You can revolutionize 3D Printed prototypes and custom production end-use parts through Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), a metal printing process. As with any manufacturing process, there are design considerations to keep in mind to avoid several iterations to reach a successful prototype, which can speed up the designing process.
In our latest video, Director of Applications Engineering Greg Paulsen walks through how to think about your design's geometry as it 'grows' from bottom to top to greatly reduce prototyping stages. Learn about support structures and key design considerations for overhanging features, horizontal holes, and more!
How can you instantly optimize your metal 3D printed parts? Watch and find out!
To learn more about our expert recommendations and key takeaways, read on!
Certain parts can suffice as naturally grown, which means they are only attached to the build plate from their base. This attachment can then be cleanly removed through manual manipulation, wire EDM, or CNC Machining.
Parts that are not very complex or don't include overhanging features, horizontal holes, or smaller tolerances will fare well with little to no support structures.
Combination of Supported and Natural Growth
This part required a combination of support structures on downward faces, and natural growth on the upper side. This was because there are gear teeth on both sides, and we wanted to allow the naturally grown side to remain smooth. As a result, the other side is slightly rougher due to the steel support structures included.
When you are creating high quantities of a part, or a design will be used multiple times, it's important to start considering self-supporting structures. This is especially true for more complex parts. Aspects of your design such as overhanging features and surface roughness will be affected depending on how much support is needed.
This featured part was not designed specifically for DMLS production. As a result, it required a creative build orientation along with lattice style supports to hold the piece at a 45 degree angle as it grew. The build angle was required to reduce overall surface area for each layer during build. If the part had been oriented flat, the entire base would have been prone to warping. This 45 degree orientation helped the cutout features to grow naturally, and also minimized supports on overhanging features during the build.
Minor tweaks on a design, such as adding pocketing to only one side or using diamond-shaped horizontal holes will mitigate supports during builds.
When you design your part to take advantage of all that DMLS offers, you can greatly reduce support requirements and therefore get better tolerances and repeatability. Ultimately, the decision depends on whether this part is a bridge prototype or moving to production.
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