3D Printing Tech Tips: Using Support Structures in 3D Printing

3D Platform examines the four W’s of support structures regarding large format 3D printing.


Why? — Why Are Support Structures Needed?

3D Platform 3D printers utilize fused filament fabrication (FFF). This works on the additive manufacturing principle of heating and laying down material layer by layer, thus creating an object. Support structures are needed when material must be deposited on a layer where there was not a previous layer. This is common in more complex models which includes deep overhangs or hollow structures. You can broaden the potential of your 3D printing by using support structures.

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

With a printer that has a single extruder, you will likely use the same material for supports as you use for printing. These support structures will simply break away from the part after printing. If your printer has dual extruders, you will have the flexibility to print support structures using different materials such as water soluble PVA (polyvinyl alcohol). This material dissolves in cold water making it ideal support material for complex ABS or PLA prints.

When? — When are Support Structures Needed?

If your model has areas that overhang over 45 degrees, you need supports. Looking at the model of a teapot, notice the extreme angle of the overhang. This teapot would not be printable without the use of supports.

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

This is where the 3D printing software can help. The software automatically places support structures where they are needed based on the parameters you set. This is demonstrated in the ‘support tab’ in Simplify-3D. Click the ‘general support’ material button. Then set the infill percentage. This is how dense you want the support structures to be. Next, set the support pillar resolution. This is determined by the diameter of the support structures. It is possible to manually add support structures where you think you need them or conversely remove them where you think they are not needed. Select the manually defined supports icon and add or remove support structures as you see fit. Once you are comfortable using support structures in your 3D prints you will not be limited by overhangs or complex models. The sky is the limit.
When it comes to 3D printing you don’t want your model to be wobble, you want them to be like a Russian in heels. — 3D Printing Ninja
3D printing complex models, many find it difficult to decide when and where to use support structures. In addition to the basic 45 degrees rule, there are many other factors one needs to consider before adding supports, such as diameter and height. Read this blog by 3D Printing Ninja , and learn his tip about using support structures in 3D printing. Read more: https://3dprintingninja.blogspot.com/2015/03/wiggle-theorem-what-is-maximum-angle.html

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