When 3D printing with metals, parts are subject to stresses during production and therefore typically require support structures to prevent degradation during the build. These supports are created directly within the design data and manufactured additively in conjunction with the 3D printed object. This step of the 3D print is required to protect the metal parts against thermal stress induced deformation during the build and to effectively conduct away the heat from the molten pool in overhang areas. Once the part is finished, the support structure is removed either manually or automatically.
To 3D print parts without any supports, or at least minimize the number of supports used, improves post-processing but can also reduce the print time, if applied effectively, and cut down on material consumption, saving on costs and reducing the environmental impact of builds.
Our experts at Additive Minds have tackled the question of how such a printing process might work and what challenges it would entail.