In 3D print design, there is a noticeable gap between what we are creating on the machine and what consumers expect and are willing to buy. There is a lack of post-processing techniques that help in the 3D manufacturing process and create an overall better and polished 3D product. In this episode, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard bring in someone who can help you with this problem area. They interview Wes Kramer, a 3D application engineer at HP, who helps companies achieve the results they need for their consumers before buying. Wes talks about expanding 3D print applications using post-processing techniques, covering areas from the uniformity of the 3D print product with hydrographics, its surface quality with sandblasting and vapor smoothing, to enhancing other properties such as mechanical, conductivity, and more. Taking it further, he then taps into the sub-assembly of the 3D product and gives some tips and tricks on the better ways to attach parts today. Listen in on this great conversation to learn how you can close the gap between your 3D print machines’ constraints to the 3D design that is acceptable to the end-users.
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Expanding 3D Print Applications Using Post Processing Techniques with Wes Kramer
We are excited to talk about something that we’ve mentioned thousands of times on the show, it’s hundreds of these.
We may have mentioned that thousands of times because it would have been mentioned multiple times in many episodes.
I’m a broken record about it because the look and feel or color materials and finishes is my background. It’s always been the thing that bothered me the most about 3D printing is. There weren’t processes, techniques, and finishes that could bridge that gap between what we were creating on the machine and what would come out of it and be able to go into a consumer’s hands. The acceptance rate revolves around aesthetics a lot of times.
Your biggest pet peeve about it is that designers who are creating parts to be 3D printed would never consider the final finishes and often would not even consider it. You get these parts that are just the color that comes out of the machine. That isn’t going to work for consumers.
Why don’t people want to buy it? Because it’s bright yellow, it’s primary. This is what bothers me. We looked for many times post-processing techniques and other things like that, but it was hard to investigate as an independent designer for sure. You needed bigger machines and equipment. Sometimes you needed labs, research, and experimentation. That’s why I’m glad we’re bringing Wes Kramer on. He is a 3D application engineer from HP. He graduated from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Minor in Technology and Management.
The great thing about the application engineers he’s working for HP assisting companies that are looking at buying one of their machines into how they can use not only their machines but different post-processes to achieve the results that they need for their consumers before buying. That’s one part of it and then there are some things for being done for continued development with HP, which is fantastic. That’s a tremendous resource.
During Wes’ time at HP, he’s led several projects focusing on materials and post-processing of the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printed parts. On a day-to-day basis, he assists future customers and developing new applications for 3D printing and existing customers with the tools they need for success. Maybe they’ve got a part that’s complicated, something they’ve never done before looking at what those post-processing techniques and what their options might be. He’s already done a lot of research for us, which is great. I’m excited to pick Wes’brain. Let’s get to it. I’m sure we’ll have a lot to say after that.
Wes Kramer is a 3D Application Engineer at HP. He graduated in May of 2019 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in technology and management.
During his first year at HP, he has led several projects focusing on materials and postprocessing of HP Multi-Jet Fusion 3D-printed parts. Day-to-day, he assists future customers in developing new applications for 3D printing and gives existing customers the tools they need for success.
Wes, thanks for joining us on the show.
You can hear our printer in the background like, “We’re printing.”
I don’t know if they may be able to hear it.
They may not be able to but because post-processing can be cumbersome when you’re doing it on your own and you’ve got a small business or small design firm. It’s sometimes necessary. I’m excited that we’re talking about that because it’s always been a big thing for me that our parts don’t always look like we can make them in manufacturing. Why is this such a focus for HP?
If you look at HP’s 3D printing technology versus some of the other ones out there, what we’ve done is position our technology for manufacturing and production. When you think about that, you think about end-use parts stuff that customers and consumers will have in their hands. When you think about existing plastic products out there, there’s a pretty high standard for the look and feel aesthetics. Where the state of the technology is now with 3D printing, there are a lot of obstacles we need to overcome to get parts to look and feel how the standard of injection molding looks. While the technology of additive itself is developing, we need a short-term solution to help get parts to adhere to that standard of injection molding before additive gets there eventually. Post-processing is bridging the gap between the preconceived notion of how plastic parts should look with injection molding and where additive is. It’s how we bridge that gap.You can't design your whole 3D print product and not explore some #postprocessingtechniques.@hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
I find it always a little ironic that in injection molding of a part, in particular, when you create that tooling, usually the surface finish is smooth. You’re adding texture back into it for reasons of manufacturing and part durability. With additive, we sometimes have an inherent texture due to the process and a part that maybe we’re trying to hide. Have you found that to be the case?
