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Water bath in microwave for accelerated removal of support structures from 3D-printed parts

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000244517D
Publication Date: 2015-Dec-17
Document File: 6 page(s) / 1M

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Abstract

The process disclosed is to immerse a 3D-printed part in water and apply microwaves to heat and change the phase of (i.e. melt) support material to facilitate its removal; this removes the majority of the support material from around the part much faster than in a conventional oven, significantly reducing post-processing cycle-time.

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Water bath in microwave for accelerated removal of support structures from 3D-printed parts

Removing the support material from 3D-printed parts takes too long. For support materials that are removed by inducing a thermally-driven phase change (i.e. melting), removal can take several hours. For example, the current standard process to remove support material from parts made on the 3D Systems' ProJet 5500 begins with at least 1-2 hrs in a conventional oven (this is then followed by fine cleaning using solvents).

The process disclosed is to immerse a 3D-printed part in water and apply microwaves to heat and change the phase of (i.e. melt) support material to facilitate its removal; this removes the majority of the support material from around the part much faster than in a conventional oven, significantly reducing post-processing cycle-time.

This would be easily observed in competitors' processes or products: processes would mention a water bath, microwaves, microwave ovens, electro-magnetic radiation, and/or terms related to microwave power, wavelength, and frequency. Products would include microwave technology such as a magnetron, waveguides, and microwave shielding like metal meshes.

This process removes thermally-activated phase-changing support material from a 3D-printed part using water and microwave energy.

A 3D-printed part, with surrounding support material, is immersed in a container of water and exposed to microwaves (Fig. 1). This induces microwave heating in each of the materials (water, support material, build material) (Fig. 2).

Water couples with microwaves easily and therefore heats quickly via microwave heating.

Support material couples moderately with microwaves and therefore heats moderately via microwave heating (slower than the water does). As the support material heats past its melting point, it changes phase from solid to liquid.

Cured build material (i.e. the part) does not couple well with the microwaves and therefore the part heats only slowly via microwave heating.

Some parts can be damaged by high temperatures (soften/warp/break/burn), but they can typically withstand several 10s of degrees C above the melting point of the support material without damage. Therefore, controlled heating of the system is used to melt the support material without damaging the part.

The water helps to accelerate the melting of the support material, separate the melted support material away from the part, and regulate the part temperature:

Accelerate melting of the support material - the quickly-heating water is in direct contact with the slowly-heating support material and so adds heat to the support via conduction


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Separate melted support material away from the part - water is denser than the melted support material and less dense than the part, so the support rises to the surface and the part sinks to the bottom.

Regulate part temperature to avoid damage - since cured build material is a...