Wohlers Associates Report on Additive Manufacturing Post-Processing

As a close ally of the Online Instructional Resources for Material Science Technology Education (MatEdU), Wohlers Associates is a helpful and well-known resource for those interested in materials science, additive manufacturing (AM), and other advanced technology areas that impact technician education and materials education.

Photo by Minkus on Unsplash

In fact, many educators who have downloaded lessons and coursework from the MatEdU Module library, specifically around Materials Processing, will be keen to learn a bit about Wohlers Associates new report, Post-Processing of AM and 3D-Printed Parts. In it, the firm explains methods that industrial additive manufacturers are using to efficiently removing support material (if you click through to the order page, you can see some of the following methods listed out):

  • 11 approaches to finishing and smoothing surfaces of parts
  • 7 ways to color, coat, and protect parts
  • 7 methods of heat treatment

There are many educational institutions that purchase various reports from Wohlers Associates, so readers may be able to find them in school libraries or through inter-library loans. 

Post-processing is one of three major phases of producing 3D-printed parts. According to research conducted for Wohlers Report 2021, nearly 27% of the cost of producing AM parts comes from post-processing. The study involved input from 124 service providers in 27 countries. The following chart presents the cost segmentation between pre-processing, printing, and post-processing among companies that offer both metal and polymer AM.

Wohlers Associates Post Processing Report Chart

For 2-year and 4-year college students working on ideas and methods for producing parts on a 3D printer, post-processing is a large part of the production calculation. For instance, according to Wohlers Associates, “the post-processing steps for metal powder bed fusion (PBF) include the removal of powder, thermal stress relief, and the separation of parts and support material from the build plate. They also include the removal of supports from parts, media blasting, and machining and grinding. Some parts may require hot isotropic pressing, additional heat treatment, anodizing, and inspection. If post-processing is not scaled and streamlined accordingly, bottlenecks will occur, especially with large quantities.”

A tip from Wohlers: “Design for additive manufacturing is a key to reducing time and costs associated with post-processing. For example, orient metal PBF parts so the faces to be machined are facing downward. These down-facing surfaces will be rough due to the support material, so use this to your advantage.”

You can search the Wohlers Associates blog for Additive Manufacturing Processing tips as well as ideas around designing for additive manufacturing in various blog posts. 

MatEdU Modules on Additive Manufacturing offer course frameworks and lessons for those who are new to 3D printing and looking to introduce the technology to students. If you are interested in a detailed, high-level module on Additive Manufacturing of Magnetic Materials, then scroll down in the above linked list for the post by Dr. Seymur Hasanov and Dr. Ismail Fidan at Tennessee Tech University. 

Sign Up Now: TTU Offers Digital Manufacturing Instruction using Virtual Reality

In a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute (2021), an estimated 2.1 million manufacturing-related jobs may go unfilled by 2030 — and this could cost the U.S. economy as much as $1 trillion. MatEdU News and its partners have reported on the manufacturing skills gap before (in this Materials Science Careers post, for example) and offered educational strategies to help mitigate it, including a new training workshop in early 2022.


A wide range of universities and colleges, including Tennessee Tech University, Edmonds College, Purdue University Northwest (links go to related programs or professors), and many others, are lining up to help educators guide students to deeper understanding and knowledge of advanced manufacturing methods, using cutting edge technology and innovative approaches. 

Using Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), the upcoming workshop in January 2022 will give educators the tools to, at minimum, keep up with, and hopefully outrun this seemingly faster skills gap. Manufacturers are looking for new ways to teach workers new skills and VR and AR are increasingly being used. Community college professors and high school educators can use this workshop to move to the forefront of this shift to speed up and improve training for and student awareness of manufacturing. 

From January 10 – 14, 2022, this NSF-funded virtual workshop on Digital Manufacturing (DM) Instruction using Virtual Reality (VR) technology will cover VR-based digital manufacturing instruction practices. 

The workshop is directed toward community college instructors and high-school teachers interested in digital manufacturing instruction using virtual reality tools and techniques. A stipend of $600 and a high-tech VR headset will be provided.

Please apply for the workshop only if you can commit to attend the entire workshop and complete the workshop requirements. Application deadline is December 10, 2021. Applicants can apply via the 2022 Digital Manufacturing online application here, including the full expectations and requirements. The number of participants is limited to 30 and successful applicants will be announced by mid-December. Contact information for the outreach coordinator, Michelle Davis, at the Center for Manufacturing Research, Tennessee Tech University, is also at the main application link above.

Learn more about how Project MANEUVER (Manufacturing Education Using Virtual Environment Resources; NSF Award # 1700674) is developing an affordable VR framework.