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Automated Depowdering and Transfer of Additively Manufactured Parts via Robotics


Invention Reference Number


Licensing Contact

Alex DeTrana
(865) 341-0423
Amy Elliott at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility

One way to create 3D-printed parts is to use metal powders. The part is grown in a bed of the powder; then, it must be removed from the bed and the powder blown off so that all crevices and surfaces are clean. The state-of-the art in additive manufacturing is for human operators to remove the part from the powder and manually clean each layer of the powder in a time-consuming process. This technology utilizes a robot to automatically remove metal parts from their powder bed, clean the parts, and transfer them to the next location with no human interaction. 


In additive manufacturing, several labor-intensive steps can be automated by robotics. Depowdering is one of the steps that can enhance the 3D-printing process. Metal parts are printed using metal powder, but a human operator must retrieve the part from the powder bed and blow the part clean before moving to the next step. Using the already-known location of the parts, this technology directs a robot to the part's position without removing powder from the build. The robot then plunges into the powder with special grasping tools that allow powder to flow through, grasps the part with special “fingers,” removes from the powder bed, moves the part under an airstream and rotates it to accomplish depowdering, and then places the part in the desired location and orientation. The current approach produces single layers of the part that a human operator must grasp and depowder, and transfer to the next station. This is time-consuming, labor intensive, and can introduce human error. Also, it introduces a breathing hazard as powder is blown around the area. This automated technology replaces human operators with robotics that are more efficient, less costly, and less error-prone. 

Applications and Industries

  • Additive manufacturing service providers 
  • Binder jet manufacturers  
  • Industries that serve the automotive industry
  • Aerospace, medical component production, or any mechanical and electrical manufacturing industry using 3D printed metal components 


  • Automation is more efficient than current standard 
  • Less costly 
  • Less time consuming 
  • Less error-prone