Yeah. I’ve seen some cool situations where companies have used, we call it a defect, but the aesthetic qualities of 3D printed parts and they use it to their advantage. You think about layer lines. With our technology, you have to put parts in the specific orientations in the building or to get them to be visible. Some companies orientate their parts in a specific way so you can see them. They see it as a benefit to them.
It’s like when we used to layer woods for various things and you wanted to get that laminate looked to go in one direction and then you want to go the other direction. You could use it for your textural advantage. That’s hard to plan in it. It’s hard to design we found over time.
You want to be able to address whatever service finishes you want. It goes on both sides. Let’s say you want a rough texture. You’re already most of the way there with at least our technology. It’s powder-based, it’s already gritty, sandy, look and feel. You want to be able to offer the full range. That includes that super smooth and super-polished finished as well. You want both of those and everywhere in between.
That’s interesting that you say that. This has been one of my things about it. The look and feel of the products from the day we started this show, but also from the day we first got our parts off the 3D printer, I was like, “Consumers aren’t going to accept that.” They get accustomed to what they have. While we can create and do our best to get around it. I was frustrated by the pervasive attitude for quite a long time of the 3D print community in which they were looking at it and saying, “Look how great it is. People will forgive it because it’s 3D printed.” I was like, “Yeah, early adopters and fanatics who have 3D printing who love it are more than willing to forgive the layer lines.” General consumers, not so much, not when they have a choice. We do have to come into that. Let’s talk a little bit about what that post-processing looks like and what some of the look and feels that we’re trying to imitate.
What I’ve broken it down into is your look and feel. There are post-processing techniques that will address things like color uniformity. There are post-processing techniques that can address issues like the surface quality. That’s the roughness of the part. There are some post-processing techniques that can enhance your properties, whether it be mechanical performance, conductivity, stuff like that. If you look in the realm of color uniformity, probably the most common thing we’ve seen with our technology has been dying. Mostly because it’s an easy solution to implement and scalable. It takes this gray part that comes out of our machine especially dark colors work well on it.
You see a lot of customers dyed their HP MJF parts black to give it a nice overall consistent color. That’s one of the most common we see there. Painting is also common. Some of the issues I’ve seen with that have been the flexibility of the paint itself. Sometimes if you don’t have a paint coating that matches the flexibility of the part, it can be easy to cause cracks and defects in the actual layer of paint itself. What’s cool about painting is you can combine it with this priming step and get a nice thick primer base on there. You can smooth it out a little bit with sandpaper and you can get some high-quality surface finishes through painting as well. Those are some of your coloring. One of the pictures I provided you, that’s a process called hydrographics. It’s one of my favorite coloring techniques. This is a technology that’s been around a long time. It’s in a lot of consumer products. It’s been used in automotive, eyewear and a bunch of different industries.
We’ve done it on furniture before.
You can do it on your own too. I’ve seen kits on Amazon that you can buy and you can do it at home. It’s like painting, you apply this base coat or primer to your part and get a nice base there. The way the process works is you have this magical film that has this 2D texture or pattern on there, whatever you want. A lot of people use camo, that’s a common example. You can have flamed. Anything that you can print 2D, you can have as your pattern. You put it in on the surface of this big tub of water, and then you spray this activator on top of it. What that does is it separates the ink on that film from the film itself or dissolves the film. What you do is you slowly dip your part into that tub of water with the film in there and then you pull it out. Whatever pattern was on there is applied to your part.
It does look like magic. It’s fun because I’m a textile designer. I have that 2D background. It’s always been fun for me to do that. We don’t always want patterns on everything that we do. You’ve got to have those other alternatives like the solid coloring.
