What Makes Support Structure Important?

What Makes Support Structure Important?

Looking at purchasing a 3D Printer can be a daunting task as there are so many options to choose from these days. Do you buy one with a large build size or one with 5 print heads. The most critical component to any 3D Printer isthe ability to calculate and create support structures.

Layer By Layer

First we need to remember that 3D printing works in an additive manner. Creating an object is a process of adding layer by layer of material. Much in the same way a sea shells grows over time by adding layers, 3D printers ‘grow’ the model. The process involved in creating a simple cube is easy, as all layers align one on top of the other as the model increases in size. Models that have a wide base and get smaller at the top are also simple to make, e.g. vases, pen holders, name badges etc.

So what happens if the model is not simple? What if we have an object like a sphere? That is the challenge. The top half of the sphere is easy to print as each layer is narrower than the layer underneath, like a vase. Our challenge is the lower half, as each layer is wider than the one beneath it. So how can you create something like a sphere, which has parts that will essentially be constructed on thin air? How can you make a model that has multiple faces and surfaces all at different angles with overhangs and undercuts? Is it even possible? Yes, it is possible but only if there is a way to support it somehow…

Introducing Support Structure

Create scaffolding! Scaffolding aka support structure is material created to support the object during printing. Building a bridge over water requires the use of scaffolding and engineers have been using support structures for hundreds of years. There are different methods required for printing models depending on the material or technology used. All 3D printers work on the same principle of adding layer on layer but some techniques are more efficient than others. SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) uses powder material and a high powered laser in which the powder actually supports the part during printing without the need for dedicated support structures. The best part is that the unused power can be recycled for the next print. FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) uses thermoplastic (like ABS) and heat to create the model. FFF, however, requires support structure to be created with the model to support any overhangs or undercuts.

If your printer isn’t able to create support structure for you automatically, you will be required to design the structures yourself. This is a time consuming process with results that might be ineffective, hard to remove,and result in an unsatisfactory experience.

The UP software automatically calculates and creates any required support structure that will not only ensure a high quality model but is also quick and easy to breakaway from your model. This results in a legendary quality of your printed models.