Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing technology offers lower costs with greater customization, speed, and flexibility for many parts. For 35 years, the technology has expanded to provide useful applications in aerospace, manufacturing, medicine, and other industries. Extensive use in the aerospace industry is pushing a forecast CAGR of 12.1% through 2026.
The 3D printing of prototypes and complex parts is transforming the production process. Post-processing abrasive blasting prepares surfaces for painting or coating, increases product durability, and improves the aesthetics of the part. In short, abrasive blasting provides a fast and accurate method for finishing 3D printed parts.
Surface Preparation for Paint or Coating
Often, post processing involves coating the surface of the part with another material. This is true whether the 3D printed part is intended to be a prototype, a finished work of art or a working machine component. For example, the design specifies that you glue parts together or apply a coat of paint.
With the right media, abrasive blasting can smooth out imperfections that a coating would highlight or roughen the surface to increase the bond. By removing almost none of the substrate, abrasive blasting preserves the dimensional accuracy necessary for complex, fitted parts.
Increase Strength and Durability
The abrasive blasting process of shot peening uses pressurized air to propel tiny ceramic, steel, or glass beads at high speed onto the surface of 3D printed metal parts. When the abrasive media strike the metal, the dents cause compressive stress. Thus, this process enhances the mechanical properties of the metal to increase its strength.
The process significantly increases the fatigue life of a metal part. That means that it will endure more stress cycles before reaching the point of failure. Thus, the compressive stresses serve to harden the surface of the metal, making it less likely to crack. This is critically important in aerospace applications.
Improve the Aesthetics of Finished Parts
Taken right from the printer, 3D printed parts often exhibit visible layer lines and marks from manufacturing supports. For prototypes used internally during the design process, these imperfections may be acceptable. However, for presentations or finished pieces, abrasive blasting provides an effective finishing option when additional processing is necessary.
To remove layer lines and other imperfections from 3D printed parts, sanding is often the method used. But sanding by hand becomes difficult for complex parts that feature small holes and sharp angles, and it takes more time.
On the other hand, abrasive blasting of 3D printed parts takes just a few minutes, depending on the size and complexity of the print. Using plastic beads or sodium bicarbonate media and precision nozzles, the operator can easily reach problematic areas and produce a uniform matte finish.
Abrasive Blasting Options for 3D Printing Technology
Abrasive blasting provides an efficient method of improving finished appearance, preparing parts for painting or coating, and improving surface durability. Manufacturers who incorporate 3D printing technology and additive manufacturing can do so without sacrificing product quality and appearance.
Whether you are a manufacturer producing custom on-demand 3D printed parts or an artist creating a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, count on the experts at Airbrasive to help you achieve the post-production finish you desire. They apply 67 years of experience to provide you with custom and proven solutions to your 3D printing technology finishing requirements.