Velo3D Frees AM from Support Structures
Category: Manufacturing Technology • Jun 29, 2021
Disruption in the manufacturing ecosystem comes from many directions, and company founders do not necessarily come from manufacturing. What they have in common is really understanding the problems that customers face and turning it into a business opportunity. Benny Buller, CEO and founder of Velo3D, metal AM market leader, did not hail from a manufacturing background. “Benny founded Velo3D because he wanted to make it easier for people to enter additive without redesigning their parts,” said Joyce Yeung, director of marketing, Velo3D.
Velo3D brought together innovations in software, hardware, and process control to create the industry’s first “SupportFree” manufacturing solution for 3D metal printing, enabling unlimited design innovation by reducing the need for support structures in AM. This new category within laser powder bed fusion allows customers to use AM for direct part replacement, a completely new application. The company recently won Fast Company’s 2021 award for being one of the 10 most innovative companies in manufacturing, and customers now include SpaceX and Honeywell Aerospace.
The need for support structures in AM has been a major technical issue that has needed to be considered when a part is designed, requiring the designer to either omit overhangs that might droop during the additive build or, when this is not possible, to add in support structures to buttress those features. Adding supports can also entail redesigning a part to offer access to those features so they can be removed later via machining or manual postprocessing. The impossibility of removing supports from many parts is why many existing part designs are not transferable to AM.
“We believe that printing your parts ‘as is’ is the path with the lowest amount of friction for mass adoption of additive. When we have conversations with some of the biggest OEMs this is exactly what they say they want. They don't want to redesign, they don’t want to integrate variables into their process, and they don't want to enter that vicious cycle of prototyping that is often associated with new product development,” said Yeung.
Design for AM must follow a strict set of rules; for example, you can’t have shallow angles – anything under a 45-degree angle must have support structures with today's processes – and you can't have wide inner diameters. But the Velo3D process lets customers print with very shallow angles and print tall skinny parts with higher first-time yield.
“Using AM for direct part replacement is counterintuitive to what the industry is talking about right now. I help educate the market about this new category of capabilities, communicating our value proposition and our innovation in AM printing,” said Yeung.