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Inventions 2018, 3(1), 2; doi:10.3390/inventions3010002

Contact-Free Support Structures for Part Overhangs in Powder-Bed Metal Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing Laboratory, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL 35812, USA
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA
Current address: Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 November 2017 / Revised: 24 December 2017 / Accepted: 26 December 2017 / Published: 28 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Innovations in 3-D Printing)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [13007 KB, uploaded 28 December 2017]   |  


This study investigates the feasibility of a novel concept, contact-free support structures, for part overhangs in powder-bed metal additive manufacturing. The intent is to develop alternative support designs that require no or little post-processing, and yet, maintain effectiveness in minimizing overhang distortions. The idea is to build, simultaneously during part fabrications, a heat sink (called “heat support”), underneath an overhang to alter adverse thermal behaviors. Thermomechanical modeling and simulations using finite element analysis were applied to numerically research the heat support effect on overhang distortions. Experimentally, a powder-bed electron beam additive manufacturing system was utilized to fabricate heat support designs and examine their functions. The results prove the concept and demonstrate the effectiveness of contact-free heat supports. Moreover, the method was tested with different heat support parameters and applied to various overhang geometries. It is concluded that the heat support proposed has the potential to be implemented in industrial applications. View Full-Text
Keywords: overhang; powder-bed metal additive manufacturing; support structures; thermomechanical simulations overhang; powder-bed metal additive manufacturing; support structures; thermomechanical simulations

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Cooper, K.; Steele, P.; Cheng, B.; Chou, K. Contact-Free Support Structures for Part Overhangs in Powder-Bed Metal Additive Manufacturing. Inventions 2018, 3, 2.

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