There are several considerations when designing parts for Additive Manufacturing (AM). In many cases, AM has unique design considerations that differ greatly from standard design conventions typically seen in parts that are manufactured with subtractive machining processes.
One major consideration in AM part design involves overhangs and how each layer builds up as the part prints. Ideally each layer would build on top of itself which negates the requirement for support material; however, this is not always practical for some parts.
Consider a part with a flange like the one pictured below. Printed in this orientation there is a large overhang created by the flange that would require a significant amount of support material underneath it. Not only does this consume additional resources but also creates a significant amount of post-processing work after the part is manufactured.
By designing supports into the part, the need for extra support material is negated. This support material would have to span the entire distance between the build platform to the underside of the overhanging flange. The integrated supports build with the part and allow each layer to stack on top of each other neatly.
An added advantage in regards to integrated supports in this particular design is the added strength that is achieved at the intersection where the underside of the flange meets the body of the part. This sharp transition and relatively thin feature can be prone to breaking under high stress. With the integrated supports, the relatively weak flange transition area is strengthened.
This is only one example of designing for 3D printing; however, this subject is far deeper than can be covered in just a short blog post. Be sure to read our other blog post and feel free to contact us here or on social media with any questions.