On demand manufacturing

PostProcess Technologies launches new ‘Variable Acoustic Displacement’ powder removal technology

Automated post-printing system manufacturer PostProcess Technologies has announced the launch of its fifth technology family.

Dubbed Variable Acoustic Displacement (VAD), the patent-pending polymer powder removal technology is specially designed for use with SLS and MJF 3D printed parts. By streamlining the depowdering process through software-driven automation, the system is ultimately intended to lift a bottleneck and increase throughput for high-volume polymer part production.

Daniel J. Hutchinson, inventor of VAD and Founder/CTO at PostProcess Technologies, states: “We have a strong team commitment to developing solutions that will enable the scalability of the market, and partnerships with early access customers will help ensure technology alignment to market needs. PostProcess is not only expanding its portfolio to better serve those using powder applications, but we are making material reuse easier and unleashing a more sustainable future for the additive manufacturing industry.”

SLS part depowdered using VAD. Photo via PostProcess Technologies.
SLS part depowdered using VAD. Photo via PostProcess Technologies.

The problem with manual depowdering

As it stands, the gross depowdering process (decaking) is highly manual. It usually involves a technician with a vacuum pack, air blaster, and hand tools meticulously cleaning unused powder in and around 3D printed polymer parts. While this works, the process isn’t optimized for the complex geometries found in the 3D printing industry, and tends not to be all that time-efficient. With careless handling, manual depowdering can also result in part breakages, and runs the risk of exposing operators and others in the vicinity to loose powder.

Due to there being minimal digitization, it’s extremely difficult to scale traditional depowdering to facilitate high-volume production, so it ends up being a bottleneck in the 3D printing workflow.

Blasting the SLS printed parts to remove excess powder. Photo via IKEA Today.
SLS parts being air blasted to remove excess powder. Photo via IKEA Today.

Variable Acoustic Displacement

VAD makes use of the company’s AUTOMAT3D software platform to depowder parts with mechanical energy. Specifically, the system identifies geometries with fine-tuned frequencies while emitting sound waves to non-destructively remove loose powder via pressure. This process also features closed-loop control, with a set of video and infrared cameras for monitoring purposes. The temperatures and displacements in the machine are automatically adjusted in real-time to reduce cycle times and increase part fidelity.

Furthermore, VAD is also integrable with the company’s CONNECT3D software (beta), which allows users to monitor and operate multiple PostProcess systems remotely. As such, VAD can be used alongside the rest of the machines in the company’s portfolio, which includes systems for resin removal, support removal, and surface finishing. Having successfully validated the VAD technology with a set of select customers, the company is now expanding its initial availability ahead of the global launch.

PostProcess also recently launched the DEMI 4000, the company’s latest SLA resin removal machine. With a processing tank measuring 890 x 890 x 635mm, the DEMI 4000 is PostProcess’ largest patented submersion system to date, and can hold up to 275 gallons (1040L) of resin removal detergent. It’s designed to accommodate both large part sizes and multi-part builds, addressing the market demand for automated, hands-free finishing systems for high-volume SLA production.

Earlier this year, the company also announced a collaboration with Great Lakes Dental Technologies, one of North America’s largest orthodontic labs, to automate powder removal and surface finishing for 3D printed dental products. Specifically, the RADOR Surface Finishing process will be used to automate powder removal and surface finishing on SLS-printed parts.

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Featured image shows SLS printed part from PostProcess Technologies. Photo via PostProcess Technologies.