The process of printing 3D parts

Written by Phil Owen & Rew Noland

It is a often misconstrued that a 3D printed part magically appears straight out of the printer and is “good to go”.  Firstly 3D printed parts come out of the machine attached to a build plate via support which has been carefully placed to optimise the build. Material is also placed in openings and overhangs to help support the build process.  If the part has been designed specifically for 3D printing, it often requires less support, is easier to clean up and process.

We then cut the part off the build plate and carefully remove the support from the part. When the base part is fully exposed, we can move on to finishing the part. Where support has been placed there will be raised dimples or grids, so we file, die grind and/or linish these areas to achieve a smooth finish.

When the part is smoothed back and we are happy with it, we move on to media blasting. We have a few different media we use to try maintain a consistent finish over the whole part. The material of the part can also determine which media we use. Our standard final finish is done with glass beads and is often sufficient for a majority of parts.

Some customers require a higher level of finish so we can also rumble parts.  This is an additional service and incurs an extra cost.  This process is good for reducing minute irregularities, de-burring and produces a clean, smooth surface.

Hand polishing is another option to take it the next level of finish and this is suitable for the likes of implants and decorative items.

We are looking at options for better finishes with new tooling and machines, so watch this space for more updates!