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.