Polishing of metal 3D printed parts with complex geometry

Visualizing the influence on geometrical features using centrifugal disk finishing

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Parts produced with metal additive manufacturing often suffer from a poor surface finish. Surface finishing techniques are effective to improve the quality of 3D printed surfaces, however they have as downsides that they also slightly change the geometry of the part, in an unpredictable way. This effect on the geometrical features of complex parts has received little attention. In this research, we illustrate a method to visualize the impact of surface finishing techniques on geometrical features, as well as their effectiveness on parts with high shape-complexity, by using centrifugal disk finishing as a case study. We designed and 3D printed test parts with different features using selective laser melting, which were coated with a blue metal lacquer prior to polishing. After polishing, the blue lacquer was eroded away from the spots that were easily reached by the polishing process, yet had remained on the surfaces that could not be reached by the process. We used measurements of material removal and image processing of the remaining blue lacquer on the surfaces to analyze these effects. Using this method, we were able to derive a number of specific design guidelines that can be incorporated while designing metal AM parts for centrifugal disk finishing. We suggest that this visualization method can be applied to different polishing methods to gain insight into their influence, as well as being used as an aid in the design process.