Micro Abrasive Jet Machining as Used in the 3D Printing Industry

There are two key components that go into the modeling of a part that is to be 3D printed – 1) the design itself including interior layers and 2) the support structure that allows the object to be printed. To those unaware support braces are actually created along with the model, holding up the printed filament as a reinforcement as it dries from a semi-liquid into a solid. There’s a big difference in making the jump from 2D printing to 3D printing; namely gravity.

Of course just like when setting a wall on a construction project, when the object is secure the brace needs to be removed. This is where many 3D printer users run into trouble as they try to carefully extract or ‘de-flash’ the support material to retain just their intended model. There are two very basic ways to de-flash the support structures from a 3D printed object:

  • By hand – removing the supports with a sharp object such as a needle-nose pliers and then sanding the slag areas by hand presents a big risk of damage to the completed model. Not only that, it requires intense precision on detailed objects including working in some near-impossible to reach spots. Many users face the choice of either risking damage to the completed part or simply leaving the supports in the cramped quarters, thus compromising the dimensional integrity of the printed model.
  • Chemicals – printing the supports with a soluble material (a process known as fused deposition modeling) that dissolves in a bath of chemicals is a hands-free method, but one that also takes an incredibly long time to complete. Printing detailed models and then subsequently waiting for the structures to dissolve could literally take upwards of a week which sort of ruins the “on-demand” properties of 3D printing which makes it so alluring.

Micro Abrasive Jet Machining – a Third Alternative

The ultimate solution it seems would be a hands-free support removal system that also works quickly and micro abrasive jet machining just might be that answer. With precision nozzles that can fit in hard to reach places and abrasives which won’t damage the actual 3D model, jet machining is proving to be an ally in the 3D printing world. Not only that, the system is so calibrated it can be used to etch 3D printed models with things like unique part numbers or serial numbers, greatly improving the mass-production capabilities.

Airbrasive® is the innovative leader that invented micro-abrasive jet machining. Our process has been a pioneer in the medical, electronics, aerospace, automotive, and even fossil-prep industries and our advances for applications in the 3D printing world are only breaking the surface. Please contact us for more information how these exciting solutions can fit your 3D printing needs.