"We have seen an upward trend in the number of companies transitioning from traditional manufacturing to additive"

Automated Post-Processing for Additive Manufacturing

Interview with Joseph Crabtree Founder & CEO of Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT)

Post-processing is an important part of the manufacturing cycle for 3D-printed components and due to the flexibility and diversity of compounds one of the challenges when industrializing Additive Manufacturing. Thus, OECHSLER has recently announced a collaboration with Additive Manufacturing Technologies on the automation and industrialization of post-processes for series production. Joseph Crabtree, CEO and Founder of AMT, shares exclusive insides on the project and their digital manufacturing system (DMS).

Please describe your first contact and your professional journey with Additive Manufacturing.

My background is in traditional manufacturing as a metallurgist. I’d decided to seek something new and around that time 3D printing came onto my radar. I noticed there were gaps to be filled to evolve 3D printing into a viable method of manufacturing for mass production which is what led me to additive manufacturing.

What was your motivation to establish your own company?

My interest in 3D printing was piqued by a gentleman trying to sell me a 3D printer. I went back to my university to meet with professors and see what I could learn. After many conversations I asked why is this technology was not being used for mass production, why is it only being used for research and education? What I noticed is that these individuals continually spoke about post processing or shall I say the lack there of. At the time, everyone was focused on producing printers, bigger, better, faster, but what do you do with it after? This is what led me to creating AMT.

Please introduce Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) in more detail: What makes AMT stand out and what benefits does your technology offer?

When we started the company, the additive manufacturing space was not crowded which provided us the ability to establish ourselves and develop a process that nobody had yet mastered. We are among a very small handful of companies who offer this type of technology, but what sets us apart is the process we’ve patented called vapor smoothing. In this process we essentially re-flow the part. We are not adding anything to the part, taking anything away, or changing its dimensions. Our systems provide a safe, reproduceable, repeatable process which can be industrialized to look, feel, and perform like an injection molded part. Our systems are compatible with over 150 materials which diversifies who can work with AMT PostPro.

We’ve seen an upward trend in the number of companies transitioning from traditional manufacturing to additive. The larger additive becomes in the USA the more applications we will see applied in an array of industries.

Joseph Crabtree
Founder & CEO of Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT)

Additive Manufacturing is often seen as a technology for rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and small series. What future potential does additive manufacturing offer, and how do you plan to unlock high-volume projects with volumes of well-above 100,000 or even 1,000,000 parts per year?

Our systems are automated and repeatable which makes the technology fit to use for mass production. AMT has developed a new technology platform called the Digital Manufacturing System (DMS). The DMS is a fully automated end-to-end lights-out production system that integrates 3D printers, unpacking and depowdering systems, vapor smoothing, coloring, and final inspection. The whole purpose of our DMS is to enable additive manufacturing to be used in series production.

AMT and OECHSLER are jointly developing a fully automated post-process for additively manufactured components. Please introduce us to the concept in more detail and explain why this is superior to other solutions.

We’ve developed the DMS which is a digital manufacturing system for series production. This automated post processing cell has the finishing capacity of 10 industrial HP printers. The HP build unit is automatically detached from the printer and guided to the DMS via autonomous intelligent vehicles (AIVS). The HP build unit is then placed into the automated unpacking station where 3D printed parts are unpacked and un-sintered where powder is recovered. Excess powder is removed from parts using AMT’s depowdering technology, the PostPro DP. Part surface is then inspected using AMT’s ultrafast metrology system, to ensure parts have been depowdered sufficiently. Parts are loaded into custom made racks and placed into AMT’s PostPro SF chemical vapor smoothing system for surface finishing. Parts are colored in the PostPro COL using pre-defined process parameters. Parts surface is then inspected once again to ensure the post-processing quality is up to standard. Parts are transported with the AIVS to the next stage of the manufacturing line.

The DMS is a 24/7 fully automated lights-out production system that produces real life applications for real life production that is enabled by PostPro and AMT.

How is additive manufacturing expanding in the USA? What trends can you derive from this?

The AM forward initiative launched in the US is aiding to drive the industry forward. We’ve seen an upward trend in the number of companies transitioning from traditional manufacturing to additive. The larger additive becomes in the USA the more applications we will see applied in an array of industries.

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