I would like to say something in favor of hydrographics. I’ve been aware of it for a decade myself. One of the things that I find that’s wonderful about that process, especially if you take a textural looking pattern, let’s say the look of carbon fiber or something that’s woven, it transforms a part. When you’re looking at that finished part in context, in whatever product it’s a part of, you would never know that that part was 3D printed.
We use that in furniture and other places for that same purpose. We want to hide an inferior grade of wood that doesn’t have beautiful patterning on it or grain. We do that all the time to lower the cost of a product. That’s where we ended up using that as well. In this case, you’re using it for the same purposes. The one question I want to ask you about is on the color side of things because it’s an important part of my complaints about what’s going on. Color brilliance doesn’t always come across in dying. It’s partially because you have a slightly gray matter. It’s not pure white that you’re starting from. You’re getting that muddiness to the color. We created almost difficulty in getting those brilliant colors that people normally expect from our products. Have there been some developments? Is there stuff in the works maybe that are going to help fix and adjust for that?
At least when it comes to HPs technology, one thing that has improved art dyability with different colors is our new 580 platform and the 540. Those two machines are smaller than our production platforms. One of them prints parts in full color, which is cool by itself. Both of them, if you don’t apply color to the parts, they print them in monochrome. If you think of an SLS type part, it resembles that a little bit. You have a nice bright white background already. If you take that part and you dye it, then you can achieve those brilliant bright colors.
That’s helpful. Sometimes I’ve seen people do things like sandblasting their parts and doing other things to get a better surface to begin with. Is that still common or is that harder to do?
Sandblasting is a crucial step in any powder-based process and that’s because after the fusing process in the printer itself, you’re going to have all of this powder on the surfaces that are still attached. Anyone who buys one of our machines it’s expected that they’re also going to have some beat or sandblaster, that’s going to be able to take the excess powder that wasn’t fused to the part off of the part. Aside from using it as a means to clean the part, you can put different media in there.
One example is this graphite media that’s commonly used. If you think of pencil led shavings.If you shaved pencil led over and over again into a big tub, and you mix that with your blasting media, that provides a nice, cool uniform finish on the surface of partners as well. What’s cool about it is it doesn’t add any extra processing time because you combine it with that sandblasting or bead blasting step. It’s already done. It’s already included for you. The only problem or caveat with that process is you’re going to have this surface of the part. If you were to rub your hands on it over and over again and you were to look at your hands, you would have graphite all over them.
That’s not a good idea.
It’s good for demo parts where people would be looking at them and you want nice, consistent look and feel that way. If it’s going to be an end-use product that people are going to touch a lot, it might not be a good option. Another good case where it might be useful is in 3D printed gears or something where you want this lubrication effect. That powder graphite provides that.
That would make a lot of sense because I know they use graphite as a lubricant a lot of the times and it’s different from oil, which attracts dirt and dust and graphite doesn’t do that. When you were talking about the 540 or 580 machines, one of those that you said prints in colors, would you stillclean those parts up with the sandblaster as well after they come out? Is that color throughout the solid part or is it only going to go deep, you have a danger of sandblasting through the color?
The way that technology works is impressive, at least in my opinion, because the way our process works is you have this black fusing agent normally and that absorbs the visible light spectrum. That’s how you get your thermal energy to fuse the layers together. What we’ve developed is what we call this light fusing agents. It is able to absorb energy from the ultraviolet or infrared spectrum. That’s how you absorb the colors. It doesn’t have to be black. It’s this white, clear, fusing agent. That’s something that’s unique that we’ve been able to develop and it’s super cool to see used.The idea of #3dprintprocessing is not just about finishing products. Sometimes, it means putting parts together.@hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
The inside of the part is still that black fusing agent. If you were to cut one of our color parts in half, you would see that black on the inside. On the outside, we use that light fusing agent in combination with the different colors and pigments. Don’t quote me on the thickness of this, but you would see on that outer shell maybe 0.3 millimeters or something thickness of color. If you have it in a bead blaster for too long, or if you get too close to it, if you overdo it, you will get that color to come off there and you will be able to see the black underneath.
