Collaboration leads to the development of a multi-axis metal additive manufacturing method that does not require support structures


Laser Directed Energy Pipe deposition without support structures using a 6-axis Fanuc robot. Image: University of Waterloo MSAM.

Promation, ModuleWorks, and the University of Waterloo’s Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing (MSAM) Lab have collaborated to successfully develop and test a new method of fabricating cantilever geometries without the need for support structures.

The tests were performed at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, using Laser Directed Energy Deposition (LDED). By eliminating support structures, the team was able to simplify process planning and reduce waste.

Parts with geometric overhangs, such as pipes with bends, pose a particular challenge for additive processes that deposit material in horizontal layers. To deposit material in the cantilevered area of ​​the bend, the process must incorporate support structures that allow the layers to extend beyond the pipe. This works well enough, but incorporating support structures adds time and effort to production planning and creates additional waste.

To simplify and speed up the LDED process, Promation, ModuleWorks and MSAM have partnered to develop a new method that deposits layers in non-horizontal planes. The printing nozzle is mounted on a 6-axis robotic arm to ensure that it always remains tangent to the deposit surface which tilts automatically using a 2-axis positioner. Applying deposition layers to an inclined surface allows pipe bends and other cantilever geometries to be printed without support structures, simplifying production planning and reducing waste.

In lab tests, the team used the new method to fabricate a pipe with a 45-degree bend without support structures. The new method was also used to successfully print a closed hollow dome.


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