General Support-Effective Decomposition for Multi-Directional 3-D Printing

Chenming Wu, Chengkai Dai, Guoxin Fang, Yong Jin Liu, Charlie C.L. Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientific

50 Citations (Scopus)


We present a method for fabricating general models with multi-directional 3-D printing systems by printing different model regions along with different directions. The core of our method is a support-effective volume decomposition algorithm that minimizes the area of the regions with large overhangs. A beam-guided searching algorithm with manufacturing constraints determines the optimal volume decomposition, which is represented by a sequence of clipping planes. While current approaches require manually assembling separate components into a final model, our algorithm allows for directly printing the final model in a single pass. It can also be applied to models with loops and handles. A supplementary algorithm generates special supporting structures for models where supporting structures for large overhangs cannot be eliminated. We verify the effectiveness of our method using two hardware systems: a Cartesian-motion-based system and an angular-motion-based system. A variety of 3-D models have been successfully fabricated on these systems. Note to Practitioners - In conventional planar-layer-based 3-D printing systems, supporting structures need to be added at the bottom of large overhanging regions to prevent material collapse. Supporting structures used in single-material 3-D printing technologies have three major problems: being difficult to remove, introducing surface damage, and wasting material. This article introduces a method to improve 3-D printing by adding rotation during the manufacturing process. To keep the hardware system relatively inexpensive, the hardware, called a multi-directional 3-D printing system, only needs to provide unsynchronized rotations. In this system, models are subdivided into different regions, and then, the regions are printed in different directions. We develop a general volume decomposition algorithm for effectively reducing the area that needs supporting structures. When supporting structures cannot be eliminated, we provide a supplementary algorithm for generating supports compatible with multi-directional 3-D printing. Our method can speed up the process of 3-D printing by saving time in producing and removing supports.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8843914
Pages (from-to)599-610
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Additive manufacturing (AM)
  • multi-directional 3-D printing
  • process planning
  • support
  • volume decomposition


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