A Solukon customer survey reveals insights into the limits of manual depowdering.
In additive manufacturing steps subsequent to the build process are covered under the umbrella term postprocessing. Powder removal is the very first postprocessing step right after the printing. As a result, it has a significant influence on the quality and safety of all subsequent processes such as heat treatment, wire EDM, support removal and powder recovery.
Depowdering is the main field of Solukon, being the first to develop automated solutions to remove trapped powder from complex geometries within metal laser melted parts in 2014.
The machine manufacturer has asked 23 AM experts about the challenges of manual powder removal.
Health hazards and repeatability as main concerns in powder removal in additive manufacturing
The short survey shows that AM experts see health hazards as greatest challenge when it comes to powder removal in additive manufacturing. 78% percent of respondents therefore assess the issue of occupational health as very challenging or at least challenging. Another issue is repeatability: 74% of the AM experts find it difficult to achieve repeatable cleaning results when the powder is removed manually. This is also reflected in the fact that 70% perceive quality as an important issue.
“Occupational health and quality of cleaning results are the main concerns of our AM community”, states Andreas Hartmann, CEO and CTO of Solukon. “This is exactly what we tackle with our Smart Powder Recuperation technology. SPR® enables fully automated, scalable and repeatable cleaning of 3D printed metal parts in a protected atmosphere.”
Handling of large components within powder removal
It seems obvious that depowdering becomes more difficult the larger and thus heavier the components are. Therefore 70% of the AM experts report handling of heavy weight metal parts as a challenge. “Especially with heavy weight components manual depowdering reaches its limits. Parts weighing several hundred kilos obviously require auxiliary equipment. We offer the SFM-AT1000-S, a depowdering unit for parts weighing up to 800 kg for this challenge”, states Hartmann.
Surprisingly, the respondents perceive the challenges with regard to powder as less relevant. Only 43% respectively 35% of the AM experts rate powder recovery and disposal of powder as challenging. This could reveal that AM experts being interviewed possibly have already established successful powder handling processes.