3D print 2-meter tall lightweight letters without build crashes


Slice-based technology

Software used

Materialise 3-matic, Magics and Build Processor


Save the data of the 3D geometry on slice-files


Consumer goods

Self-Supporting Letters: Design and Engineering

“We were looking for a design to address both a focus upon lightweight construction as well as on new systems for Additive Manufacturing,” says Prof. Reinhart Poprawe, Director of the Fraunhofer ILT.

Having received a briefing and a drawing of the LIGHT concept from the Fraunhofer ILT, Materialise’s Design and Engineering team got to work with translating it into a 3D design.

Designing for stereolithography often means having to generate support structures, since overhanging parts of the model would otherwise droop or be deformed. However, this project was different: the team designed the structures in such a way as to be completely self-supporting. Using Materialise 3-matic, the team designed extremely lightweight structures to populate the letters. The result was the largest data set in Materialise history.

Orientation: Build Preparation

Creating a self-supporting design isn’t enough if your goal is to eliminate the need for support structures: the crucial part that still remains is the orientation of the part on the print bed. To achieve the optimal orientation and protect the self-supporting design, the Materialise team turned to Materialise Magics. How well did it work? As Materialise CAD manager Staf Wuyts says, “The only automatically-generated support structure in the whole build was the bottommost millimeter under the first layer, which would eventually allow us to remove the printed build from the printer bed.”


No File Too Large: The Materialise Build Processor

File sizes as large as this can be very challenging to handle for 3D printing machines. Imagine trying to run a high-performance, graphics-heavy game on a computer with 250MB RAM. Although 3D printers are very powerful machines already, they rely on software to translate bits and bytes into printable matter. The answer is the Materialise Build Processor, which simplifies the communication between software and machines. Using a slice-based operations technology, the Materialise Build Processor can process large files easily and prevent machine crashes. To compress the file as far as possible, the software engineers designed the Materialise 3-matic structures without any wall thicknesses. The data of the 3D geometry was instead saved in slice-files, keeping the design file itself as lean as possible.

Light Print, Heavy Build: Mammoth Stereolithography

After the engineering team ran test prints to see whether the self-supporting design of the build was holding up—literally and figuratively—the LIGHT letters were ready for Additive Manufacturing on our Mammoth Stereolithography machines.


“Watching a finished build emerge from liquid resin on one of Materialise’s Mammoth machines is always a fascinating sight. But it’s even more fascinating when the emerging model is an embodiment of all three of Materialise’s biggest strengths: engineering and design, software, and Additive Manufacturing,”
says Dries Vandecruys, Design Engineer at Materialise.


After the silver matt spray-paint finish, the LIGHT letters were ready to be mounted in Plexiglas cases to be put on display at the LASER World of Photonics 2015, with light effects installed inside.