New Process for Support Minimization, Elimination from SLM Solutions

June 24, 2021

SLM-Solutions-Free-Float-support-freeSLM Solutions has rolled out its Free Float process for support minimization or elimination via most of the company’s additive manufacturing (AM) systems, including the new NXG XII 600. Ordering for new systems with Free Float now is available, with deliveries beginning in 2021’s fourth quarter for new machines and retrofits. 

Free Float, as explained SLM Solutions officials during a virtual introduction of the technology on June 23 (see video), promises significant reductions in build time and post-processing, leading to reduced cost per part, and enabling new design possibilities. Initial materials compatible with the technology include a nickel-chromium superalloy (Inconel 718) and titanium alloy owing to expected use in aerospace and energy sectors. Expect at least a couple OF new material releases annually.

In practice, the open-architecture technology employs software to process existing .slm files, with users simply applying profiles where needed then exporting for Free Float processing. Where traditionally, powder-based AM below a 45-deg. part-feature angle required support structures, Free Float “can now print overhangs to free float with low angles of 10 deg. for long-range geometry and 5 deg. for short-range geometry,” says Benjamin Haas, product manager, materials and parameters, for SLM Solutions. “(This technology also enables users to) increase the diameter of internal cooling channels, and create thinner walls and sharper edges with reduced peel-up.”

Using Free Float, SLM Solutions reports having improved part-surface finishes and achieved higher density, which means less porosity in downscale areas. And, space usually occupied by supports is freed, allowing for improved part orientation AND, possibly, the ability to print more parts in a build. Another reported plus: significant reduction in internal stresses on parts.

“Free Float automatically reduces the support structures as much as possible so that you reduce the amount of post-processing, therefore, saving labor time and save costs, and you actually have the part, finished, in your hands,” says Haas, summing up the technology’s benefits.

In addition, it provides “the opportunity to hit other limits that weren't possible before, just because of the design freedom,” explains Lorenz Kropholler, application engineer at SLM Solutions’ SLM Studios. “Now, users can go ahead and rethink all of the geometries that they have gone through in the past.”

Free Float technology saves time through the use of a continuous assessment procedure rather than point-to point assessment, and employs adaptive parameters that match the local requirements of a part as opposed to one uniform parameter set across the entire build, according to Dr. Simon Merkt-Schippers, application engineer for SLM Studios, who detailed some of its inner workings along with Dr. Dieter Schwarze, head of science and technology research for SLM Solutions. The reported results: reduction of supports to the absolute minimum and more rapid analysis and build.

Initially, Free Float is available for free on a subscription basis for SLM Solutions machine users.

Industry-Related Terms: Point
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: SLM Solutions NA, Inc.



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