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Smooth talking with SLS prototypes

01 February 2009 ...

3T RPD Ltd is pleased to announce the addition of a vibratory finishing machine, supporting their already successful Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process. With the ability to generate smooth parts with minimal time and cost being added to the project, they offer customers a full service capability from start to finish.

Whilst SLS can generate complex and durable prototype parts and production components, the nature of the build process means that parts have a certain amount of surface roughness when they come out of the machine. This may be perfectly acceptable to some customers; however, others want their parts to have a smoother, more refined finish, or require them to be coloured, painted or vacuum metalised.

3T’s team of skilled modelmakers use a variety of in-house finishing techniques to produce aesthetically pleasing parts that are often comparable to the final manufactured item. One of the primary tasks required before any finishing work can be carried out is to ‘dress’ the part to remove surface roughness. Traditionally done by hand, this ‘rubbing down’ can be extremely labour – and cost – intensive.

The acquisition of this new finishing machine greatly reduces the number of hours spent hand finishing the parts, enabling 3T’s team to focus on the finer finishing requirements. The gentle action of the vibratory process smoothes the surface of multiple batch parts simultaneously in much reduced timescales. This provides a higher quality finish either for end use or as a preparation for the application of a coat of primer or colour-matched paint, vacuum metalising or resin impregnation.

The degree to which the parts are smoothed can be controlled by the amount of time they spend in the machine. On average, a 2 hour cycle is sufficient for quite large batches of small to medium sized parts, which is a considerable reduction from individual hand finishing. The parts can then go back to 3T’s team for further specialist finishing with the resulting models being used in functional testing, assembly trials, product demonstrations and launches, or in marketing photography. Alternatively, they can be despatched direct to the customer without any further work required, which is of particular benefit for applications such as fluid flow work.

Unlike more aggressive tumbling machines, this process can finish some of the internal features of components, such as holes and voids (although this does depend on the geometry). The only limitations to the process are that the largest size part that can fit into the machine is approx. 500mm x 300mm x 300mm, and very small features or delicate geometries may not be suitable and could be damaged or lost.

Clive Hardy, Workshop Manager says “We have undertaken extensive trials using a variety of test parts with differing dimensions and geometries to ensure we get the best results from the process. The reduction in manual work now allows us to focus on the high quality, fine finishing that is our actual area of expertise, which is being increasingly requested by our customers.”

As this is a low cost batch process, economies of scale apply to multiple part orders, and there is usually just a one-off fee applied per batch/order.

Please contact us for further details or if you would like a visit from a 3T representative to demonstrate the benefits, please contact our Sales Team on +44 (0)1635 580284. Alternatively, we can send you a sample of a part that has been smoothed using this process.

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