3D Printing Without Support Structures?

Can you imagine 3D printing without support structures? Is it possible the post production process won’t be as vital with metal additive manufacturing?

“Few in the additive manufacturing industry would argue that laser-based metal powder bed 3D printing has been a game-changer. Everyone from GE Additive to Materialise to Protolabs to Stratasys Direct is printing end-use metal parts these days, often in production quantities.

There’s just one fly in the additive ointment: post-processing. Or, more specifically, the post-processing needed to remove metal supports, those little scaffold-like structures that keep metal parts from curling up—and plastic parts from drooping—during the build process.

This secondary operation isn’t a huge deal, at least for prototype parts. But production quantities? That’s another story entirely. Because support removal is so onerous at higher volumes, a number of 3D printer manufacturers have developed technology to either eliminate supports or make them easy enough to remove that post-build CNC machining is no longer necessary (at least for support removal).

What is this powder bed-buster? HP has one. Its Metal Jet system uses a photo-curable binding agent to hold parts together during the build process. When done, the “green” part is decaked (cleaned of excess powder) and placed in a sintering furnace. Granted, some machining might be needed for close-tolerance dimensions or where fine finishes are required, but it’s also quite likely that many parts can just be given a quick ride in a parts tumbler and be put into service.”

Grab the full article to read more about 3D printing without support structures.