15 processes from 3D printing model to finished part

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A complete 3D printing process, include the printing, the post-processing, the pre-printing, and post-processing, all will affect the quality of the finished part.

1. Import and optimize 3D models
Prepare detailed 3D model files before printing. 3D printed drawing are similar to traditional CNC machining but differ in the type of image preparation and analysis. The files are uploaded to the 3D modeling software for analysis, and then to discuss how to optimize the model. It is usually a small adjustment to the model, mainly to simplify the model printing.

2. Workpiece placement
The placement of the workpiece in the molding chamber is very important, which determines the number and position of the support structure, so it is necessary to determine the placement of the workpiece in the early stage of printing. Usually, most of the support structure is placed on the side that is less often seen, such as the back or bottom. It is best to tilt the workpiece approximately 45 degrees to make better use of the support. The more vertical the workpiece is placed, the worse the stability and the more support structure needed.

3. Generation support
To calculate the position of the support structure is very complicated and is best done by software. In general, the software can independently complete the calculation of the support structure, but it is best to be optimized by experienced technicians based on experience.

4. Preparation before printing
Compared to CNC machining, 3D printing requires very little preparation and only needs to adjust the working platform and fill the resin tank. Usually, the surface of the resin just injected will have some foam or bubbles, which need to be manually removed by a tool. Printing can only begin when the resin is completely horizontal and stationary.

5. Upload 3D model file
The processed 3D model added with the support is saved as a file in the STL format and uploaded to the printer using a USB flash drive. After uploading, the operator should carefully check the file and set the orientation of the printed workpiece.

6. Print
The printing process is automatic and does not require personnel to monitor or enter any information during the printing process. Printing time is determined by many factors, such as the size of the workpiece, the complexity, the materials used, the orientation, and the print layer thickness settings. Industrial-grade 3d printer usually takes more than 24 hours, but it is still faster than most CNC machining. After the printing is completed, the working platform will automatically rise to the initial position, and the finished part will emerge from the resin.

7. Remove the workpiece from the device
The workpiece does not come into direct contact with the work platform when it is printed, otherwise, it will affect the finished product. The support is printed on the stencil on the work platform and the workpiece is printed on the support. The working platform is a stencil through which liquid resin can flow. After the workpiece has been printed, use a blade to carefully remove it from the work platform with a little force. It doesn't matter if the base of the workpiece is destroyed because this part is supposed to be removed.

8. Alcohol cleaning & remove support
The workpiece enters the alcohol cleaning tank as soon as it is removed from the work platform. The environment in which the workpiece is cleaned must be strictly controlled and the staff must wear a full set of safety guards. At this point, the workpiece is not 100% cured, and it feels soft and sticky. Uncured resins can cause harmful irritation to the skin, so wear gloves and protective gear before entering the cleanroom. The operator manually breaks most of the support and cleans the workpiece with alcohol to remove residual resin material.

9. Remove support & polish
After the workpiece is blown dry and placed on the workbench, the operator needs to patiently remove the residual difficult to remove support with special tools to make the surface of the workpiece smoother without damaging the workpiece. Once the support has been removed, it is now possible to start grinding for the first time. This step is mainly to remove the traces left by the support, make the surface smooth, and prepare for post-cure.

10. Post-cure
The newly printed workpieces have not yet reached their optimum polymerization state and need to be post-cured. Except for some materials that do not require post-cure, most of the printed materials are cured after a short period of time, and their performance can be significantly improved.

11. Quality Control
For industrial-grade 3D printing, accuracy is critical, so the quality must be strictly controlled. In general, the dimensions of the finished workpiece and the deviation of the 3D model must be within the allowable range.

12. Secondary grinding
After the first grinding, you can find some particularly rough places through the inspection, so that the sander can accurately polish. Prepare the workpiece for painting.

13. Spray primer and grinding again
Painting is divided into multiple steps. First, apply a primer to the freshly polished workpiece. After drying, it is reinforced and polished to ensure the best smoothness of the surface of the workpiece before the main paint is sprayed. The number of paintings and grinding is determined according to the requirements of the finished product for best results.

14. Spray finish
Painting is the most technologically advanced step in the process, especially when a workpiece has multiple colors.

15. Polishing
After the surface is sprayed, it is polished to optimize the brightness of the workpiece. The time and skill required for effective polishing are beyond our imagination. If done well, the finished product will be very beautiful.

The entire process usually takes 2-3 days, much faster than traditional processes. From imagination to reality, 3D printing is rapidly subverting our traditional lifestyle and production patterns.

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