Optimising the design of support structures in additive manufacturing with phase fields

Project: Research project

Project Details


Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a fast-growing technology that is making an appearance in various businesses and industries. It has the advantage of creating complex-shaped objects in a rapid, flexible and cheap manner, but despite its potential in a variety of areas such as biomedical implants, automotive and aerospace components, and even jewellery and food, it is held back by several factors that prevent real integration with commercial production line assemblies.

One of these factors which we plan to explore in this project is a design issue related to support structures. As the name implies, support structures are used to prop up the 3D object during printing to maintain its intended shape and prevent deformations caused by external factors. However, support structures obviously add to the material costs, printing time, and there is a risk of inflicting damage to the object during their removal. Since support structures are absolutely necessary for general object designs, previous researchers have employed the framework of optimisation, particularly in the context of structural topology optimisation, with the aim of finding optimal designs that address some of the issues arising from support structures.

The goal of this proposal is to develop an alternative optimisation approach for the design of support structures based on the concept of phase fields, which in the past has seen successful applications in tackling problems motivated from shape and topology optimisation. We believe our proposed phase field approach can offer both mathematical and numerical advantages over current methods; such as a rigorous analysis of the optimisation problem, derivation of optimality conditions, convergence of the numerical iterations, and an overall improvement in computational effort. Furthermore, we envision the ideas developed in this proposal can be extended beyond the issue of support structures, and begin to contribute towards resolving other challenges faced by the additive manufacturing industries.
Effective start/end date1/01/22 β†’ 31/12/24


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