3D printing ─ a term now used to cover a wide variety of additive manufacturing techniques ─ has been credited as likely to disrupt every field it touches.

However, that’s not happened yet, even though 3D printing has been around for decades. Instead, it seems that, rather than wholly displacing subtractive methods in commercial production, it’s complementing them.

Residue problems
One of the barriers to 3D printing’s more widespread adoption within metal additive manufacturing has been problems with residue. Particles from surface oxidisation and unfused metal powders often remain on additive manufactured parts, especially steels and aluminium. This is unacceptable for critical components, especially for industries such as medical, aerospace and automotive.

Problems with current cleaning methods
Residue problems are often not solved by water or solvent-based cleaning methods, because they are manual, expensive to run and with long cleaning cycles.

And for parts that are more complex in design and geometry, water-based cleaning methods don’t provide enough surface tension or viscosity to get them really clean.

Now though, with the introduction of a new more efficient and economical cleaning process using CO2, 3D printing could finally gain the greater momentum initially forecasted.

Cleaning with CO2
A revolutionary cleaning process from BOC called CRYOCLEAN® Snow+ uses a unique combination of CO2 and sand blasting to ensure a perfect finish on all materials including metal and plastics.

Tiny CO2 crystals – approximately 100 microns – known as CO2 snow are combined with sand, and blasted via a special nozzle at a component’s surface under high pressure. The cleaning operator can adjust the ratio of CO2 and abrasives to suit the condition of the surface being cleaned.

The CO2 gas and abrasive jet permeates cracks and lifts the contaminant off the surface of the part. The snow then sublimates explosively to clean the microstructure of the substrate, ensuring all residue particles are removed. The component is cleaned right down to the surface microstructure.


Cryoclean Snow+ in action blasting off residue on 3D printed object

Quicker, cheaper and cleaner
When used as a replacement for other cleaning systems, CRYOCLEAN® Snow+ brings time and cost efficiencies, and has a lower environmental impact.

Because it’s CO2 based, CRYOCLEAN® Snow+ has less abrasive material to consume and dispose of – compared with sand blasting – bringing with it cost savings.

And compared with conventional dry ice cleaning, CRYOCLEAN® Snow+ has lower jet pressure and so emits less noise. In addition, its pneumatic system does not require electrical power.

Finally, no solvents are used nor waste water created, making it a more environmentally friendly choice too.

To find out how Cryoclean® Snow+ could help your business, contact one of our experts, please email cryoclean@boc.com.

Stuart Wilders
Market Sector Manager
Advanced Manufacturing