What Supports 3D Printing?

By on September 17th, 2008 in blog

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We’re thinking not of financial matters here, but “matter matters”. Specifically, the issue of printing overhangs. A 3D printer deposits material layer by layer – and there’s kind of a major issue if there is nothing underneath the layer. Print media falls by gravity and your object doesn’t quite look like it should. Bad.

The solution to the problem is to somehow provide temporary support structures that hold the overhanging material in place while the rest of the object appears. If designed correctly, the overhang will be connected to the rest of the object and all is well after the temporary supports are removed.

But what are these supports, and where do they come from? We read an interesting discussion on the RepRap forums, whose readers pondered the question of overhangs exceeding 45 degrees. A variety of solutions were proposed, demonstrating that this issue has not yet been solved satisfactorily. One point we agree with, however, was the idea that the object designer should not be responsible for determining the support structure. Designers should create beauty or utility; supports are work best done by software.

Via Forums.RepRap.Org

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!


  1. [in passing–v. old business]

    I’ve gotten some really interesting results by designing forms that support themselves. If you’re using a power technology that produces forms which are fragile when green, this can produce extraordinary results. There’s something to be said for thinking like a mason on such matters; consider http://www.gaudiclub.com/“ REL=”nofollow”>Gaudi.

  2. Commercial 3D printers have software that automatically calculates supports. Objet for example has Objet Studio this manages your printing queue, places the models efficiently on the build tray and calculates and places support material. It seems that perhaps the reprap and fab@home projects might both benefit from an open source implementation of such a tool. Because of your post, I’ll make a post on the Shapeways blog today about supports and I’ll share some pictures we have.

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