How to Remove Supports From 3D Prints?

Looking for guidance on how to remove supports from 3D prints? In 3D printing technology, 3D printing support structures provide support below protruding areas of a printed object. Without these designs, the free-standing elements in a model may droop, warp, or even collapse during a printing session.

A 3D printing support offers design freedom and allows users to print structures with complicated geometry. However, this technology is not free from limitations.

For example, issues related to overhangs exceeding 45-degree angles are prominent among several users. To overcome such cases, people use a 3D printing support structure. These items help them print complex objects with intricate details without problems.

However, several limitations accompany the benefits of using these supports. For example, the support material may become troublesome while removing, and you may not understand how to implement support settings such as reducing support density and using line support patterns.

Read on to get the appropriate information about removing supports without frustrating yourself.

Why Are Supports Used in 3D Prints?

Why Are Supports Used in 3D Prints?
Why Are Supports Used in 3D Prints?

The primary advantage of 3D printing is design freedom, which results from using support material. Support structures are a necessary item that successfully produces 3D printed objects. They prevent distortion and collapsing of any part of your model.

Using support structures also acts as a heat dissipating medium, especially in cases where high temperatures are possible, such as metal 3D printing. Complex designs like overhangs, holes, or bridges are challenging and need some extra support material to print successfully.

Types of Standard Support Structures

A slicer software creates the necessary support structure and applies it to those sections of your 3D model which require extra support material. These structures also improve bed adhesion, which reduces the risk of warping for your object.

There are two primary types of 3D printing support structures, both of which have unique removal methods. These include:

Linear Supports

Linear Supports
Linear Supports

Linear supports, also known as accordion or lattice supports, are the most popular and widely used support structures. They have straight vertical columns growing upwards from the platform that supports overhangs. It is a highly efficient feature for bridges.

Users can choose from a variety of support patterns. Their choices include grid, triangle, concentric, and line. In addition, there is an option to select support density. You can also alter it if you want a print with walls. However, this feature is usually present in the soluble support material.

Although these supports are suitable for overhangs, there are some limitations too. These items are trouble to remove. They also increase the chances of damage to your printer.

Tree Supports

Tree Supports
Tree Supports

Tree-like supports have more organic structures growing from the build plate and look similar to tree branches, hence the name.

They are most effective for providing support to bridges. It is also easier to remove these supports than linear ones as there are lesser touch points.

They are usually hollow, reducing the materials required for printing. Here, the slicer software generates structures. Users can decide and select several settings for this support type. They include branch distance, diameter, and diameter angle.

How to Remove Support From a 3D Print?

How to Remove Support From a 3D Print?
How to Remove Support From a 3D Print?

Removing support material from your printed object is tedious, messy, and sometimes dangerous. Plastic is a coarse material that goes through the 3D printing process. Tiny layers of this item can come off sharp and cause severe injuries.

You need to know how the experts remove supports such as PLA material and ABS from their 3D prints.

As you remove the finished model from the print bed surface, identify the sections that had support. After you detect them, mark them cautiously and be ready to remove them in a way that does not damage your printed model.

Once you distinguish between smaller and larger sections of the support structure, take your snipping device to remove tiny parts. Be careful while doing this step. If you start pulling on massive chunks of support structures, you might break your printed model. This damage will also increase the cleaning time. Start with small sections and move up to larger ones.

After you remove all the tiny sections, try the larger ones, although they might take some time and effort.

How to Remove Support Material if it Is PVA?

How to Remove Support Material if it Is PVA?
How to Remove Support Material if it Is PVA?

PVA refers to soluble support structures that are present in dual extrusion prints. You can remove support material by dissolving it in water. However, it often takes several hours to complete.

Immerse the Printed Model in Water

You can remove PVA soluble support structures by immersing them in warm water. The ideal water temperature should be no more than 35 degrees Celsius. A temperature higher than 50 degrees may burn the model.

Water dissolves the PVA material and loosens it from the printed model. You can try to remove any extra pieces with your hand, as they will come off quickly.

Running water also helps with the removal process as it can dissolve PVA in under three hours. You can also use pliers to remove most of the support after soaking the print underwater for ten minutes.

Rinsing and Letting it Dry

Once the PVA dissolves, rinse the print with water. This process will remove any excess sections. Again, running water is best for this step.

Apply any additional post-processing to the build item only when the printed object is completely dry.

Dispose of Waste Water

The biodegradable nature of PVA makes disposing of the water an effortless task. However, it is wise to check with local guidance. They can provide you with appropriate instructions for water disposal. You can dispose of the water into the drain only if the water distribution network connects with the wastewater treatment plant. Remove any excess PVC water by running some hot water for a few seconds. It also helps with clogging issues.

You can use the same water for repeated prints, but the dissolving time extends if you do so due to water saturation from the previous PVC material. To get the quickest results, use fresh water.

How to Remove Support Material if it Is Breakaway?

How to Remove Support Material if it Is Breakaway?
How to Remove Support Material if it Is Breakaway?

Your support structure may be a Breakaway type, which requires different removal methods. This procedure involves breaking the support structures from your material. The post-processing method for Breakaway support varies significantly from soluble supports.

These structures have a lower density than the main build; as a result, they have a lower in-fill percentage with thinner perimeters and walls.

Tear Internal Support Structure

You can begin removing the wall support structure using a gripping plier. This procedure is the beginning of tearing down an object. You can clear the maximum of the internal support structure using this method.

Remember not to cut the forms too close to the print. You can leave some material on the object to sand down in later stages.

Pull Away the Breakaway Support Structure

As you remove most of the support structure with your plier, try to pull the remaining part from the build material. You can use cutting pliers for this step. Grab the support in a corner and reach underneath it to bend it upwards.

You may have to repeat this process for several corners. However, doing so will help loosen the support from the model at every corner. Once it is loose enough, it will come off.

Peel the Last Traces

Sometimes even after pulling on the support, some of the material remains on the model. This final layer can be troublesome. In that case, a cutting plier can peel the coating from the loose edge. Doing so will remove all leftover traces. If some material persists, use a tweezer to peel it off.

You can also sand down any excess support structure protruding from the print.

Final Words – How to Remove Supports From 3D Prints?

3D printing has become extremely popular as the printers are affordable. Most users get their first experience of 3D printing through PLA support material. So, it is wise to maintain specific standards and precautions while 3D printing.

One should wear protective gloves while working with these models as the support structure may contain sharp corners that may injure the individual. Nevertheless, this method will save time and resources and provide effortless printings.

Also, if you are looking for the best 3D printer accessories specifically, check out our guide!