Date of Award

August 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Garrett J Pataky

Committee Member

Geetha Chimata


Support structures used in metal additive manufacturing (AM) have traditionally been used to overcome process limitations. A new approach explored in this study used novel design and placement of support structures to reduce part deformation. First, a case study was conducted with a simple production part at a major OEM. Changing the support structures used in the print reduced the average deformation by up to 21% and the maximum deformation by up to 24%. Once this opportunity for customized support structure design was established, interviews with AM engineers were used to identify the most common challenge features that would benefit from support design: bottom surface, hole, roof, and overhang. Supports were designed for these features using a mechanical analysis, print simulation, and test print. The advanced support strategies showed multiple levels of success, with the bottom surface showing up to a 6% reduction in maximum deformation, the overhang experiencing up to a 11.21% reduction in average deformation, the hole reducing average deformation by up to 24.59%, and the roof showing up to a 32.10% reduction in average deformation. Guidelines with a geometry definition, support design envelope, and example support solution were created for each of the four challenge geometries and used to support a crank plate containing the four geometries. In print simulations of the crank plate, the varied advanced supports reduced maximum part deformation by 14.6% compared to the constant baselines supports. Finally, a general method for generating AM guidelines was created.



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