It hands out a little bit differently.
A little bit more care and attention with those parts.
What about something like vapor smoothing? How does that work?
If you look aside from color at more of the feel of a part and the surface quality, the way that vapor smoothing works like if you think about the acetone that they use on PLA and ABS parts. It’s a similar process to that where you’re using chemicals in this vapor form in this chamber to almost get the service of the part of the flow to melt it almost a little bit. What that does is it takes this grainy surface to gets it to flow and it smooths it out that way. With that too, you have to get the parameters right so you don’t overdo it, but you also do it enough where you to see a visible difference. That’s a tricky thing as well.
I’ve tried the process myself on some other parts and it is tricky. You have to have some good equipment, the right environment to do it, and a good process that’s controlled. I personally like that idea of sandblasting to clean up a part like that and get that excess stuff off. I would think you wouldn’t want to blast it so long to go through the color because then you’re dimensionally changing the part too much anyway. You want to blast it enough to clean it up, but that’s about it. It’s the same with vapor smoothing. You want to do it enough to smooth that finish without melting it. I’ve melted my fair share of parts.
You’re pointing out something that we learned a long time ago, which is for everything you can’t design your product and not understand how you’re going to post-process it. For us, we always had to consider paint tolerances or vinyl wrapping or whatever it was that we were doing. That was always a tolerance. You had to consider in how you design the product, to begin with so that you create action tolerance for that. Make sure that you have to create it extra thick so that if you do have to, in order to create the texture that you need to have to go down a certain distance, you can do that as well.
Those critical dimensions that you have to keep an eye out for. What’s nice is you can always add machining or something as a post-process in a way to get them exactly how you need. You’re right, with some post-process, you’re either adding material or you’re taking some of the material away. You have to be cognizant of that and dial in your process so that you achieve the same results every time.
You mentioned something that I want to come back to that seems interesting. It’s the idea of enhancing performance, mechanical performance, enhancing performance through plating or other types of techniques. Talk a little bit about why you would want to do that and what you guys are investigating?
There are a lot of different post-process that do this in different ways. Vapor smoothing is one of them. If you think about that with water fastness and reducing the porosity on the service of a part that’s something that tremendously helps. The one that comes to mind here for enhancing performance is electroplating. The reason why it does so much is because you’re taking that strength of the part and you’re putting this much stronger metal on the surface of it, whether it’s copper nickel or some other metal. That part takes on the property of that electroplated coating or surface.
By doing that you can make parts much stiffer. You can make them electrically conductive. You can make them more resistant to high temperatures. There’s a lot you can do there. If you think about light weighting structural applications where you have some generative design, topology, optimized design or a lattice, you combine that with electroplating where you get this stiff structure that’s also lightweight. That’s money right there. That’s everything that you looked for and hope. It’s cool to play around with that and get some samples to see what’s possible there.
Electroplating, did you use that process when you’re working on the Porsche hub?
Yeah. It’s tricky to take an additive part and get it smooth enough to where you have that mirror-like finish. With a lot of time doing some manual sanding, it’s possible. Being able to look and touch those parts in real life is cool.
For those of you who didn’t read that episode. We did an episode with Dillon Patel and we were talking about reverse-engineering. One of the examples he was using was this Porsche hub, which is the custom part. It’s hard to find this.
It’s a replacement that doesn’t exist anymore.
You need to match it perfectly or try to.
I don’t know if we exactly hit the mark in terms of matching the hues on it. It’s not like every metal surface is the same. You have bluishness. It is hard to get it right on your first try. That’s what Dillon was showing there was our first or second try. We were getting as close as possible to the original even if it’s not an exact match.
Wheels are far enough apart people think it was in the shade. You’ll be fine.
If it were in my car, I would have made a set of four so that they all match with the new process of it.
That’s what we did. When I say it didn’t match, I’m more referring to the original part, which was decayed and was peeling. Some of the colors might have been lost that way. In the end, we did have a set of four and they all did match well.
