Since its establishment in 1996 in Feldkirchen, Germany, Alphaform AG has grown into a professional and innovative development and manufacturing company. It has a wide range of technologies in it’s portfolio and specializes in low volume manufacturing, particularly in the area of prototyping and small-series production of niche products. Alphaform offers a range of 15 different stereolithography materials. The company was established in Germany and over the last few years has expanded across Europe. From the very beginning of its existence, Alphaform has integrated Materialise’s software solutions into its operations. e-Stage, the automatic build support generation software, is a continuation of this trend at Alphaform. As an innovative company, Alphaform always takes advantage of the most innovative software solutions on the market, hence e-Stage is the ideal addition to satisfy it’s software appetite.
e-Tools open new possibilities
Over the last few years, Materialise has been intensely working on the development of new and automated work preparation software solutions, collectively known as e Tools. The automation of work preparation operations, such as labeling, texturing, slicing and build support generation is now here in the form of e-Tools. e-Tools are customized to meet the requirements of the customer, so every single customer obtains the optimal solution.
Automated build support generation
e-Stage is without a doubt, a revolution in stereolithography build support generation. The fully automated generation of e-Stage support structures is amazingly flexible and efficiently supports all geometries and build orientations. Even the most complex of components are supported in the most efficient manner without errors. “A considerable advantage of e-Stage is that the support structures are generated automatically. Even at the initial stage of data preparation alone, significant lead-time savings can be made”, says Stephan Keil. The support structure grows like a pyramid from the top down (see image 4). As the support structure is generated down towards the build platform, the support structure expands outwards in the X-Y plane ensuring that the component is well anchored and avoiding distortion.
Minimize finishing times and maximize part quality
Paradoxically, e-Stage generates a robust support structure that is easy to remove. Stephan Keil remarked: “Elements of the support structure can even be removed with compressed-air alone”. e-Stage also calculates the minimum amount of part contact-points required to generate a robust and reliable support structure. “The minimal number of contact-points that e-Stage attaches to the part surface produces an impressive end result in terms of part quality,” commented Stephan Keil. Minimal contact-points mean that less surface area requires sanding to remove evidence of supports. This results in minimized part finishing times and excellent part quality. As a result of the many benefits of e-Stage, Alphaform AG utilizes e-Stage to generate build supports for 90% of the components that it manufactures. For special cases and to complement e-Stage, Magics support generation module is used.