PADT is in the business of helping people who make products. So most people think of us as a provider of tools and services. What they do not know is that PADT actually has a few of its own products. The most successful of these is our line of Support Cleaning Apparatus systems, abbreviated as SCA. These devices are used to remove soluble support material from parts 3D printed in Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling Systems. They are robust machines manufactured and serviced by PADT, but sold through the Stratasys worldwide sales channel. As of July of 2017, over 10,800 units have been delivered to Stratasys.
Optimized Performance for Hands-Off Part Cleaning
The Stratasys 3D Printing systems that use Fused Deposition Modeling extrude plastic through a heated nozzle to build parts one layer at a time. There are actually two nozzles. One puts down the building material and the other a support material that is dissolved in warm water that is slightly base. The best way to remove that support material is to put it into a warm bath where the part is gently tumbled so that the water can works its way evenly into the part. Stratasys tried several solutions for a companion washing system and eventually came to PADT and asked if we would try our hand at building a robust and efficient system.
The result was the SCA-1200. Launched at the end of 2008 it met the design requirements for reliability, part cleaning time, and noise. Over 7,000 of these systems were shipped and saw heavy usage. In fact, if you have a Stratasys FDM system there is a good chance you have an SCA-1200. It contained a unique shower head design that was optimized with simulation, and a modular assembly that could be repaired easily in the field.
Based upon the success and lessons learned from the SCA-1200, we released the SCA-1200HT in 2014. With the same basic form factor, this design replaced the off-the-shelf magnetically coupled pump with a simpler and more reliable custom design from PADT. The new unit also had a more pleasing visual design, several usability enhancements, and a greater temperature range. It has sold over 3,000 units and continues to be a popular system. The latest release includes a no-temperature setting that allows it to be used to clean Stratasys Polyjet parts.
The success of both system lead to a request to look at building a larger machine that could clean more parts at one time as well as larger parts. The SCA 3600 has three times the volume but shares many internal parts with the SCA-1200HT. Both of the new systems are doing well in the field with even better reliability and faster part cleaning times. They are also simpler to debug and repair.
The SCA systems are sold as stand alone devices or are bundled with key Stratasys FDM machines. You can learn more about them on our SCA page: www.padtinc.com/sca or you can contact whoever you buy your Stratasys equipment from.
Here is a video for the SCA-1200HT that talks all about what it does:
Practicing what We Preach
One of the most rewarding aspects of designing and manufacturing the SCA family of products was that it forced us to practice what we preach. We talk to companies every day about using simulation, 3D Printing, design for manufacturing, proper product development processes, and many more things needed to get a product right. With the SCA we were the customer. We had to Walk the Walk or stop talking the talk.
It has been a phenomenal experience that has made us even better at helping our customers produce their new products. We used CFD to optimize the gentle agitation design and shower head and worked closely with our vendors to minimize the cost of manufacturing. The worst part was that when the schedule slipped, we couldn’t blame the customer (only slightly joking). One of the best set of lessons came from doing the repair and refurbishment of systems that failed. Even though the failure rate was low, we learned a lot and were able to make improvements to future designs. Now when we sit across from a customer and talk about the design, test, and manufacture of their product, we can really say that we understand where they are coming from.