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Most 3D printed parts will require postprocessing of some sort following the print. For polymer parts, postprocessing might include powder unpacking, support removal, cleaning, curing, shot or bead blasting, and/or dyeing. For parts made with binder jetting, bound metal printing and other processes that hold the final material within another medium, a debinding step is usually necessary before sintering in an oven to achieve final part density. For metal parts made with laser powder bed fusion, postprocessing will typically entail cut-off from the build plate and heat treat, and may also include hot isostatic pressing (HIPping), support removal, machining and/or other finishing processes as needed. (Note, however, that noncritical faces can usually be left unfinished, and in some applications such as medical implants the rough as-printed surface can actually be a desirable feature.)

Each process and application will have its own requirements, but it is important to account for any anticipated postprocessing in the initial design stage for a 3D printed part. Known finishing requirements may make it necessary to add stock to a surface that will be machined or to place supports underneath a part to enable cut-off from the build plate, for example.

3D Printing with Postprocessing in Mind

3D printing requires different finishing considerations than traditional manufacturing. One expert offers do’s and don’ts for approaching the finishing of additively manufactured parts.



Exploring Additive Manufacturing Post Processing

This video provides an overview of postprocessing strategies for metal and polymer parts, cost considerations and more.


Equipment and Safety

Facilities using metal additive manufacturing, especially those dealing with powdered metals, require a range of support equipment and safety measures.

Organizational Issues

Additive manufacturing is a disruptive technology; incorporating 3D printing into an existing business requires the buy-in and support of the C-suite.

Trends to Watch

Additive manufacturing is still a young development, and the different 3D printing processes it describes will continue to mature and advance.