how automation can drive your cost per part down and streamline your workflow for future growth.
Ultimately, having the right infrastructure in place can open the door to a higher degree of repeatability and productivity with 3D printing. Therefore, implementing post-processing must be a priority for those labs adopting 3D printing for production or looking to ramp up the use of the technology in the future.