What is support structure and why do we use it?
In simple terms support structure is there to support all down facing surfaces, overhangs and undercuts. The model material can’t float in mid air so a ‘scaffold’ is generated by the software.
At our 3D printing bureau we use Stratasys 3D printers. We have FDM for thermoplastics and Polyjet which is a UV cured resin. Both technologies need support structure. For FDM we have an acrylic based support material that dissolves in an alkaline rich solution and for Polyjet we have a high powered water jet system for washing off the jelly like support material.
The great thing about the professional Stratasys 3D printers we use at our 3D printing Bureau is the software that runs the machines. On our Dimension Elite 3D printer you simply orientate the part, click on the preferred slice and click print! The software decides where the support material is added and it really is as simple as that.
One other choice you can make is with the support structure is the type you want.
Image 1 shows the part on the build tray with no support material.
Image 2 shows the part on the build tray with SMART support selected. The software calculates the minimum support material required improving the build time and minimising the support material required that will reduce the cost that our 3D printing service will pass on to you.
However, you can see from image 3 that there is another support structure type called SURROUND. This is as it sounds, where the complete model is ‘encased’ in support material. This is only used when you have a tall or thin part and there is a risk of the part not being supported properly. It uses quite a lot more material than the SMART method but it will ensure a more stable 3D printed part.
Our 3D printing service will only use SURROUND support when it’s only necessary as the last thing the 3D Quick Printing team want to do is charge you too much for your 3D printed part!