Fused Deposition Modeling, also known as FDM is one of the most widely used additive manufacturing processes in use today for creating prototype and functional production parts for industry. By depositing layers of molten engineered plastic through a fine tip, parts are created out of thin air from a computer generated 3D rendering. The process requires a support structure which acts as a nest to hold the 3D printed item in place during the construction process. How you remove this support structure is the last hurdle in creating the finished product.
Support structure comes in both non-water soluble and water soluble materials. The only way to remove non-water soluble structure is to literally crack and peel it off, similar to what you go through to eat crab legs. This same procedure can be used for water soluble materials, but there are several easier, more efficient removal methods
Agitation washers swirl hot water with a mix of highly caustic sodium hydroxide/ carbonate formulas at a high rate of pressure and flow. The advantage is that these units are quiet and can live in any office environment. The limitations include possible breakage on delicate parts due to the high pressure and banging against tank side walls, the length of time needed to remove the support, the parts take longer to dry due to lengthy immersion, the moderately high cost of purchase, and the lack of precision cleaning detail.
High pressure spray washers dramatically shorten drying times because they are showered, not submerged in a bath, so the parts don’t become saturated. Parts damage is controlled by applying even pressure across all surfaces, thus parts aren’t banged around. Spray washers are better suited for larger FDM prints and lose effectiveness on smaller intricate parts. The main disadvantages to this technology are its large footprint, higher noise and extremely high price point.
Ultrasonic washers are submersion baths, so parts take as long to dry as an agitation wash, however they are quicker and gentler than agitation or pressure washing for removing support material. They don’t need special plumbing either and are moderately priced. The limitation of an ultrasonic washer is it is loud and can’t exist in some office environments.
The last style washer available for post processing combines ultrasonics and agitation. These hybrid washers give you the dual cleaning advantages of pressure agitation and the precision ultrasonic cavitation for 30-50 percent faster cleaning times. They are plc based allowing users to select support material recipes. Though the ultrasonic cycle is still louder than the agitation cycle, these units are built with better sound dampening allowing them more acceptance in an office environment. The cost is higher than an agitation or an ultrasonic only washer, but still less than a pressure wash cabinet.
Omegasonics makes a full range of ultrasonic, agitation and hybrid agitation washers. Visit www.omegasonics.com