What Are Support Structures?
Support structures are disposable structures used to prop up overhanging features. It helps ensure the printability of any 3D part. It also prevents part deformation, secures a 3D part to the printing bed, and ensures that they are attached to the main body of the printed part.
Support structures are used in filament and liquid resin-based technologies in polymers. They are important for models with awkward overhangs or bridges. Support material is usually the same material for the printed model and in some technologies, it is a wax-like material. Parts made with these technologies require post-processing to remove the support structures which may risk damage to the surface of the model.
Drawbacks Of Using Support Structures
Utilizing support structures has several drawbacks as well. First off, it lengthens the construction/printing process.
Other drawbacks include:
- The tendency for dimensional errors
- Some supports are challenging to take down
- The appearance and surface quality of the 3D part may occasionally still have markings after removal
- A post-processing step is necessary to polish its surface
- Expertise is necessary for post-processing to effectively polish an image
SLS Technology And Support Structures
The capacity to print objects with high geometric complexity is one of 3D printing’s many benefits that is frequently emphasized. However, the materials and equipment utilized with various designs and the way of layering the material result in significant differences across printing technologies and their restrictions.
If the model needs support structures, this is a crucial consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked because post-processing might have negative effects on both the model’s aesthetics and functionality. Complex structures with internal characteristics sensitive to the drawbacks of support structures are needed for many applications.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology does not require support structures. This is because, during the printing process, the powder bed itself provides support for the model.
SLS technology uses stable materials with qualities suitable for different industries, which is one of its many benefits. The absence of manufactured extra structures that would need to be eliminated physically or chemically is one of the advantages of SLS 3D printing over other methods. The powder that supports each layer makes it possible to create sculptures with intricate details and a variety of structures. Such models need to omit supporting structures to maintain appropriate quality and usability.
When there are small delicate features, the supporting structures might often be so big that it is impossible to remove them without causing damage to the model. Additionally, the removal of support structures can leave pieces in locations that are challenging to access without endangering the model with tools. These additional printed structures do not exist in SLS technology, of course, because the powder that served as the model’s support can be eliminated in the bead blaster after printing. Compared to the resin model, this enables far more detail and finer detailing.
When considering accuracy, some of the geometries might not have the required accuracy because of the presence of support structure remnants. There might be so much excess material in several of the spaces such as in liquid resin technologies that are just not accessible and can continue to seep out from the model or part over time.
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In SLS printing technology, the 3D model is printed between the powder raw material layer by layer thus there is no need for supports to hold overhangs or other parts of the model. This allows for higher efficiency and higher quality. You can completely maximize each build because there is no need for a support structure. Since numerous copies or different iterations of the same part or multiple different parts can be printed simultaneously, this is especially helpful in mass manufacturing.
Anubis 3D is proud to be a leading additive manufacturer-3D printing service provider. We specialize in rapid End of Arm Tooling (EOAT) and On-Demand industrial components, with years of experience working with clients who operate in several industries. No matter the complexity of your project, our team will be able to provide you with an innovative solution. Work with us on an upcoming project. Get in touch with our team to learn more about how we can help.