It has been evident for some time now that additive manufacturing (AM) is becoming more and more industrialized. For example, we have seen the use of more mature technologies and materials suitable for creating end-use products. However, one of the clearest signs is the increased emphasis on end-to-end solutions designed not only to optimize AM production, but also to overcome the specific challenges users face with the technology. In particular, we can cite Velo3D which has created an advanced end-to-end metal AM solution for its family of Sapphire® metal 3D printers.
Velo3D is a leading provider of metal 3D printing solutions known especially for their applications in the Aerospace, Oil & Gas/Energy, and Transportation industries. Founded by Benny Buller, the company was built around the motto “Print the part you want and need – without compromise.” Having a complete end-to-end workflow solution is an important part of that vision. A mix of software and hardware, the solution is also notable for virtually eliminating the need for design compromises for additive manufacturing (DfAM), among other benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the solution and its unique benefits.
How does the end-to-end solution work?
End-to-end solutions, as the name suggests, automate and control the manufacturing process of a part from design through post-processing. Already popular in traditional manufacturing, they are becoming an integral part of AM as it industrializes. They are especially important in industries where AM is used for end-use parts that need to be certified, such as aerospace, oil & gas, and defense.
Velo3D’s metal additive manufacturing solution starts with Flow™ print preparation software. Flow™ imports native CAD design files and is responsible for prescribing the manufacturing process for the Sapphire® family of printers. The software’s detailed process library eliminates the need to develop new parameter sets. According to Velo3D, it has over two dozen standardized recipes that can be used by engineers to analyze the part while Flow™ automatically applies the correct recipe to each feature. This can save months of development and reduce the need for specialized technicians.
Once the file is created, the next step is of course printing using the Sapphire® family of printers. A practical aspect of the Velo3D range is that they all perform the same process. This allows users to expect repeatable consistency, even if they have a number of different company machines. The machines also include Velo3D’s SupportFree™ printing process with their exclusive non-contact overlay system which reduces the risk of part collisions and makes post-processing a part much easier.
As part of the end-to-end process, Assure™ software for quality validation is also present. This software consists of in-situ monitoring and reporting systems, including through real-time sensors, physics-based excursion detection algorithms, and optical measurements. It ensures that the printer will always operate at peak performance. Plus, it dramatically reduces the possibility of part defects, a critical component for engineers in industries with stringent certification requirements.
This fusion of software and hardware has been designed for maximum user convenience. The Velo3D website describes the process as such: “As an end-to-end system, Velo3D incorporates in-situ reporting at every step of the build process, layer by layer. Our Assure™ software closely monitors every phase of construction and automatically creates detailed construction reports that can be crucial in the validation and qualification process. Enabling all of the above is Velo3D’s smart fusion®which is the underlying manufacturing process that binds Flow™, Sapphire®and Assure™ into a complete end-to-end manufacturing solution by managing the flow of information, sensor data, and advanced printing technology for precise control of the entire metal 3D printing process.
Overcoming AM Obstacles with Velo3D
Many of the benefits of using a complete end-to-end workflow are pretty obvious. For example, when dealing with industrial scale production with a number of machines, users need to be able to allow the software to control many aspects of 3D printing to ensure that it does not there will be no errors. Along the same lines, when we talk about industries that need certified parts, these must be repeatable and safe. This is especially important when it comes to metal 3D printing, as mistakes are both costly and critical.
One of the most interesting aspects of Velo3D in their workflow is Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM). DfAM is often considered essential in AM because it allows users to design parts tailored to the unique characteristics of the technology. This includes slicing CAD files turning them into STL files which can then be interpreted by the printer.
However, from the beginning, Velo3D’s mission has been to eliminate the need to learn DfAM as this can be a significant barrier to technology adoption. For example, trade-offs introduced by DfAM include adding supports, changing geometries, and making other changes so the part can be produced. These compromises not only impact part manufacturing, they degrade performance, impact reliability, and require excessive post-processing. More importantly, DfAM as we know it compromises the design intent of the engineers who build the parts.
In Velo3D’s advanced metal additive manufacturing solution, users can upload native CAD files to Flow™ preprint software without slicing into multiple STL files. It disrupts the conventional DfAM process allowing for much more complex prints while preserving the original design intent. Benny Buller, CEO and Founder, expanded on this point by stating: “For AM to mature and increase its addressable use cases, we need to unlock design freedom rather than restrict it through DfAM.” You can learn more about Velo3D’s AM solution HERE.
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