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Support Structure Optimization Using PrintRite3D®

Executive Summary

Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D® software not only provides additive manufacturers a vital tool to allow them to better understand production issues when they arise, it can actually help them optimize the support structure upon which the part is built. As a result, AM companies can use less metal powder, reduce machine time and material waste, and remove the part from the structure more easily.

The first step in the additive manufacturing process is to create a support structure upon which the part is built. This structure holds the part to the platform and transfers heat from the metal sintering process. Heat transfer can lead to part distortions, including delamination, resulting in a part going out of spec.

In this Sigma experiment, 11 different variations of support structures were created and parts built upon each structure several times. Each time, the build process was analyzed using Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D, resulting in the proprietary Thermal Energy Planck (TEP™) metric. TEP™ has been independently confirmed as an important, valuable and high confidence way to ensure compliance and certification of 3D manufactured parts.

The TEP™ of each support structure was then reviewed to select two support designs for the section phase of the experiment. The two chosen support structure designs, each with a different volume, were then tested for residual stress, as measured by TEP™. The larger volume support structure showed a larger amount of total energy deposited, causing both higher temperatures and variance. The structure with the lower volume had consistently lower TEP™ and less variation for all builds.

The lower volume structure used seven times less powder, machine time was reduced, and there was easier removal of the support structure from the part being built. The support structure had been optimized using PrintRite3D® data.

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