The dangers associated with post-processing in additive manufacturing are no secret. Inhalation of metal dust can cause cancer and other health issues, and any small spark around reactive metals can result in an explosion. While cautionary measures and PPE can reduce the likelihood and severity of harm, there has been no comprehensive way to protect technicians from the dangers of post-processing until now.
Adapting to Meet the Needs of the Industry
Joke Technology developed their ENESKApostprocess after talking with companies involved in additive manufacturing at the Formnext trade show. “Some of our customers spoke with us about problems with powders and small particles that happen while post-processing 3D-printed parts,” says Max Fielenbach, Junior Manager at joke Technology. “The first ideas were a kind of glove box, but we really needed a closed room with an exhaust system. So, we built the ENESKApostprocess.”
The ENESKApostprocess is the first of its kind and unique in the industry. Fielenbach continues, “There are some other units for washing parts and glove boxes, but for complete post-processing like grinding, polishing, and finishing, there is no other similar workstation.”
The work area is completely enclosed eliminating any risk of inhaling metal particles. Compressed air jets and vacuum suction direct hazardous powders into the ENESKApostprocess’s 5-stage filtration system. “You aren’t able to work with electrical and pneumatic tools when the chamber is open,” explains Fielenbach. “Furthermore, the FSX is measuring the pollution of the air inside the workstation. That means you can’t open the door until you’re under a certain threshold of particles in the air.” The unit is also completely grounded to eliminate any risk of sparks that could lead to explosions.
Ratmar Froembgen, Technical Manager, oversees the Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) laboratory at the Fraunhofer Society’s Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), one of the world’s leading research institutes in the field. They work with a variety of reactive and non-reactive metals including steels, aluminum, copper, and tungsten carbide. He says he was first drawn to the ENESKApostprocess for “Better post-processing of LPBF manufactured components with maximum attention to safety.” When Froembgen considers the most useful functions of the workstation, he acknowledges, “[It’s] The total package. Everything can be integrated.”
Safety Without Compromising Productivity
But does the safety of the ENESKApostprocess encumber or enable the user? The large working chamber measures approximately 36” x 31” x 10-24” to give technicians room for substrate removal or even post-processing multiple plates at once. “It depends on the geometry of the pieces,” recalls Max Fielenbach, “but we have worked easily on 24” parts in the past.”
Integrated control units allow up to three micromotors and two pneumatic devices to be connected at the same time, so users can move from one task to the next quickly and seamlessly. “Our favorite tool in the ENESKApostprocess is the LFC11 air-powered chisel. But you can also use belt grinders or other pneumatic devices. For grinding and polishing, we always use micromotor systems up to 60,000 rpm,” says Fielenbach.
Knowing technicians would be using the workstation for sustained periods of time, joke Technology approached the ergonomics of the unit deliberately. Adjustable feet raise or lower the ENESKApostprocess to the optimal height for the user. Dimmable lighting and a large glass dome create the best possible view of the task at hand.
The ENESKApostprocess provides something vital to the future of post-processing: a workstation that promises the protection of technicians around the world while allowing businesses to maintain if not improve efficiency. “The main goal was to make work safer for our employees,” says Froembgen. “This goal was achieved through the overall concept of the system (suction, EX design, oil separator, etc.). As the work itself, too, is more efficient, we have a double advantage compared to before.”