Trumpf reduces reliance on supports

Trumpf, which makes a range of industrial 3D printers, has upgraded its TruTops Print software to reduce the use of supporting structures in order to shorten the printing times and cut out the cost of these supports.

Many – but not all – 3D printing processes rely on building supporting structures alongside objects to hold overhanging elements in place whilst they’re being produced. These structures also serve to dissipate heat from the printed part and prevent internal tensions and deformations during printing. However, it means that the printer has to be able to print the extra support material, and afterwards this support has to be removed – typically by dissolving it in water – which involves an extra process. 

Timo Degen, product manager for additive manufacturing at Trumpf, explained: “When we 3D print a part, we want as much control as possible over when and where the material melts and re-solidifies. The skill lies in choosing the right exposure strategies to prevent internal tensions and overheating in the overhang region.”

He added: “Users from any industry can benefit from the ability to 3D print parts without supports. The advantages of support-free printing are particularly appealing for parts that feature large cavities or challenging overhangs.”

For the latest upgrade, TruTops Print sets the 3D printer up to use the optimum printing strategy for each different area of the part, which significantly reduces the need for support structures. At the same time, Trumpf claims that the improved gas flow of its new 3D printers allows for uniform processing conditions and support-free printing.

The new technology also opens up new applications that couldn’t be properly exploited when support structures were still necessary, including areas such as additively manufactured radial compressors and shrouded impellers. Previously, manufacturers were unable to print support-free impellers due to their overhang angles.

Degen concluded: “The need for supports meant that 3D printing wasn’t an economically viable alternative to conventional manufacturing. But now things are different.”

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