Can You 3D Print Without Supports?


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3D printing has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today. And the ability to create 3D printable models also applies to modern-day applications like Blender 3D. One of the requirements of designing fruity principle models is the need to create supports. So can you 3D print without these supports?

The need to use supports for any 3D printable model is going to be dependent primarily on the actual structure of the model. In most cases where you have overhanging faces, you will need some form of a support structure in place so that the structural integrity of your printable model remains intact.

The use of 3D printable supports is an important part of creating any 3D printable objects, but what about Blender? Is it possible to create 3D principle supports using Blender and why are they so important in the first place?

Why Are Supports Often Needed For 3D Printable Models?

There are many factors that come into play when you want to design models for 3D printing. Some of them are digital and some of them are physical.

In many cases, it will be an important part of the process to add support structures to your freebie principle model that can be removed after the 3D printing process. But how important is it to have the support in place?

Well, there are many different materials that can be used for the process of 3D printing, and there are many different types of 3D printers that have their own unique specifications. The type of material used along with the thickness of the design both play an important role in just how strong that design is going to be once it has been 3D printed.

Not every 3D principle object is that easy to create for your 3D printer, depending on the shape of the model. It may be more awkward to actually create for the 3D printer itself as a result of this, sometimes the structural integrity of your 3D model may be compromised as a result of either the lack of thickness or material.

If a printed model is not structurally sound during the printing process, it may break either during 3D printing or after printing has been completed. This is why it is important to have a support structure in place for your 3D principle models.

When Do We Need To Add Supports To A Model?

One of the most common issues with any 3D principle model is the appearance of what is known as overhanging faces. An overhanging face is a part of your model that is effectively hanging in the air with no support structure on its own.

Imagine your 3D printer trying to create something literally out of thin air instead of building it up from the ground. This is something that is actually quite common. Depending on the type of object that is being created.

It is in these areas where we have overhanging faces that we are more likely to have a structural weakness. As a result, these areas are likely to break or deform during the printing process and can also break quite easily after the printing process has been completed.

One example of a 3D principle object that may require some support would be a character model. Character models have various complex parts, such as the arms and legs, the arms of which in particular are likely to be overhanging from the model itself. Therefore, it would be ideal to have support in place for the arms. Another example is if you were creating a 3D principle model of a bridge.

While the towers of a suspension bridge, for example, may be able to hold the weight of the bridge itself after it has been built. During the printing process, this area remains vulnerable, so we would need additional support for the bridge.

Defining An Overhang

Some areas of your model will require support and others will not. The areas where we will require supports will be overhanging faces, but not all overhanging faces will require supports.

To determine where we need to supply our model with supports, we need to consider the 45-degree rule. The 45-degree rule is used to determine if an overhanging face requires a support structure or not.

If the overhanging face is over 45 degrees, then it requires a support structure to help maintain its strength.

For example, consider that your shape is the letter T. The angle of the top of the tee is basically 90 degrees. This puts it well above the 45-degree threshold for an overhanging face. As a result, this part of the model is going to be much weaker during the 3D printing process because there is nothing below it to support the weight.

It should be noted that the 45-degree rule should not be taken as the definitive rule, as some printers may not even be able to print supports that have a 35-degree incline, let alone a 45-degree one.

You should always test your printer beforehand to test its limitations when it comes to printing various shapes without the need for support.

Example Of An Overhang In Real Life

Can I Remove Supports After I Have 3D Printed The Model?

The whole point of having supports for your 3D principle model is so that you can remove them after you have created your 3D print. Supports are designed in a way that they provide added strength during the 3D printed process, but they can be removed with ease just by using simple tools.

Depending on the type of material used for the 3D prints themselves, you may require a sharp instrument to cut away the support structure and then a bit of sandpaper to smooth around the areas where the structure was connected to the main object.

Material Used For Printing

Am I Able To 3D Print A Model Without The Need Of A Support Base?

Depending on the chosen shape, it is indeed possible to print a 3D model without the need for a support base. However, it is often recommended that you do have a support structure in place for every 3D model that you create because the benefits and the pros far outweigh the cons of improving your general support.

The Challenge Of Printing Bridges Without Supports

One of the most difficult shapes for a 3D printer to be able to create is a bridge. We do not mean a literal bridge, although that applies here too, the bridge effect where you can a section of your model that connects two other sections together like how the road connects to the towers on London Bridge.

Depending on the size of your model creating bridges can result in a lot of material that has no natural support underneath the design.

Therefore when creating these bridge shapes we will need to consider adding additional supports for the connection to keep it strong.

A general exception to this is the 5mm rule, where if the bridge is 5mm or less then it is considered to be small enough for the printer to build a be light enough to have its weight supported by the model.

What About Holes In The Model, Do They Require A Support Structure?

If you have holes in your model then they can be considered a potential structural weakness and depending on the shape may require a support structure.

It is perhaps more important to ensure that the model has a thickness as if you use an object that is effectively hollow, then the general ability to create that model is compromised.

Printing With Holes But Thickness

Your 3D printer will not appreciate you trying to create a hollow object and it should always have a degree of thickness to it, which in blender you can include using the solidify modifier.

The Drawbacks Of Adding Supports To Your Model

There are a couple of drawbacks to adding supports to your 3D models. The most obvious of which is the addition of more material that needs to be 3D printed to create the supports.

Materials used for 3D printing are not cheap, so the inclusion of supports for your models is going to increase the cost of production for each 3D print.

Another drawback to adding supports for your freebie principle models is the amount of time that it will take your printer to actually complete the process.

Be Aware Of Excess Material

Not only does the increase of material used mean higher cost, but it also means more time for the 3D printing process.

Both of these, though, could be considered necessary evils as a failed 3D print will in itself cost time and money, and adding supports to the model can help avoid a failed print.

Does Blender Allow Me To Create Supports For My Model?

One question that we have yet to cover, however, is whether or not Blender even has the ability to create a support structure. While we can design our structure along with a 3D printable model, this is not the preferred process to actually create the support.

We will need to use a different software entirely. Remember that the support structures have to be able to break up from the actual model. If we were to create the support structure in Blender, it would effectively be treated as a part of the model.

Instead, what we need to do for our 3D printing process is complete. The actual design of the model in Blender and then export our 3D model to what is known as slicing software.

The slicing software is going to divide our model into easy-to-print pieces that can be sent to our 3D printer in the form of G code. It is the slicing software where we can actually create the support structure before we actually begin the 3D printing process. This is the preferred means of being able to create 3D printable supports.

Examples of slicing software include Cura, and many have a relatively small learning curve and are invaluable tools for those interested in 3D printing.

Ultimaker Cura Slicing Software

So while you can create 3D printable models without support material, this will always depend on many factors including the 3D printer, the materials used, and the shape of the model.

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