With 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, a machine creates a part by adding material in layers, building the object from the ground up. Because each new layer needs to be supported by the layer below it, there’s a limit to how much one layer in a complex part can jut out over the next. As a result, manufacturers often need to build structures to support a part as it’s being printed.
But after the part is completed, removing that supporting material can be costly,” says Xiaoping Qian, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “These support structures are sometimes referred to as sacrificial structures, because they are discarded in the end, which wastes material and build time.”
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