PostProcess Technologies has developed an automated process for cleaning 3D-printed items. This technology could lead to broader adoption of additive manufacturing.

The cleaning machine incorporates software, chemicals, and hardware, and removes support structures and other printing process leftovers. The machine cleans by circulating fluids around and through the piece. Several sets of controls prevent damage to the piece, the company says.

3D printed wrench. Credit: Wikimedia Commons3D printed wrench. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsThe motion of fluids in the cleaning machine is controlled by software and sensor input to eliminate sinusoidal waves. Detergents are specially formulated to remove supports from most printed items. This phase of the process can be customized to operate for the minimum amount of time needed for cleaning, preventing damage. Proprietary media give the item a final polish.

Daniel Hutchinson, the system’s inventor, has benefitted from support from the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and New York State’s START-UP economic development program.

Dentistry is a potential market for PostProcess. Dentists and orthodontists can scan a patient’s mouth and print a 3D model of teeth, replacing the step of casting impressions. The technician creating braces and other dental appliances casts them directly on the model. An incompletely cleaned model yields rough tooth surfaces; the new machine eliminates this problem, the company says.

Other industries interested in this technology include automotive, aerospace, and medical.

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