Using Support Structures in 3D Printing

Welcome to the 3DP Unlimited 3D Printing Tips series! Last month, you learned How to Get Started with Large Format 3D Printing. In this tutorial, we focus on using support structures in large format 3D printing.  

Why? — Why Are Support Structures Needed?

Support structures enable the printing of models with steep overhangs and cantilevered sections. The 3DP1000 large format 3D printer utilizes Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology, which works on the additive manufacturing principle of heating and laying down material layer by layer to create an object. Many sophisticated 3D print designs require materials to be deposited on a layer where there was not a previous layer, or the designs have steep angles which might cause undesired drooping during the print. In these cases, support structures are needed to ensure objects? integrity and print quality.    

What? — What Materials Can be Used for Support Structures?

The 3DP1000 large format 3D printer enables users to print with two kinds of support structures: break-away support structures, and wash-away support structures. With the 3DP1000 single extruder 3D printer, you can use the same material of the 3D print to build break-away supports. While with the 3DP1000 dual extruder 3D printer, you will have the flexibility to print support structures using different materials, such as the water soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which dissolves in cold water, making it ideal for complex 3D prints.

When? — When are Support Structures Needed?

Generally speaking, if the 3D model has an overhang of more than 45 degrees, you will need supports. This angle is determined by the material, layer height, extrusion width, and temperature. It is critical to adjust the support structures accordingly to ensure the best print result, especially for large format 3D prints.  

Where? — Where do I need to add support structures?

Most 3D printing software will automatically place support structures based on the parameters you set. For example, in Simplify 3D, under the ?Support? tab, you can click the ?Generate Support? button to generate the support structure, adjust the density of the support structure, and also set the support pillar resolution. If the print requires more attention, you can manually add and remove support structures as well.       Simplify 3D and Slic3r have some great tutorials in adding and modifying support structures using their program, you can read it here (for Simplify 3D), and here (for Slic3r). Now you have learned the 4 Ws of using support structures in 3D printing. In the next 3DP Unlimited 3D Printing Tips, we will talk about the different materials you can use with the 3DP1000 and its influence on your 3D printing cost. Please stay tuned. If you would like to stay up-to-date with 3DP Unlimited?s news and 3D printing tips, please subscribe to 3DP Unlimited?s blog?here.

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