Wohlers Associates publishes report on post-processing in additive manufacturing

Oct. 18, 2021
According to research conducted for Wohlers Report 2021, nearly 27% of the cost of producing additively manufactured parts comes from post-processing.

According to Wohlers Associates (Fort Collins, CO), organizations involved with additive manufacturing have vast amounts of post-processing knowledge and experience, yet little systematic documentation is available. This has led to countless companies “reinventing the wheel” and spending time and money unnecessarily to complete jobs. The methods and techniques described in this report can reduce trial-and-error that so many organizations use.

Post-processing is one of three major phases of producing 3D-printed parts. According to research conducted for Wohlers Report 2021, nearly 27% of the cost of producing additively manufactured parts comes from post-processing.

Now a special Wohlers report, titled Post-Processing of AM and 3D-Printed Parts, details many time-consuming and often-expensive steps in post-processing parts made by additive manufacturing. Examples include support material removal, the finishing of surfaces, coloring and coating, and heat treatment. The report advises consideration of the entire end-to-end workflow. Bottlenecks are a challenge, especially when scaling into production quantities. The post-processing steps for metal powder-bed fusion (PBF) include the removal of powder, thermal stress relief, and the separation of parts and support material from the build plate. They also include the removal of supports from parts, media blasting, and machining and grinding. Some parts may require hot isotropic pressing, additional heat treatment, anodizing, and inspection. If post-processing is not scaled and streamlined accordingly, bottlenecks will occur, especially with large quantities.

Design for additive manufacturing is a key to reducing time and costs associated with post-processing. For example, orient metal PBF parts so the faces to be machined are facing downward. These down-facing surfaces will be rough due to the support material, so use this to your advantage.

For more on this report, please visit wohlersassociates.com.

For 26 years, Wohlers Associates has published the Wohlers Report, a publication that many refer to as the “bible” of 3D printing.

Source: Wohlers Associates press release

About the Author

David Belforte | Contributing Editor

David Belforte (1932-2023) was an internationally recognized authority on industrial laser materials processing and had been actively involved in this technology for more than 50 years. His consulting business, Belforte Associates, served clients interested in advanced manufacturing applications. David held degrees in Chemistry and Production Technology from Northeastern University (Boston, MA). As a researcher, he conducted basic studies in material synthesis for high-temperature applications and held increasingly important positions with companies involved with high-technology materials processing. He co-founded a company that introduced several firsts in advanced welding technology and equipment. David's career in lasers started with the commercialization of the first industrial solid-state laser and a compact CO2 laser for sheet-metal cutting. For several years, he led the development of very high power CO2 lasers for welding and surface treating applications. In addition to consulting, David was the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine (1986-2022) and contributed to other laser publications, including Laser Focus World. He retired from Laser Focus World in late June 2022.

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