This happens a lot when we try to match in vintage parts of any kind. The color may have changed over time. What you’re getting isn’t the original. I’ve seen that happen where they will get by and find out what the original paint was or the original finish was by it and then it doesn’t match anymore. They’re frustrated by it, but it’s because it didn’t age well. It got deteriorated by the sun or something happened and that altered the color. It’s a much better idea to do all four as you did. One of the other issues that we always encountered wasn’t just the idea of post-processing and holding it back, but also sometimes post-processing means putting parts together, sub-assembly or other things like that. Are there better ways to attach parts now?
Something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into studying is, what are some of the best joining techniques? Every additive technology has a limit on how big it can be. If you want to make big parts like a car bumper that’s all 3D printed, you’re going to have to join several parts together. That’s what we did with one of our studies is we set out to make a car bumper. That requires a whole set of post-processing techniques in order to get that perfected. The critical one there is how you join parts. There are different classifications of part joining, but two of the big subgroups would be adhesives, gluing stuff together and also welding. That’s melting the two pieces together with different techniques. On the gluing side, there are lots of different adhesives out there that are on a range of stiffness.
You can have strong stiff adhesives, but that might not necessarily match with the material you’re doing. What you want is maybe more of a flexible material for certain instances. It’s never quite as simple as you initially think. There are always a lot of factors at play. There’s the material itself that you use as the adhesive, but there’s also the joint design too. There are many different ways you can get parts to overlap and join together. It’s important to understand what are some of the design constraints, what are some tips and tricks on the design side that get a strong union that’s not going to break. You get into the engineering side. You have to look out for stuff like stress concentrators, things that are going to cause cleavage or some separation of the parts that way. You have to get clever about that.
The one thing that I was thinking is when you approach a part or you say, “I’m creating this part or I’ve got this design.” Is there some analysis process that you go through to say, “We’re going to need this, we’re going to need that, where should we start to experiment?” Do you have some process of elimination like, “That won’t work?”
Are you referring to any post-process or still part joining?
Any but post-process would be my thing. You’ve got to design and you see it on the computer and you’re looking at that going, “Here’s what we’re going to need to achieve our goals.” Do you have things that are easy to eliminate quickly saying, “That’s not going to work?”
It is dependent on what they’re trying to get out of the part. If it’s a purely aesthetic part and it’s not going to undergo a whole lot of mechanical stress, it’s fairly rigid and they want a nice uniform surface on it, then you might be looking at painting. That’s an easy solution that’s already implemented in many cases and it’s going to be easy to implement for them there. If it’s more of a structural part that’s going to bend a lot, it’s going to go under a lot of loads and maybe the strength of the part isn’t strong enough by itself, you might need to go to something like electroplating to get it stiffer. You might have to go that way. It’s dependent on what they’re trying to get out of the part. What’s almost easier is talking with the customer and saying what’s important to you here and then go from there.When you use #postprocessing like electroplating on your #3dprintproduct, it really transforms it. @ho @zbyhp Click To Tweet
It’s thinking more about the end-use and the end purpose of this particular part. It might be different though at the stage of development. You might be creating a prototype that is for a particular purpose trade show or something like that versus how you might do it when you go to create the end product eventually. You might be doing it differently each time.
What you talk about end-use parts, which is fantastic. We’ve always been big supporters of the idea of making end-use parts with 3D printing from our earliest days of WTFFF.
Our goal is because we were small and if you’re a small manufacturer or a small design firm or whatever, you want to touch the part as little as possible. You want it to come off the machine and be ready to go. We didn’t even want to scrape off anything.
Plating is a wonderful process that when you electroplate something, it transforms it. You won’t know what material was underneath it. I’m curious, maybe you can say percentage-wise, what are you experiencing with potential customers looking at buying HP products or looking to do end-use parts versus something that isn’t intended to be, and then use part?
I don’t know if I can give you specific numbers on this, but what I will say is that if you look at what the whole history of additive will be, we’re at the beginning of end-use parts being produced. Where we’re at is we’re starting out with parts that are little bit lower requirements and maybe won’t be in customer’s hands, but you’re going to find them in factories. You’re going to find jigs and fixtures and stuff that maybe a customer is not going to use, but it’s going to be used in the process that makes the parts are going to be used. It’s going for that low hanging fruit first and then as the technology improves and develops, you can also improve these post-processing techniques to get it more and more scalable, then see more and more end-use stuff.
