Strategic Assessment of Post-Processing in Metal Additive Manufacturing
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Post-processing of metal 3D-printed parts is a broad category and has long been considered the most time-intensive part of the additive manufacturing workflow. It is often more expensive and time consuming than the printing process itself. It is, in one form or another, a given in metal additive manufacturing. There are various techniques that are used to improve the mechanical properties and appearance of parts, and these will vary widely between various printing technologies, equipment, and applications. But it is especially significant for serial production and highly critical applications. Ultimately, the workflow must be designed to meet all the requirements of the finished parts, both aesthetic and mechanical.
In this report, we look at the common post-processing steps, what they can achieve, and the challenges observed. We will discuss the relative cost considerations to keep in mind as well as costs that often go unaccounted for in the workflow. We will discuss many of the OEMs and service providers that are active in this space, as well as some specific case studies and research that has been recently conducted. And, often forgotten, we will discuss some of the critical considerations in the design stage that can greatly influence the post-processing stage in the overall workflow. We finish with a discussion on the future trends, to include end-to-end solutions and automation, data optimization, software solutions, and the current state of standards and regulations as they pertain to post-processing.