SLM Solutions' Free Float reduces the need for support structures in additive manufacturing

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SLM Solutions has launched Free Float, a software innovation that largely reduces the need for support structures in additive manufacturing, and in some cases removes them completely, without increasing build time.

According to the firm the solution enables the creation of metal components with previously impossible designs and unmatched productivity, reducing overall material usage and minimizing the end-part cost to achieve industrial-scale production. 

Sam O'Leary, CEO of SLM Solutions, said: "With the launch of Free Float, you can design bolder, freer, and with fewer limitations. 

"Today you can work faster and more productively. Today you can go to the place that will take you to the next level. Now that's disruption."

He also announced that the basic subscription to Free Float would come free of charge: "We're not messing around. Free Float is a game-changer that will enable success and shouldn't be limited regarding accessibility."

Support structures have puzzled the company's Chief Engineer, Dieter Schwarze, from the very conception of the SLM technology. Since the 1990s, support structures have been an inherent part of the 3D printing process. However, often, the design of the main component was limited due to the support structures needed to build them, and support structures could be a substantial section of the overall part volume. Supports also need to be removed later during the post-processing phase and increase material usage, which by default increases cost. These factors prompted Mr. Schwarze to wonder, "Is a support-free future viable?" 

Years later, that future looked possible for the first time. In 2017, a first glimpse at what would become Free Float was discovered as a by-product of a research project. After rigorous research and development, Free Float was born. Today, its unique vector technology establishes thermal management that significantly decreases net build time while simultaneously enhancing part quality, especially the case in overhang areas, which can now free float, like the branches of a tree.

It's the latest and greatest in software innovation for SLM Solutions and reflects its initiative to be the best in class for its customers. At the forefront of its design was seamless useability: Its three profiles, low, medium, and high, easily give you the desired outcome. In the words of its product manager, Benjamin Haas, "You do not need a Ph.D. to use it."

And, following SLM Solutions' open architecture philosophy, Free Float was designed to be retrofittable on many previously built systems, including the SLM 280 Production Series, the SLM 280 2.0, the SLM 500, the SLM 800, and the NXG Xll 600.

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