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A metal 3D printed aluminum part with its support structures

Video: How Will It Grow?

What causes metal 3D Printed parts to warp, distort, or have inconsistent features?! Watch our new video to see what factors create a successful DMLS part, and how to implement them for your next project.

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
September 17, 2020
 3 min read
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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!

Natural Growth

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.

Supported Growth

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.

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Natural DMLS Growth
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DMLS Supported Growth
Natural DMLS Growth
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DMLS Supported Growth
Natural DMLS Growth
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DMLS Supported Growth

Natural Growth

Key Takeaways

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. These decisions will also depend on whether this part is a bridge prototype or moving to production.

Our DMLS Design Guide includes key designing details for optimizing your DMLS parts.

Don’t forget to check out our other 3D Printing challenges: What Will It Look Like?, Will It Melt?, Will It Fit?

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.