Q&A: PostProcess Technologies on bringing automated post-processing solutions to the 3D printing space

As its additive manufacturing post-processing portfolio continues to expand – with new technologies patented and new partnerships secured – TCT Magazine caught up with PostProcessing Technologies VP of Marketing Diana Robbins [DR] to discuss some of the company’s latest developments and the importance of offering automation-ready solutions. 

Starting with one of the company’s most recent announcements, can you explain how Variable Acoustic Displacement (VAD) technology works and what issues it addresses with regards to SLS and MJF 3D printing?

DR: Variable Acoustic Displacement is our fifth technology family and the market’s first truly software-driven gross decaking (depowdering) for Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Bulk powder removal for these technologies is traditionally encumbered with significant manual labor, safety issues, and part breakage. Generally hands-on in nature, these methods are not ideal for complex part geometries or scalability.

Our new patent-pending VAD technology employs targeted pressure waves as a non-destructive, dynamic mechanical energy source to align with varying part geometries and batch profiles, effectively mitigating the risk of part breakage and reducing hands-on operator time. These software-driven frequencies also create a series of compressions and rarefactions to release, transfer, and recover loose particles for sustainable reuse of unused materials.

How will VAD’s capabilities help users of SLS/ MJF 3D printing deliver parts at production scales?

DR: At its core, VAD was developed to support high volumes with software automation and the end-to-end digitalisation of the additive workflow in a way that has not previously been done for MJF and SLS post-printing. VAD will allow companies to scale AM workflows to production levels not before achievable in a highly safe and sustainable manner.

When bringing new technologies to market, how important are automation capabilities and how do your software products play a role here?

DR: The additive manufacturing industry is rapidly moving towards higher volumes and a fully connected workflow. Automation is a necessity for the future of the market. As PostProcess was founded on software intelligence, it is built into every new technology we develop. Our software plays a lead role in driving automation that enables increased productivity, consistency, and higher volumes. Our AUTOMAT3D platform is the brains that drives our solutions and orchestrates the hardware and chemistry components with unprecedented process control and ease of use. Additionally, our beta CONNECT3D software is an Industry 4.0 solution that allows the digital thread for smart additive manufacturing to move beyond design and print, all the way through to the final post-printing step.

Pioneering isn’t just about being the first one to blaze the trail, it’s about how you cultivate the space you’ve settled as well.

Why is VVD technology suitable for the Evolve STEP technology?

DR: It was recently announced that Evolve Additive Solutions has chosen PostProcess as a preferred Support Removal Partner (SRP). Specifically, they will integrate PostProcess’s patent-pending Volumetric Velocity Dispersion (VVD) with their own Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP). VVD utilises a proprietary combination of software, hardware, and chemistry to remove support material thoroughly at unprecedented speeds, which aligns with Evolve’s high-speed, high-volume production focus. Additionally, Evolve and PostProcess are cooperating in the plan to seamlessly integrate as a connected solution to streamline production while scaling throughput.

What do you think can be achieved through the Evolve/ PostProcess collaboration?

DR: Additive is en route to Industry 4.0, and this collaboration is a step in reaching that destination faster. Both Evolve and PostProcess prioritise a data-driven approach to optimise the full additive process. As these technologies integrate to connect the digital thread, end customers will realise unprecedented cost-effectiveness and opportunities for scalability.

Moving briefly to SLA processes, what was the motivation behind launching the DEMI 4000 platform? How does this platform work and what challenges does it address?

DR: Until the launch of the DEMI 4000, there was not an automated solution for production SLA resin removal on the market, which caused issues for high throughput SLA operations or those looking to scale. The DEMI 4000 leverages our patented Submersed Vortex Cavitation (SVC) technology and proprietary detergent developed for resin removal, all driven by our AUTOMAT3D software platform. Most significantly, the solution addresses scalability issues. With the ability to process multiple trays of parts at one time in on average 10 minutes or less, this solution increases throughput and improves cycle times no matter the part size. Additionally, as a fully-enclosed system with a ventilation port, the DEMI 4000 ensures safety for operators, effectively controlling fumes while keeping resin and detergents contained.

Specifically speaking to the chemistry component, our newest generation of detergent was found to have dramatically better longevity than all typical solvents (e.g. IPA, TPM, DPM; and 6x faster than IPA), and an exceedingly safe flashpoint over 200°F / 93°C. This equates to less frequent chemical change-outs, improved environmental friendliness, compliance with regulatory requirements, and a better working environment overall.

In August, you were granted a US patent for ‘Apparatus and Method for Support Removal’ to supplement your Submersed Vortex Cavitation (SVC) technology – can you explain what this adds to PostProcess Technologies’ offering and how it benefits your users?

DR: The granting of this patent in U.S. confirms the truly revolutionary nature of our Submersed Vortex Cavitation (SVC) technology for support removal of FDM and PolyJet/Material Jetting parts, and resin removal for SLA/DLP/CLIP parts. SVC in combination with patent-pending detergents and proprietary software ensures for users that 3D printed parts are uniformly, consistently, and reliably exposed to detergent and cavitation as they undergo post-printing. This patent is one of over 50 that PostProcess has filed worldwide, covering our integrated full-stack solution of software, hardware, and chemistry across a number of technology families.

How important is it for PostProcess Technologies to continue innovating and improving its offering to the market?

DR: Pioneering isn’t just about being the first one to blaze the trail, it’s about how you cultivate the space you’ve settled as well. Now that we’ve pioneered the automated post-printing market, we are working day in and day out to continually provide innovative solutions for faster, smarter, and higher-volume additive manufacturing. Innovation, whether it is through the new technologies we are developed or the connections we are establishing, is always of the essence.

And how is this ambition affecting the company’s software products? What improvements are you looking to make there?

DR: Software is the brain of each of our solutions. So as long as we are innovating our solutions, we will be developing improved versions of our software to facilitate improved process control, ease of use, and process functionality. The beta CONNECT3D platform allows PostProcess solutions to leverage the native CAD-file or 3D printer sliced files to automatically define the necessary requirements and algorithms for post-printing. This versatile software is truly unlocking the future of additive manufacturing, working across a variety of polymers and metals, and importing native CAD files.

Going forward, what can we expect from PostProcess Technologies?

DR: As we have done from the start, PostProcess will continue to lead the space with an innovative, data-driven approach to overcoming one of the greatest barriers to efficient additive workflows; post-printing. We will continue to listen to the market in order to effectively solve the problems that are blocking the industry from reaching its full potential.

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