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  • Writer's pictureMariam Mir

Common Mistake in Simulation-based Support Placement and How to Fix It.



Introduction

Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) has revolutionized the manufacturing industry by enabling the production of complex geometries with high precision. However, achieving successful prints often relies on proper Support placement to mitigate deformations and ensure structural integrity. 


Support structures are crucial in metal AM to prevent deformations, warping, and structural failures during the printing process. As metals undergo thermal expansion and contraction, Supports hold the overhanging or intricate features of the design in place, preventing them from collapsing or distorting. Without adequate Supports, complex geometries may fail to print accurately, leading to wasted material and compromised part quality.



The image above shows the 3D geometries of a winglet Part and Support structures for metal additive manufacturing.


Simulation in Predicting AM Process and Support Configurations

Simulation aids in optimizing metal AM processes by predicting thermal gradients, residual stresses, and distortions. By simulating the printing process and analyzing the predicted deformations, engineers can fine-tune Support configurations to minimize distortions and achieve desired Part accuracy. Advanced simulation software allows for virtual testing of various Support placement strategies, enabling informed decision-making before physical printing.


The image above shows the simulated displacements (distortions) after the manufacturing process with Supports only located at the distal end near the building plate (not shown). 


However, one of the most common mistakes in Support placement is the addition of "isolated" or "stand-alone" Supports to regions with detected high deformations. While this approach may seem intuitive, it can exacerbate deformations and buckling by introducing additional stresses. Isolated Supports tend to "pull" on the part, especially in areas with significant thermal gradients, leading to localized distortions and print failures.


The image above shows the simulated displacements with additional (isolated) Supports and the subsequent, localized buckling due to the pulling of this Support on the Part structure.


How to make it better? Early Attachment of Supports!

Contrary to the above-mentioned practice, the optimal strategy is to attach/connect Supports as early as possible into the Part geometry, particularly near regions prone to high deformations. By anchoring Supports closer to the base and allowing upwards of the Part, the load is distributed more evenly, reducing the risk of localized distortion and buckling. This approach minimizes the pulling effect of Supports on critical areas and introduces higher local stiffness to avoid buckling, ensuring better dimensional accuracy and part quality.


The image above shows the simulated displacements with additional Supports connected starting from the distal end to the Part and the subsequent, reduction of localized buckling.


Conclusion

Effective Support placement is essential for achieving successful metal AM prints with minimal deformations and optimal Part quality. By leveraging simulation tools and adopting the right Support strategy, engineers can mitigate common mistakes and optimize Support configurations for enhanced print accuracy and efficiency. Utilizing early attachment of Supports to the Part geometry, rather than isolated placement, can significantly improve the overall printing process and facilitate the production of high-quality metal AM components.

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