Metal additive manufacturing (AM) is moving from prototype to mainstream manufacturing and, with the increase in printer speeds, a variety of manufacturers are adapting metal AM as a normal production process. Yet the challenges of post-processing remain the same. Rosler has worked with manufacturers for more than 60 years to find better ways to finish their parts, and the AM adoption is another challenge the company is ready to tackle.
1) What is important to achieve a good finish on an AM part?
Understanding the materials, production methods, and final finish requirements of the part is just the starting point. Rosler has always focused on understanding the entire process. With AM parts, this is no different. Being able to understand how design and print parameters influence the printed part is key to providing solid advice to the engineer. Changing build parameters or the orientation in the build chamber can make it harder or easier to achieve the desired finish. So, bring in the expert early and don’t make post-processing an afterthought!
2) Which one process will give me the finished part?
A lot of engineers involved in AM ask us this question. For us, AM is just another manufacturing process, and we treat it the same way as casting, forming, stamping, or machining. Nobody is expecting to achieve a finished part right out of their die-cast machine. These parts go through multiple post-processing steps such as trimming, vibratory finishing, machining, plating, and the like. AM parts are no different.
3) How do you approach these challenges?
We start with comprehensive fact finding to help us understand the manufacturing process from start to finish and then develop a combination of solutions with the customer. Often, the final finish on a 3D-printed part can be achieved by wet blasting the part after printing – this also removes any residual powder – and then vibratory finishing the part with specially formulated finishing media that reduces the surface roughness to the desired value.
4) What happens if these two processes are not enough?
Rosler has been forming partnerships with other experts and companies in the field to bring the most relevant post-processing solutions together. Our AM Solutions brand (https://www.am-postprocess.com) and global coordination of post-processing efforts ensure that we have access to the most suitable solutions for our customers. Sometimes, the best solution might include some hand work before the finishing process to achieve the desired result.
5) What challenges and opportunities do you see ahead?
Rapid improvements of printing speeds, generative design, and the adoption of metal AM as a production method is exciting. As the AM production volumes increase, companies will be demanding post-processing solutions that are optimized and automated. This will require bringing an experienced expert to the table early in the design and development phase. It will also require finishing solution providers, such as Rosler, to stay ahead of the curve to provide new, innovative solutions for AM parts.
Have additional questions? Contact Brett Eldridge at 269.441.3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.