3D Print a Figure: Adding Supports

Photo of Rick Barrett

Instructor Rick Barrett

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  • Duration: 06:47
  • Views: 3551
  • Made with Release: 16
  • Works with Release: 16 and greater

Areas of a 3D model that overhang without support won’t print properly, so slicers add temporary supports that can be removed after the 3D print completes.

Areas of a 3D model that overhang without support won’t print properly, so slicers add temporary supports that can be removed after the 3D print completes. After performing a final check on our figure and exporting to STL, you’ll see how several slicers generate supports, including MakerBot Desktop, Simplify 3D, and MeshMixer.



So I think we're pretty much on our home stretch here with our farmer turned toy soldier. One thing that we also need to consider is overhangs and supports. Now, our farmer here, pretty much as pieces hanging off in every which direction. It's kind of hard to tell what is going to be the best orientation to put him in in order to minimize supports. And also, we need to look at how different slicers are going to handle creating the supports. So let's go ahead and export this guy as an .stl and we'll just call it Farmer.stl. And we'll go into MakerBot desktop, and let's go ahead and add this file to our plate. We'll go ahead and move him to the platform. And know this guy is absolutely going to need supports, so we'll go into settings and turn on supports and hit Okay, and export the print file to see what that looks like. And this actually is going to take a minute or so to prepare the slice, so I'm speeding it up for your benefit. As soon as it finishes here, we'll take a look at the print preview. So now let's look at the print preview here. You can see there what these supports actually start to look like. Kind of a garbled mess, but this is sort of how our farmer will print. So this is one option to export straight out of Maker Bot like this. We can also go ahead and go through Simplify 3D, and see how that's going to handle our farmer. We'll prepare to print. Simplify 3D sliced much faster. You'll see that we actually don't have any supports here, though. We need to jump back and edit our process, and tell it to generate supports. We'll go ahead and hit Okay and prepare to print again. Now, Simplify 3D actually has options to control where the supports are generated, and it also generates much smaller supports and easier to pull apart supports than MakerBot does inherently. So here we can see the type of support material that we're going to get through simplify 3D, which actually doesn't look too bad. There's another interesting option when it comes to generating supports that also provides a lot of other utility for 3D print, and that is an application from Autodesk called MeshMixer. So let's take a look at that. When you load MeshMixer, the first thing you want to do is go into the preferences and make sure it's set up for your 3D printer. So select the printers tab and I may go down here and chose MakerBot Replicator 5th Gen, and hit done. Then we'll go ahead and import the farmer.stl file. Now, MeshMixer is not a slicer. It doesn't actually slice the object, but it can generate supports and also has a lot of other utilities for 3D printing. What it does then is exports in .stl or .obj, that you can then take into your slicer to do the final slicing. When you first load a model into MeshMixer it's not going to be oriented properly because Autodesk uses Z for its up direction, rather than Y. So to fix that you're just going to want to go in to the edit tab, choose the transform tool, and rotate X negative 90 degrees. Any time you use the transform tool, you have to make sure to hit accept in order to lock in that change. Now, some of the real powerful tools are here in the analysis tab. There's options to automatically display and repair issues with your model, to check the thickness of your model, the strength, the stability. . .the overhangs is where the supports are generated and it also has the option to automatically determine the optimum orientation for your model. But for the first shot at printing this model, I'd like to print him vertically for no other reason than I think it will look cool in the time lapse. So I'm just going to go straight down to the print button, and I can generate the supports in here as well. So we'll go ahead and chose to repair selected, and that will go ahead and perform our repairs. And this process is going to take a minute or two. I'm going to speed it up for your benefit. Once that's done, it'll say model repaired, and I can go ahead and click add supports to generate my support tree. And MeshMixer generates a different type of support than I have seen in any of the other slicers. It creates sort of a tree-like support that resembles the kind of supports that you used to see on the plastic models you might have gotten as a kid. I actually like this kind of support. It's fairly easy to remove when it comes time to remove it after printing. So, there we have our supports. It says we have valid supports, and we go ahead and hit send to, to send it to the printer. What that does is it opens this file in our MakerBot desktop software. So from here we can go ahead and double check it. We can go into the settings and I want to make sure raft is on, but in this case I want to turn off support because MeshMixer has already generated any supports that I should need. I'm going to go ahead and hit Okay, and now I'm ready to send this off to the printer. So here's the print process for the farmer. And the thing about 3D printing, is it's kind of like the new version of rendering, except there's really no way to distribute it. So you really just have to wait for the process and it's actually nice for you that you get to see it all in high speed because it took me four and a half hours to render this farmer, or to print this farmer, rather. You can see the honeycombing structure that's going on in the inside of the farmer there, and here we go finishing up. So I had a little bit of work to do to remove the support material, and then here's my finished farmer.
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