When to Invest in a Professional 3D Printing Washing Station

In Buyer's Guide, Case Studies by Emily Gibson

Washing Your 3D Print

Washing is the first step to post-processing your 3D prints and involves the removal of the thin film of resin that remains after the printing process. Crucial to achieving an accurate and fully developed product, washing is a necessary prerequisite to the post-curing stage of post processing.

There will always be some amount of resin bound by surface tension into the nooks and crannies of your printed pieces, and removing this residue is crucial to ensuring that the final product is fit for purpose. Leftover resin can cause an array of problems at various points in your workflow and, as a result, impact the efficacy and accuracy of your end product. Leftover resin can distort the final shape of the printed product, harden unevenly on its surface, or remain sticky and attract dust, dirt, and impurities. Therefore, if the printed parts are intended for clinical purposes, a precise washing procedure is critical.

DIY Washing Techniques

Post-print washing, while simple, can be a tedious and time-consuming process. Various DIY methods are utilized for the washing step. Generally, however, DIY techniques involve either manually cleaning the 3D printed parts or the use of an ultrasonic bath.

Manual Methods

Manual cleaning of parts consists of submerging the finished product into a container of cleaning solution, with the go-to choice being IPA. IPA strips away any remaining residue, leaving behind a smooth and clean surface. With manual cleaning, many dentists resort to using containers they have at hand, make-do stirrers, and even shaking the print inside the container to achieve maximum exposure to IPA.

Ultrasonic Cleaning

Ultrasonic cleaning is a process that uses induced cavitation bubbles to agitate the cleaning solution, and in the process removes any impurities and contaminants sticking to a surface. In other words, an ultrasonic bath “scrubs” a print clean. Ultrasonic baths can be acquired from most-retailers and provide a better solution than manual cleaning. However, they fall short at keeping to speed and can also negatively impact part strength and accuracy.

For medium to high throughput production lines, the time, effort, and resources spent on DIY post-production can be the source of a large amount of friction in the workflow. Often, makeshift techniques for washing can cause unnecessary hurdles and even threaten the success of the final product. While both manual washing and ultrasonic cleaning of printed parts remain popular, we believe that their trade-offs in terms of time, accuracy, and consistency are not suitable for dental or clinical practices. The sections below highlight some of the more frequent downsides and complications of DIY washing setups. 

Time

The DIY post-production process is both time-intensive and labor-intensive, and hence, can pose as a significant source of friction when higher turnovers are required. The biggest hurdle with DIY post-production is that the process needs active care and attention. The setup would require mediation at every stage, from simultaneously soaking and shaking the parts in IPA to setting a timer for each step. For washing to be effective, it is integral that IPA covers all surfaces of the print for an adequate length of time. Leave a part in IPA for too short a time and the resin will not be fully cleaned. Leave it for longer than 15 minutes and IPA will start to break down your cured print, damaging the final product. This rigidity in time can be both an inconvenience and a threat to the success of your final product. 

A professional washing station, however, provides a walkaway experience. You can leave a part to be washed and come back to a finished product at your convenience, significantly reducing friction at this contact point. If you are considering a professional washing station for your practice, considering the amount and type of friction caused by DIY techniques could help tip the scales toward a decision.  

Cost

Wasted resources can significantly impact the production cost of the final product, with the cost of post-processing can amount for up to a third of a model’s production costs. This is especially important when considering a DIY setup within a busy setting/clinic. 

The biggest source of waste in DIY setups tends to be the significant volume of IPA needed. To ensure there is a sufficient IPA present to completely cover the submerged parts, IPA volumes are usually determined with a “just in case” mindset. This results in more IPA being used than necessary. The cost of this can add up over time, a serious disadvantage when printing in large amounts.

Health and Safety

Additionally, DIY setups can pose health and hygienic concerns. An often neglected point to consider would be that ultrasonic baths create heat during the cleaning process. As IPA is highly flammable, this is a dangerous step which creates a potential fire hazard. Other safety concerns include spillage or frequently coming into contact with resin and IPA. While gloves and other safety measures are standard practice, exposure to IPA over long periods should be avoided as much as possible.

Another important factor to keep in mind when considering a DIY technique is the necessary hygiene standards required by your work. Critical to the medical success of printed parts is the biocompatibility of the material and ensuring that the finished product does not induce cytotoxicity. However, DIY setups and their make-shift stations carry the risk of introducing impurities to your prints at every stage. This could create many problems down the line, including an inaccurate final product or one which incites an inflammatory response in the patient. 

In short, DIY methods fail to provide the reassurance and hygienic protection required in dental work. A professional washing station, however, reduces the possibility of cytotoxicity and material leaching, and guarantees hygiene standards fit for dental work. Through eliminating a messy workstation and manual labor, professional washing stations reduce the chances of cross-contamination and human error. Dental models are usually complex structures with many hard to reach corners. A professional wash can rapidly remove uncured resin and other impurities without damaging the surface of your prints, streamlining your workflow for quicker and safer results. 

Conclusion

For busy workplaces, the higher maintenance burdens, costs, and potential safety concerns of DIY washing techniques often justify investing in a professional washing station. In these instances, avoiding the temptations of a DIY setup can be more efficient in the long run and help iterate a faster, more seamless workflow. Additionally, professional stations offer portability and stability – necessary functions that help deliver results that are up to standard.

Where DIY techniques require time and constant attention, professional washing stations provide accuracy and a walk-away experience. They aid in reducing the energy, time, and effort required to achieve desired prints, and therefore add value to any dental workflow. Ensuring that your final products are fit for purpose is integral to patient satisfaction, and a professional washing station will guarantee the consistency, the accuracy, and the safety your patients deserve.

Ready to upgrade to a professional washing station?

SprintRay Pro Wash/Dry is designed specifically for the needs of dental clinics. If you’re ready to take the next step into the fully Frictionless Workflow, SprintRay Pro Wash/Dry features the perfect balance of easy, fast, and powerful. This is truly a one-touch, set-it-and-forget-it system that’s easy to use and simple to maintain.

Learn More About SprintRay Pro Wash/Dry

SprintRay Pro Wash/Dry