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The Best Way to Remove Supports from a Formlabs 3D Print

Have you been struggled to remove supports from a fresh print? Printing with a Formlabs 3D printer is a little different to your usual process. If you’re used to an FDM printer like an Ultimaker then there will be changes. …

Tom Watkins

June 5, 2020

Have you been struggled to remove supports from a fresh print? Printing with a Formlabs 3D printer is a little different to your usual process. If you’re used to an FDM printer like an Ultimaker then there will be changes. And with this slightly different process of using resin rather than filament, comes a new challenge of removing supports.

Follow in the steps below, or in the YouTube video above to improve your understanding of the process.

What Makes Removing Formlabs Supports Different?

Lets think about the Printer, as it is an SLA there will be resin cured by a laser. Therefore, the support material will be the same as the part material. This therefore means that extra care has to be used to ensure marks are not being left on the part. Formlabs software automatically places the touch-point of the supports. These will have optimised locations to reduce their quantity. However regardless, they will still need to be removed.

The motorbike carburettor shown in the image below will be the part shown in the first example. The only difference is that it will be printed from cartable wax rather than the black resin shown.

Remove the Printed Part

Before we can remove the supports, we will firstly use the Form wash to clean the part.

We are now using the scraper to peel the print from the build platform. By printing the part with a raft, this makes it far easier for removing the part without damaging the print.

3d print attached to build platform

By moving to a wider scraper, we shall employ a slightly different method to usual. Due to this being a large part, we are cutting off the raft from the model to give us more leverage on the supports. Preform (the free slicing software by Formlabs) uses a default 5mm gap between the part and the raft, so there is a minimal risk of damaging the part

removing the raft from the 3d print

Removing Supports

We are removing the supports using two different methods, firstly flush face cutters are utilised. We position the flush face alongside the part and use this to snip off intricate areas. Another benefit is that it allows for the touch points to be trimmed right up to the part.

Benefits – The supports are trimmed as close to the part as possible.

Negatives- It can take a reasonable amount of time on large parts.

using flush face cutters to remove supports

Another method that can be used, is to physically tear the supports off without the use of tooling. This process is dependant on the support material in question. When using a material such as the castable wax in question, its a little bit softer as it isn’t cured. However, with High Temperature resin the supports can be sharp, and could be damaging. Therefore the use of PPE in the form of gloves and eyewear is essential, regardless of the material.

Benefits- Quickly remove supports, saving time on larger models

Negatives- Greater chance of a reduced surface finish than flush face cutter method. Some resins will be more difficult than others.

removing supports by hand

Removing Supports from a Small Model

However, when dealing with smaller models more care and attention has to be used to ensure that the part has optimal quality.

The image below shows how we can manually assist the process. We are editing the automatically generated support points inside Preform, so that they are located on flat areas of the part. Preform notifies us on the right side of the screen as to whether it is printable, which allows us to be confident in our changes.

changing the support points on a model inside preform

When removing the support from this small model, due care has to be used. Flush face cutters are critical to ensuring that the model has the supports removed optimally. As we saw before, the raft could be removed. This would be slightly more difficult to achieve with such a small model. Therefore it hasn’t been adopted in this case.

removing the supports from a tiny part

Once the supports are removed, its worthwhile running through again. This is to ensure that all touch points are flush to the face of the part. Any further finishing can be achieved with fine grain sandpaper.

the finished print once supports are removed

During these tough times we would love to help your business find ways to save money. Speak to a 3D Printing expert, to minimise your cost. Call Solid Print 3D on 01926 333 777 or contact us.

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