sawing Machine
Learning Curve
Companies creating products using additive manufacturing techniques may still need sawing to post-process parts

very company approaches transition in a different way: Wait and see or get involved early and become a trendsetter.

Once metals fabricators or manufacturers decide to invest in the future, they will soon find that sawing has a holistic influence on the production chain and that using the correct sawing tool ensures quality and process stability.

Additive processes represent an important technology in the production process for high-performance industries now and in the future. 3D printing is becoming increasingly efficient and is moving away from its original niche status. It is now worthwhile to test the technology and its applications and learn what it can do.

The time and effort required for post-processing 3D printed parts is high, according to an internal study by WIKUS.
The benefits of this technology include the possibility to rapidly convert AD printers in order to fulfill the changing requirements at short notice and also the ability to manufacture spare parts and products on site at a customer’s own premises. Among the benefits of on-demand printing are the cost savings created by reduced material consumption.
There are risks inherent with newer technologies, such as the viability of varying properties and characteristics of the semifinished product depending on the procedure and material used, which can differ greatly in some cases. To date, it is difficult to guarantee consistent quality every time.
The CuboGrit 5 CBN coated saw blade from WIKUS enables economical cutting and immediate consumption of AD components without reworking
The CuboGrit 5 CBN coated saw blade from WIKUS enables economical cutting and immediate consumption of AD components without reworking.
Despite these risks, manufacturers are increasingly using 3D printing in series production, something confirmed by a survey conducted by the VDMA, a German mechanical engineering industry association.
innovative sawing solutions [will] become a key factor toward the efficiency of additive production methods.
Half of VDMA member companies are already using 3D printing processes. The study assumes that 74 percent of industrial companies are using the technology in production. Despite its suitability for mass production, 3D printing is still primarily used to make prototypes. This is true for metal parts printing. Although producing prototypes via additive processes focuses on shortening the development time until the innovation is ready for the market, the optimization of product properties, characteristics and individual adaptation to specific areas of application play a major role in the production of individual components.
Post-processing challenges
Although workpieces can be produced comparatively quickly and inexpensively by employing 3D printing technology, the time and effort required for post-processing is still high, according to an internal study by WIKUS. Depending on the dimensions and shape of the component, this process takes considerably more time. The costs are subsequently greater than those for the pure printing of the component. The post-processing process creates a potential for efficiency increases through innovative sawing technology.
Post-processing can be divided into numerous phases. Separating the printed component from the substrate plate or via the support structure in metal printing is the initial step toward further processing. The high precision of the machining tools, which have to be used here, leads to a high quality of the cut surface. This means that, irrespective of the material being cut, none or only minimal post-processing of the substrate plate is required. Therefore, innovative sawing solutions become a key factor for the efficiency of additive production methods.

A second step in the post-processing of additively manufactured workpieces focuses on surface treatment, such as removing burrs. Support structures, which are created within the framework of the printing procedure and stabilize delicate components, must also be removed by using the band saw blade. Due to the special shapes of the workpieces, these processes are executed manually and are highly time-consuming and cost intensive. As a result, any cost-saving innovation in this area would be welcomed by manufacturers.

Potential solutions
Developing new sawing solutions for 3D printing technology can include bimetal, sintered carbide or carbide metal blades, depending on the material. Degrees of hardness of up to 70 HRC can be achieved in the additive process—again, depending on the material in question.
Due to these special requirements, band saw blades imbued with high-tech alloys are already frequently employed within the scope of 3D printing processes. Due to their properties or characteristics, such as high hardness, strength and abrasion resistance, machining and cutting tools such as the CuboGrit 5 CBN coated saw blade from WIKUS enable economical cutting and immediate consumption of the components without reworking, post-processing the surface and the substrate plate. This makes additive manufacturing even more efficient.
Product on machine
Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
3D printing will experience additional innovations in the coming years. Research and development will provide a significant contribution to the further evolution of additive procedures.
Comprehensive planning and a holistic view of the production chain are recommended in order to efficiently integrate 3D printing technology into the production chain and to prevent restrictions for downstream production steps.

Costly, time-consuming or even unplanned work steps, especially in the area of post-processing, must be prevented. Creating smooth transitions between the individual production steps should be the goal, and this includes automating certain procedures. The potential for increasing the efficiency of additive procedures is large and the possibilities are varied.

Frank Gresens is head of WIKUS’ Team Technical Competence Center and of WIkademy. Uwe Engelhardt works at WIKUS’ Team Technical Competence Center.
WIKUS, Addison, Illinois, 800/369-0447,