Stereolithography is a process used to rapidly produce polymer components directly from a computer representation of the part. Support structures, required for all parts built this way, are used to support a component during the build but are removed once building is complete. They anchor the component to the platform and prevent distortion, and are designed simultaneously with the component.
A software package to aid the designer is under development at Clemson University. The Clemson Intelligent Design Environment for Stereolithography (CIDES) serves as an interface between the CAD systems and the SLA, cornbining utilities and research efforts. One aspect of this is the automatic support generation algorithm, which designs support structures using knowledge gained from experimentation and experts.
The algorithm uses a stereolithographic format representation of a part and gives the user several design options. It then produces both base and projection supports. Output is in slice-ready form.