Creating supports for products.

Professional Support Design

If you’ve been 3D printing for a while now, you may want to look into creating your own supports native within your modelling software.

This type of workflow is great for instances where you’re working with similar products that have minor changes to them rather than individually unique items. Within a production setting, this workflow can become a powerful asset once you’ve passed the initial development stages. While it is true it can take a while in the beginning, often this makes for a more efficient workflow process for post-processing, and finishing work.

The easiest way to do this is to take information which was established from the automated supports, and carry these over to the 3D software. Before doing anything, you’ll need to ensure your 3D model is at the proper scale within the software, since this will make the values more accurate. The main information you’ll need for this is your layer printing height, initial bottom layer count, upper diameter for your connection point as well as the middle diameter for the pillars. I’ll be using Blender, which is a free open source software, but this information will apply to anything similar, whether it be for animation or CAD.

My custom keycap designs are a great example of this implementation, since they were all very similar and only contained slight modifications. For these models, I created a rectangle that was the total thickness of my initial bottom layers. Using my upper diameter information, I created supports which were this thickness, making sure to place these along the base of the model. It’s very important that, while doing this, to include gaps that will act as drainage holes. These gaps will help relieve any pressure build up that can be created due to the suction forces. Once printed, all of these supports could easily be removed with the use of a simple prying tool or sanded off until I reached the base of the key-caps. These were the final results that I ended up with, and they worked like a charm.

A larger scale example was the wolverine claws that I designed for a client. In this case, I created a base that would be easily to cut off after the print completed. This saved me a bunch of time in is my post-processing, since I only needed to really worry about the softening of the one edge of the model. Now although I did sand everything to ensure that they weren’t any layer lines, if this was for a rush project I still had the option of going straight to the painting process if I needed to. So, although it normally takes quite a few test prints to ensure that such supports will be successful, this is where utilizing some of the built-in slicer features can be helpful. In Chitubox and other slicers, often problem areas will be highlighted, so previewing the model first will give you a better idea of where to place such supports.

Another added benefit of doing this workflow, is that it can help influence the model design to help ensure that minimal supports are needed to begin with. My baby ghost design is another great example where this is the case. Compared to the original design, which would have required much more supports, the final versions require little to none as a result of how the mesh was modelled.

A lot of the finished products I make such as my collectors coins, necklaces and rings all use these techniques, and it greatly reduces the amount of time that I personally spend on post-processing. During a tight deadline, this means that I can normally finish a product within a couple of hours to within a day after the printing has completed. But what about the controversy of printing your models flat on the build plate? Well, we’ll go over that in an upcoming video.

Important Notes

  • Ensure proper scale
  • Layer printing height x initial bottom layers
  • Pillar upper diameter (min support thickness)
  • Pillar middle diameter (max thickness for supports reinforcements)
  • Preview highlighted areas in slicer
  • Design model to require little to no supports

Additional Resources