If you think about some specific end-use applications, eyewear is a good one. We see several companies using our technology to make custom eyewear. You see they’re making eyewear for kids because they grow and their faces grow. You’re going to have to get new ones all the time and also, they break them a lot. They’re figuring out a good low-cost solution for those. Another good solution is in prosthetics and orthotics. A lot of end-use products we see now are insoles for your shoes that are custom-tailored to your biometrics. There’s a lot out there and it’s only going to grow and it’s going to grow exponentially.
I would tend to agree with you. I believe that and that’s always been my hope for the industry. I’m hoping we see a lot more of it sooner and I get to play with it still in my time on this earth.
I would love for you before we go to give some advice to those out there doing the design and engineering work. What should they consider ahead of time? What are some things that they might want to think about as they’re designing and engineering their products so that they can adjust for post-processing or account for it ahead of time?
You do need to think about the product in every stage of its life. You need to think about, how it’s going to be manufactured? What quantities are you going to be working with and what volumes? Having a process that’s suitable for that because if you are producing 10,000 of these parts a year and you have high requirements for the smoothest on it, you’re not going to be able to manually sand everything. You’re going to have to come up with a solution that’s scalable with the volumes you’re producing. Thinking about it from that all the way to when it’s being used by the consumer, how’s it going to interact with them?If you look at history and what #additivemanufacturing will be, we're at the very beginning of end-use parts being produced.@hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
What’s going to be a long-lasting durable solution that’s going to hold up to things like UV, the mechanical stress that is going to be applied to it? Lastly, what’s going to even happen to it after it’s used, once it’s disposed? Is it going to be something that can be recycled? Is it something that’s going into a landfill and it’s going to be terrible for the environment? You have to take all of those into account in order to come up with the ideal solution that’s not going to cost the manufacturer too much money to produce. It’s also going to deliver on all the things they’re looking for on the customer side.
I also think over time, you’re talking about we’re at the tipping point of it. Over time we can get to also a new aesthetic. We’re seeing Tesla’s with a matte finish and we’ve never seen automotive with a matte finish. Matte finish is going to start to come into our normal acceptance for consumer products. They are going to shift overall in the consumer market in general that are going to benefit the types of things that we can do in the ways that we want to achieve it. We don’t always have to simulate something that was done before. It can become its own new thing, but it has to become unique, beautiful and have a great look and feel that the user gets attached to.
It’s nice to think about the bar being lowered a little bit and maybe public perception transforming more towards the matte finish and stuff. That’s already closer to what additive is doing now. You can’t sit around and wait for that to happen. You need to be proactive and what the consumers want. You have to start coming up with solutions for that. Those sociological factors are always going to change and you want to have a nice robust solution that’s going to be applicable to all of them.
I loved what you said at the beginning, talking about post-processing as being a bridge. That’s what we agree too. You have to bridge that gap for those that aren’t ready to accept it. They’re not the fanatics and fans of it already. Wes, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. We love this in-depth talking to a topic we’ve mentioned again and again on this show.
It’s nice to talk to an expert and somebody who is pioneering for HP and its customers, what these total end-to-end applications, processes and workflows are going to be that will produce results that they need. That’s great. Thanks for joining us.
It was a pleasure. Thank you.
Expanding 3D Print Applications Using Post Processing Techniques with Wes Kramer — Final Thoughts
That was a lot of fun. A few things have occurred to me even after that interview ended. It takes a different way of thinking about designing parts to end up with the texture and finish you want. As he’s talking about electroplating, I was thinking, “I wonder, there are many different metal surface finishes that get done at the end of the process after even electroplating.” He was talking about trying to get parts as smooth as they can be to be glossy so that plating is clean looking. That’s certainly one approach. I wonder, there are parts that have a brushed metal look, then that brushing gets done last, the end process, or a hammered metal look that also might be done last. You could put those textures into the plastic part, 3D print it, then played it and then transfer through. It probably would, and it’s something that have to be experimented with more, but it would hide much more of that gritty powder telltale sign that it’s a 3D printed powder bed part.
