The Complete Additive Manufacturing Process (Part 2)

In our previous post we told you the first steps of the complete additive manufacturing process. Do you want to know what are the next points that you should keep in mind? Keep reading! 

4. Preparing the 3D printer

Printer preparation, calibration and configuration operations can be very different and complex depending on the technology. The preparation will also require a more or less exhaustive cleaning of any residue from the previous manufacture and the loading of auxiliary material, such as protective gases or projection, binding agent or additives. The configuration of parameters will be carried out directly on the machine, or in many cases through a software integrated with the equipment. It is not a trivial process, because in additive manufacturing certain process parameters can greatly influence the properties of the part or the final result, more or less satisfactory. If you do not have experience, train or consult experts, you will save many hours, and kilos of material in tests. In technologies with strong thermal input, a pre-simulation of the manufacturing process can help select the most appropriate parameters that minimize distortions or other defects. 

5. Execution of manufacturing 

During manufacturing, parameter monitoring should be carried out and, as far as possible, control data and sensorization data should be recorded and in-situ inspection (probes, camera imaging devices, etc.). In the simplest technologies where sensor or alert capture is not available, work monitoring may be desirable to avoid accidents. 

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6. Inspection, verification and testing

The inspection at this intermediate stage usually affects the dimensional verification and the test, if required, of witness specimens manufactured at the same time as the piece to verify metallurgical structure, density or mechanical properties. 

Dimensional verification can be performed manually or by more or less automated systems coupled to robotic arms. The system verifies critical dimensions, tolerances, or complete geometry according to the requirements of the part, and identifies possible defects or surface discontinuities. 

Validation is also carried out on the monitoring of process parameters carried out in the previous stage and the readings of sensors and sometimes vision systems, installed inside the manufacturing chambers. The monitoring and validation of these readings is carried out through the process management software of the equipment manufacturers, specific software for monitoring, or through the same production management platform (for example, ADDVANCE’s AD2 platform). 

7. Post-processing 

Some of the technologies of metal additive manufacturing, due to the large thermal input that the parts receive, may require a heat treatment of stress relief or other type to modify the microstructure or decrease the anisotropy due to the layered manufacturing process. In the case of some technologies in which binder is used, it must be removed and the green part must undergo a heat treatment, for the final sintering. A thermo-mechanical treatment such as Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) may also be required to eliminate a certain percentage of residual porosity. 

In most technologies it is necessary to clean and some surface improvement treatment, such as shot blasting or sanding, and in some cases even a machining to adjust dimensions, tolerances or surface finish. 

8. Inspection of finished part

The inspection of finished parts can be dimensional, surface finishing or non-destructive testing (NDT). 

As you can see, to be able to carry out the complete additive manufacturing process you only have to follow 8 key steps. If you have any questions or need advice, do not hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to help you! 

In addition, if you want to learn more about additive manufacturing, you can consult our training courses.