In last weekend’s webinar and event summary, we reported on the online product presentation to which SLM Solutions (AM3D.DE) invited the industry this week. The selective laser melting leader, which entered the “laser wars” this winter with the sale of five of its gigantic 12-laser NXG XII 600 systems on a grand scale, claimed to be introducing a technology that would allow the manufacture of metal components with complex designs and improved thermal management while using less material and lowering end part costs.
To date, the company’s big announcement has been made and it’s a breeze: SLM Solutions has developed software called Free Float that enables column-free 3D metal printing.
“Last year we introduced a game changer for the industry – the NXG Xll 600 – but we won’t stop there. Today, after three years developing and servicing many of the world’s most visionary engineers, we are proud to add a new technology to our portfolio, ”said Sam O’Leary, CEO of SLM Solutions, in an announcement at the launch event. “This new technology is another milestone, not just for us, but for the entire industry. As a high-tech company, we are once again shaping the face of additive manufacturing with this product launch. “
This is a decisive development, because while column-free 3D printing made of plastic and resin are not a very rare option, column-free 3D printing with metal was really only successfully implemented with the technology of VELO3D. There is a conventional AM rule that recommends support structures for any surface with an angle less than 45 degrees. Machine operators and engineers try to reduce the need for supports as much as possible to reduce post-processing and waste of expensive metal material. VELO3D definitely delivers in this regard, so what about this new free float technology?
According to SLM Solutions, the free float software tool “drastically reduces the support structures” and improves part quality and construction times.
“Additive manufacturing has given us endless possibilities in the way we design, design, and manufacture parts,” the company said. “With such a modern manufacturing approach, anything seems to be possible. In fact, many think that such complexity goes hand in hand with complete freedom of design – only this is not the case. While new designs are indeed possible, one historical limitation has held back your vision and design freedom: support structures. “
Post-processing has long been known as the AM industry’s dirty little secret, and a lot of it revolves around removing support. For plastics, you can either snap them off or wash them away, but removing backings from metal prints takes a lot more work, often including CNC machining or EDM. In addition, support structures lengthen your building, increase material consumption and restrict design freedom.
SLM Solutions stated that Free Float was discovered as a by-product of another research project that focused on complex geometries such as sharp edges and thin-walled components that, while offering desirable surface finish, still have problems with subterranean porosity.
“In 2017, we made a breakthrough in our technology that gave us the perfect missing part – and after years of rigorous research and development – Free Float was born,” the company said. “In contrast to point-by-point exposure techniques that are commercially available today, which increase the net build time, our unique vector technology establishes a thermal management system that significantly reduces the net build time while improving part quality at the same time. This is particularly the case in the overhang areas, which can now float freely, similar to the branches of a tree. “
According to SLM Solutions, one of the features of Free Float is the ability to unlock “complex geometry” with “insane angles and extreme designs”. Free float enables not only sharper edges and thinner walls, but also low angles, in particular 10 ° far range and 5 ° close range, and a higher density with lower porosity. According to SLM Solutions, the software solution that supports industrial 3D printing can also deliver better surface finish, larger diameters for internal cooling chambers, reduced peeling, structureless overhang areas and a large reduction in internal part stress.
Further advantages of the software solution are:
- reduced powder consumption and waste material
- advanced thermal management
- reduced post-processing times
- higher part quality
- more installation space
- a simple workflow
Another advantage is that a Free Float Basic subscription is available to all customers at no extra charge, because SLM Solutions believes “in a future in which no one is left behind”.
“The goal is to be tireless in innovation. It’s free because we want to empower our partners and our customer base, ”said O’Leary. “Why should this remain an option for a few when it can benefit everyone?”
Free Float begins with a .slm file that contains cut part geometry, a parameter file, and support structures only in places where they cannot be avoided. The file is then loaded into the software suite, where users can immediately begin assigning Free Float profiles that “correlate with the various benefits of Free Float” as shown below.
Finally, Free Float has an open architecture, which means it can be retrofitted on almost all of the company’s printers, including the SLM 280 2.0, SLM 800, SLM 500, and SLM 280 PS.
“Why is it available for most of the systems in our portfolio? Because we strive to ensure that every new technology meets the needs of every machine previously built, ”said O’Leary. “We believe that creating a truly open architecture is the only way to realize its powerful additive manufacturing potential.”
If you are interested in the new free float software solution from SLM Solutions, test it here for free.