Ricoh Products UK Harnesses ActOn Vibratory Finishing Systems for SLS Part

Posted on Mon, 24 Sep 2018 

Processing of 3D printed parts, manufactured via Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), to improve the

surface appearance and smoothing can be challenging. These parts tend to have a textured

surface and require improvement of surface roughness. We are proud to announce that ActOn

Finishing can now assist companies from the additive manufacturing industry to surface finish 3D

printed polymer parts, through Vibratory Finishing technology.

The implementation of this mass finishing solution offers a reduced cost per part, consistent

results and a short ROI often 6-12 months as compared to other solutions available in the

market. More importantly, we have proved that we can improve, through vibratory finishing, the

Ra value to 3 Micron, leaving the surface of the parts smooth.

Project Background

Recently we have been contacted by Ricoh UK Products, who we have met at Made in the

Midlands Exhibition 2018, to develop a Vibratory Finishing solution to smooth 3D printed

polypropylene parts they manufactured, via Selective Laser Sintering. Ricoh is a global provider

of technology that transforms business processes and information management to help

organisations be more agile, productive and profitable. Amongst other business services and

products, Ricoh also manufactures 3D Printers and offers additive manufacturing services.

As they manufacture Selective Laser Sintering parts in different shapes and sizes, they were

interested in purchasing a Vibratory Finishing system that can accommodate these parts and

which would help them achieve a smooth surface finish to offer added value to their customers.

“We were aware that the technology was already being used in the industry to smooth 3D printed

parts manufactured in Nylon, however, we did not want to simply accept that the established

method would be suitable for our polypropylene material,” commented Richard Minifie, Senior

AM Engineer, Ricoh UK Products Ltd. “We began to look for a technical partner who would

conduct tests across a range of technologies and various media types to provide conclusive data

that would allow us to identify the most suitable smoothing process before purchasing the

technology. ActOn Finishing were open and honest with us at every stage, stating that they had

not previously investigated the smoothing process for 3D Printed Polymer parts, but that it was

an area that they were keen to explore and gain knowledge in.”

Processing Trials

Ricoh didn’t have a specific Ra value requirement, but chose the preferred finish and time frame

based on the requirements of its customers. The parts provided by Ricoh included VW bumper

components, wing mirrors, and rotary atomiser parts, the initial roughness surfaces of which

ranged between 3.6 and 13 microns.

We initially processed the components in its Centrifugal High Energy (CHE) machine for an

hour. The trial was carried using a highly abrasive ceramic media and a concentrated liquid

compound, which acts like a cleaner and polisher. We achieved a surface roughness between 1

and 3 microns, but parts were slightly damaged.

Thus, a medium abrasive plastic was used instead of a highly abrasive one. Again, there was

damage, so we ruled out the use of CHE technology. At this point, we decided to turn to

the Vibratory Finishing machines. Harnessing the same ceramic media and liquid compound as

the first trial, the 3D printed components were processed in ActOn’s Vibratory Bowl machine for

20 hours, and finally achieved parts that showed no damage, and with a Ra value of between 0.5

and 3 microns, looked good. Larger parts were then also tested on ActOn’s Trough Vibratory

Finishing machine, which also proved successful. The rotary atomiser head, for example,

started at 7.2 microns, and after 4 hours in the Trough machine was reduced to 5.9 microns, and

a further four hours, down again to 3.7 microns, with no visible drawbacks.

Damaging on thinner wall sections of parts was noticed during finishing processes between 8 and

20 hours, so Ricoh was advised not to exceed 8 hours and use a mix of sizes of the abrasive

ceramic media, the concentrated liquid compound for cleaning and polishing, and water. We also

advised Ricoh to use divider plates to separate larger pars and smaller parts into two different


Benefits of the Vibratory Finishing Process

• In a 4 hour Vibratory Finishing process most of the Selective Laser Sintering parts are

smoothly finished

• The process reduces the faceting caused by the printing process and could also be a

method for reducing the orange peel

• The mass finishing solution we have developed helps our customer to achieve an Ra

value of approx. 3 Micron. This is visually a good result, parts being smooth to touch

• The solution offered by ActOn is cost effective as client can use only one finishing

machine to process 3D printed parts of different shapes and sizes.

• The ROI for this project was 34 weeks

In Richard Minifie’s (senior AM engineer, at Ricoh UK Product Limited) statement, he

concluded that:

"We worked together to devise a series of tests and these were conducted by ActOn Finishing

using a range of technologies employing different media types and a range of run times, to

establish the optimised equipment and process to support our application. This was done quickly

and professionally with regular updates along the way.

ActOn Finishing’s openness and willingness to conduct trials to establish the most suitable

technology and process, was exactly what Ricoh required from a technical partner. As engineers,

we like to capture lots of data to prove processes and learn through experimentation. During this

collaborative project, we were able to share knowledge with ActOn Finishing to quickly establish

a smoothing process for SLS printed parts. This open style learning approach is really important

to Ricoh, because the knowledge developed provides value on both sides, which in turn

increases the chances of future collaborative projects."

To learn more about ActOn’s finishing technology for Additive Manufacturing industry please

visit the Industries page. To discuss your mass finishing project contact our technical team



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