When it comes to 3D printing support material is often necessary for intricate geometries, unless the model is self-supporting. In this blog I will lay out the different support materials and the different styles they are printed in. I will talk about self-supporting angles and why support material is sometimes not needed. And I will also talk about the different ways we remove the support material once the part is finished printing.
No matter what 3D printing you’re doing, all these support materials ultimately do the same thing: support a 3D printed part during the building process and provide surfaces for model material to build upon. This is needed where the geometry has an overhanging surface or internal feature. When the STL part file is processed in the Stratasys software it figures out where the model will be laid out layer by layer. Once it has finished with the model it will go through each layer and figure out where the part will need to be supported. The Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process builds towers of support leading up to the area in need of support. The FDM process also has a self-supporting angle, depending on the material it is usually around 45 degrees. This is because of the layer to layer adhesion and the side to side toolpath adhesion. The model can support itself if the surface it is building is 45 degree or above from the platen. For PolyJet machines there is no self-supporting angle because of the very small resin droplets being cured by ultraviolet lights. In this process everything needs support unless it is it is 90 degrees to the platen.
FDM Support Material Options
Stratasys FDM machines have three different categories of support material. In the beginning the first support material was BASS support material. BASS stands for Break Away Support Structure. This is a grey material that is a lot like the ABS model material itself. This material is manually removed from the model by hand. Generally all the FDM support builds in towers forms up the side of the part. The breakaway towers are perforated meaning ever 40 layers or so the software inserts a layer of model material. It also builds the towers in separate boxes. This allows the support material to be removed not only from the model, but to be removed from itself. As new materials have been introduced some of them have required the use of the breakaway support.
FDM Breakaway Support Options
Here is a breakdown of the breakaway supports, the materials they go with and the machines they run on.
P400R Break Away Support Material – Original ABS
Machine: Dimension class BST
Color: light grey Tip size is T16
PC Support – Breakaway for PC
Color: light grey
Tip size is dependent on layer resolution
Used With PC and PC-ISO
Ultem 1010 Support – Breakaway for Ultem 1010
Color: Light Tan
Tip size is T16
Used With Ultem 1010
Ultem 9085 Support – – Breakaway for Ultem
Color: Light Tan
Tip size is T16 Used With Ultem 9085
FDM Soluble Support Options
The SR support materials are the soluble ones, the SR stands for soluble release. The soluble support material was release in 1999. This was very popular because it allowed for hands free prototyping. Up until then you were removing everything by hand. This could be time consuming and you had to be very careful not to break your model in the process. With the soluble support you are able to print models with fine feature detail and not have to worry about breaking the model. You simply put your part in the heated water bath with the water works detergent and the support is washed away. This soluble support comes in a few different versions because of the different processing temperatures of the different model materials. The extrusion temperatures of the different support materials are closely matched with the model materials they run with. Here is a breakdown of the different soluble supports, the material they go with and the machine they run on.
SR 30 – Soluble for ASA, ABS-M30, ABS-M30i and ABS ESD-7
Machine: Fortus, Uprint, Mojo
Uses a T12 SR30 Tip
Requires 70 ⁰ C Waterworks solution temperature
Uses a T12 SR100 Tip Used with PC
Requires 85⁰ C Waterworks solution temperature
SR 110 – Soluble for Nylon 12 and PC-ABS
Color: Light Brown
Uses a T12 SR100 Tip
Has special temperature considerations found in the Nylon 12 Best Practices document.
FDM Sacrificial Tooling Support Option
Now this next FDM material is technically a soluble material, but it was developed to run as model material. The new ST support material stands for Sacrificial Tooling. This material was specifically developed to be used in the carbon fiber filament-wound composite process. With ST130 you would mainly be building tooling for hollow composite part production. This would typically be used to make such items as ducts, tubing, tanks and tubular or hollow structural members. The material is made to withstand the curing temperatures of the carbon fiber resin. Once the carbon fiber is fully cured the part can be submerged in the normal heated bath with the waterworks cleaning detergent to be dissolved away, leaving you with your carbon fiber part.
ST-130 Sacrificial Tooling Material
Machine: Fortus large format
Color: Dark Grey
Uses a T20 tip
Has a specific part considerations found in Sacrificial Tooling and Mandrels for Composite Part Fabrication design Guide.
Here are a few graphics showing the different styles the FDM support material builds in.
PolyJet Support Material Options
Stratasys PolyJet machines have three different types of support material. The support materials have always been some what break away. Typically you would remove most of the material by hand by using a small plastic scraper, toothbrush, popsicle stick or toothpicks. Whatever you can’t get off by hand you would use the waterjet machine to remove the rest. The waterjet is a small parts cleaning unit. It’s basically a water tight box with a window on top. You open the top, place your part in the unit. Then you reach through the front of the machine where there are large mounted rubber gloves. Using a foot switch to turn on high pressure water, you use the hose with a spray nozzle to clean your part.
The original support was SUP705, this has a gel-like consistency and is removed manually or with the waterjet machine. This SUP705 support material runs on every PolyJet printer. Within the past year Stratasys has released two different soluble support materials. The SUP707 is the first soluble support material to run on the PolyJet platform. It is specific to one machine, the Objet Eden260VS, This is very popular because it allows you to print parts with fine feature detail and not have to worry about power washing away the delicate features. You simple drop it in a water bath and allow it to dissolve away from the part. The third support for the PolyJet is also a soluble support. The SUP706 was developed to run on the large format PolyJet machines like the Connex 500 and the Connex J750.
SUP705 Support Material
Machine: All PolyJet 3D printers
Removable by hand or waterjet
SUP707 Support Material
Machine: Objet Eden260VS
First PolyJet soluble support
SUP706 Support Material
Machine: Connex 500 and Stratasys J750
There are a couple things you can do to manipulate the PolyJet support material during a build. One thing you can do is change the density of it. PolyJet uses a blend of support material and model material to support the model. This is called the grid style. You can change this setting from standard, heavy or light. Depending on the geometry of your model you may want a stiffer support or a softer support. The other support option is the hollow feature. This would be use if you have a part that will use a large volume of material. You can choose this to hollow out the model material and fill it with support material. You would do this because the support material is a lot cheaper than the model material.