Thursday 7 June 2012

Half a Ball of Stars - Support structures #30DoC day 6

For Day 6 of  30 days of creativity ( #30DoC ) I'm having a rest from designing things, but I wanted to give my printer a challenging print while I worked.

A few weeks ago I did a quick test print of the Ball of Stars Created by @Dizingof
I used basic support structure and low-grade PLA just to test it out.

I have been meaning to print another one, much bigger and with full support structure. Today I set it off to print while I worked. It would have been a 17+ hour print, but 9 hours into it, at about half way it shifted on the Y axis, probably due to the head catching on the massive structure with the rather high acceleration settings I use on MendelMax.

Some of the support removed.

You can see that about 40% into the build the Y axis shifted, so when I came home I stopped the print.

Before removing support - This is what it looked like after 9 hours of printing (the half a ball of stars is inside there somewhere!)

This was my first test print a few weeks back, I didn't clean all the support structure off, and it had some unsupported areas, this was sliced with Skeinforge V46 using external support structure at >60 degrees overhang giving me some sections that sagged when they printed in free space.

For the new print today, I made it 150mm wide and enabled support everywhere, as you can see from the above Visual Gcode (Repetier Host) it was a real monster! Skeinforge had to slice for almost 2 hours to output the Gcode for it.

In hindsight a little too ambitious and I should have slowed down the travel moves and enabled Z Lift (Hop) I think it would have printed OK if I had done that.

Doing the same model in Slic3r with support enabled only gives a support column in the centre of the model, so I could not use Slic3r for this print unfortunately, a real shame as it slices in just 8 mins.

It is fun watching these things print.

And it used a fair bit of PLA.

Removal of the support structure is quite easy, but takes a little time.

It needs a little more support removed, but I'm quite happy with how it came out, and it would have looked really good as a complete model and not for the Y Axis Shift.

My proposed new settings for a future print attempt -
I have sliced it again and this time enabled Z lift (Hop) and used Exterior Only support with a 45 Degree minimum support angle, this should give me some support on almost everything, but not cover the entire model.
These are my support settings shown above, if anyone can give any advice to improve these, do get in touch or leave a comment, I hardly ever use support, so could do with any pointers you have.

It still looks like a lot of material, but compare the Gcode image below with the failed print above -

Fingers crossed, it should print well next time, and have a lot less support material to remove.

I'll give it another try soon and give an update.

Thanks for reading,




  1. Rich, great post

    I think 3D printing any shape, complex or otherwise, should be easy, fun and with the highest quality.

    Struggling with support removal should be a thing of the past.

    I'd like to suggest adding a second extruder to your 3D printer to use it with a Soluble filament (or PLA) to generate support structures that dissolve completely in hot water - this is the NEXT evolution step for the makers community

    Any average "bloke" reading this blog (as much as it was a good read for me) would have moved away instantly to play with his FarmVille or something...

    I believe its time to take the next step.. produce fast high quality 3d prints the easy, PRO way.

    On my last 2 uploads to thingiverse i've added a separate support STL file - for those who have Dual extruders 3d printers to test it with a Soluble filament - one guy took the challenge, i'm really hoping to see a progress on this.

    I've uploaded just now a support structure STL file to the Ball of Stars page

    Hope you're the guy to make this happen :)

    1. Hi Thanks,

      I agree it's a pain using and removing support, and it can make 3D printing look a little primitive at times.

      Almost everything people have asked me to print for hobbies and models have required a level of support, and it's quite hard to get people to change their design to minimise it, 3D printing will need a simple way to achieve this in order to appeal to the average 'bloke'.

      At the DIY level we have some good examples of dual extrusion, and it's mainly the firmware for the printers now lagging behind.

      This will be the year for Dual extrusion and hopefully a friendly support material.

      Soluble PVA is available but it was $90 a KG last time I checked, where it should really be $9.

      Thanks for uploading the support structure for Ball of Stars, that's going to really help, I will let you know how I get on.



  2. Yes price isn't right but here is a work around - using PLA and dissolving it with Caustic Soda :

    1. I mainly print in PLA, but would like to try the dissolving method as soon as I get my Dual extruder set-up running. thanks for the link, I have seen Jewellery ultrasonic cleaners for under $100 so may well invest in one, that one from BFB was a little on the expensive side!

      I would ideally still like to use Sugar for support, it melts at a similar temperature to PLA. I'm going to have another go at a hot-sugar extruder design again soon.



  3. Hey Rich,
    Have a look at the support settings we use here

    The Mendel-PLA-05-03 profile produces support which peels away easily by hand, even in PLA.


    1. Thanks Jean-Marc, I Have downloaded it and I'm Slicing now, should be interesting, thanks again.



  4. Hello,

    I'm wondering about the advantages of printing with support material. In college our 3D printer used support material. Well now all I see is people printing complex shapes without support material. Is the advantage increased resolution? Ability to do more complex parts? What is the advantage?



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