3D Printing: Let’s talk supports
Above: Three printed PLA pieces. The left one has all the supports still attached, you need to remove the supports to clean up your print and have it look as intended. The middle piece shows some of the supports removed and the right one is clean.
What are supports?
3D printing works by building up layer by layer, but when you have a layer with nothing below it… the plastic has nowhere to sit. Supports fill that gap, and make complex pieces possible!
Supports are usually thinner pieces designed to hold up your model. They’re usually thin and patterned in a way to easily snap off. With dual extrusion (two colours), you can either print the supports in a separate colour to make them easy to identify and remove OR you can print the supports with PVA, which melts away in water!
How do i add supports?
Supports are automatically generated by the slicing software, where you set up the print. Depending on the printer you can set up different patterns, while it is mostly preference some options may work better for certain shapes or use less material.
In some cases you may want to manually add supports when you are modeling your piece. This adds some work and requires some knowledge about how the print supports work, but has the benefit or reducing material used and giving you more control over the placement so removal is easier. You can also skip out on some supports if your angles are less than 45
What are you tips for removing supports?
Supports can be tedious to remove, and sometimes a little dangerous! So here are some tips to help you out.
Filament Supports: Print the supports thin and with the support interface, it makes it a lot easier to remove than when they are thick or when they are added through the modeling programs.
For PVA Supports: We let the print sit in water for an hour, sometimes more and sometimes less depending on the print. You can rub it off with your hands and it takes about 15 minutes, but it is gross! We usually use an electric toothbrush at the shop for hard to reach crevices or tiny pieces. It does a really good job.
Resin Supports: You can pretty much just break them off with your hands, and then clip off any excess nubs that remain with flush cutters (snips).
—Kevin @ Shop3D.ca
Filament Supports: I usually rip the big pieces off with my bare hands but sometimes I like to use pliers for the larger pieces. My go-to tools are a pair of flush cutters (snips) to cut supports and a pick to dig supports out of holes.
Patience is key, if your supports are really stuck then going rough and quick can cause you to slip and damage your piece.
While supports are usually much easier to break off than the actual print, I worry that I might try to break off parts of the print and damage it! So I like to have the 3D print file open to reference when removing supports, unless it is something I modeled myself.
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