Today, Fortune Metal Finishing, a leading mechanical surface finishing company located in Needham, MA, launches a new blast cabinet for the 3D market. The cabinet is the result of a year’s long collaboration between application engineers from Desktop Metal, a pioneer in 3D metal printing and Clemco Industries, the world leader in air blasting.
Application engineers at Desktop Metal shared the insight that design teams and engineering firms producing prototype and tooling parts with Desktop Metal’s Studio Printer™ would need a simple, fast and cost-effective post-processing step to finish parts. Desktop Metal approached Fortune Metal to facilitate the design process and Fortune Metal engaged their partner, Clemco Industries.
It is estimated that 85% of metal parts, whether forged, cast, machined or 3D printed, require some sort of finishing process after they have been formed. Despite improvements in forming methods, metal parts have surface imperfections such as machine lines, burrs and sharp edges that need to be removed and smoothed. For 3D printed parts in particular, build lines present a unique finishing challenge.
After testing a variety of finishing techniques with parts formed by Desktop Metal’s Studio Printer ™, Fortune Metal believes air blast will be the preferred way to refine the surface for the majority of 3D printer users.
- Airblast is the simplest, fastest and cost-effective way to smooth surface lines and bring out the better color of 3D parts.
- Airblast will suit the majority of users, who use printers for prototyping or tooling applications. These low volume users will want to blast an estimated 3-5 parts a week and will prefer finishing parts in-real-time (rather than having to send them out to be finished). While air blast does not offer the super finishes of mass finishing, it does provide a basic finish.
- Airblast does not require more costly equipment, ceramic and plastic media, water, compounds and pastes, extensive R&D testing, nor wastewater treatment. Parts can be finished within minutes, rather than the more lengthy mass finishing methods. Airblast users will need a blast cabinet, some type of abrasive media and a compressed air source.
Some considerations that were discussed during the design process include:
- Building a blast cabinet with a small enough footprint to conserve space within office environments
- Providing industrial blast quality, while pricing the cabinet for occasional users who will blast less than 10 parts/week.
- Offering “hands-free” blast capability for finishing parts with complex geometries.
- Replacing media easily to achieve different surface finishes.