At the same time, that gets to something that I was mentioning towards the end of the interview is that it’s creating a new aesthetic, a new style that hasn’t been done before. It couldn’t be created in the old manner of hammering and doing those brushing and things in post-processing.
It’s interesting because as 3D printing is the new manufacturing technology and has been for a couple of decades even more. Throughout the history of manufacturing materials, there have always been limitations, characteristics or side effects of different materials. The machinery that processes those materials produces a certain look. Sometimes we’re trying to copy the service quality appearance or otherwise of a material made by a part that’s old technology. The only reason that it had that look is because it was a limitation of the machine at that time. It does make sense that there is going to be an acceptable consumer aesthetic. That’s a result of 3D printing technologies. It may take a lot longer before that’s revered as, “That’s a look I want.”
I was thinking about this when he was talking. We spent a lot of our career putting pictures of wood on pictures of woods. We put veneers on what was MDF or other, which is like a wood composite at the end of the day. You’re talking about doing that. In some cases, we also always put textures of plastic onto plastic. This isn’t a new thing, injection molding and other types of molding, rotational molding, some of these other techniques that we were using had lines of where the manufacturing was or where the material went in, where sprues came off. We were always trying to disguise that by creating texture on it. It isn’t different. As designers and engineers, we need to approach it from that same perspective that this is the constraints of the way that the machines work. We need to design something that is going to be acceptable to the consumer and bridge that gap for them. They’re not going to look at that and go, “That seems like a defect.” That’s the idea.
3D printing affords some new opportunities there where injection molding, you would always create the mold. It’s smooth and then, “What texture do you want on the part?” Mold engineers know this, I’m sure a lot of industrial designers out there know this, but there are libraries of different plastic textures that exist of different styles and scales. You can choose a certain texture, number identifier and a toolmaker after the tool is done will apply that texture to it. There are processes for that, but you could choose a texture you want and apply that to your 3D model and then print the texture. If you dye that part with a certain solid color dye after the little sandblasting process that Wes was talking about, that may be all you need to do. It looks like it came out of a mold and it’s all intentional and not circumstantial.
We’re more than halfway through the series with HP and I have learned a tremendous amount. One of the things that impress me and this goes back to my day as a Color Material and Finish Manager at Herman Miller that we call it CMF color materials and finishes. Whether you’re a post-processing engineer or a CMF manager, whatever that is. The fact that these companies at that quality and level like HP is doing here, has a team that can be so narrowly focused on this. What they’re doing is creating a future ecosystem. They’re accelerating that opportunity for success for those of us who want to go into manufacturing, want to be a full design service agency, engineering company, whatever that is. They’re accelerating the learning process, the research, all of those things for that, because they can have someone like Wes Kramer on to be able to work on this particular niche area for us.
It’s a valuable resource and a tremendous benefit of working with a company like HP. It goes beyond HP. As we said in an earlier episode, that this is going to benefit the entire industry. What’s funny is we tried to tumble parts. We bought one of those jewelry tumblers on Amazon.It was a barrel finish tool.
We didn’t know what to put in it or what to try. If we had tried graphite, it might have been cool. We had no idea. We had nothing to go on. There was no research, no information. This was a few years ago. Having at least a building knowledge to then be able to add on your own specific what to it, as we always talk about here on WTFFF. The what part is the important part. What your end use is? What your end goal is? What its purpose is? Now, being able to take some of this knowledge base and then adding your own uniqueness to it. The thing about you that you want to bring to it, the uniqueness that you want to bring to your product. That’s going to be valuable that you can step on the shoulders of all this great research and all of this great information for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I really enjoyed it.
I did too. It was a lot of fun to talk with Wes to learn what they’re doing there. I continue to be excited about how the industry is progressing. Maybe we will get to our place perfect end-use products coming right off the machine someday. All of you reading, thank you so much. If you would like to get any information about this whole HP series and understand all of the pieces and parts that are part of this series, you can go to 3DStartPoint.com/hp. Thanks for reading.
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