Wednesday 20 December 2017

Christmas Advent 3D Printing #Day 19 Advice printing with support materials

December advent calendar - modular Christmas tree
3D Printing advice #Day 19

For the background and introduction - Day #1 Post click here

Christmas Advent 2017 Download on Thingiverse here - designed by Tom Van den Bon  With some help for each day by the South African Makers team.

It's time for Day #19

Day 19 gift is designed by Gerhardt Breedt -  It's a totally awesome little Jeep, with a lot of detail.

Great little Jeep - printed in Faberdashery Greenery Green (It's Army-Man-Green really)

Because this model is a little more complex to print, and requires the use of support structures, today I'm giving advice about the use of different support materials available and how well they tend to work.

Single extruder setup - 

First let's look at what a 3D print will look like if support material is enabled using a single extruder machine.

Support structure enabled - Support in Green, model in Yellow (top faces shown in red-orange)

Lets print that...

It printed just fine, but now you have to remove all that support material. 

For removal of PLA you will need - 
  • Cuticle Nippers (Top-Tip - they work great) - For MEN, or WOMEN - :)
  • Pointy thing (left hand side - very pointy)
  • tweeters, 
  • time, 
  • patience, 
  • cup of tea, 
  • soothing music, 
  • etc.
Have a guess how long the above support removal was, I'll tell you down below, after we look at the alternative method.

Dual extruder setup - 

I'm using Faberdashery PLA( above) and Polymaker Polysupport (Below)

Another reason for doing this intensive advent calendar every day, was to test out the Olsson Ruby nozzles. They are doing really well, so today they get a short break. 

I will be using the Faberdashery PLA and Polymaker Polysupport in the BCN3D SIGMA R17 3D Printer.

The SIGMA can't fit the Ruby nozzles :(

The 500g roll of Polymaker Polysupport material fits really well in the SIGMA R17

Here I am using the support material in a different way, it's an interface rather than full structure.

The above Gcode image shows the model car in blue (PLA on left extruder), with a blue support structure (also in left PLA).

The interface (Dense support material) between lower PLA support and the model is shown in green, and is using the right extruder fitted with Polymaker Polysupport.

Let's print that on the SIGMA R17 -

The main PLA material is used for both the model and 98% of the support structure, just the interface is in Polymaker Polysupport.

Printed great, no problems at all - Polysupport prints a lot like PLA (just slightly higher temperature).

Lets remove the green support material...

The only tools you need for Polysmooth support removal are 'pointy thing' and a toothbrush,

It comes off clean and easily. Just a quick brush and a poke here the there.

Support cleanup time compare - 

The Pink Jeep, using just PLA support (Single extruder) was 16 minutes and 23 seconds. I also used a flame to smooth off a few sharp edges. (+10 seconds)

The alternative Green Jeep, using Dual extruder 'IDEX' SIGMA PLA and Polysupport was exactly 1 minute and 18 seconds. That was including brushing time, I also did not need to use a flame for cleanup.

With big and complex print projects, a break-away support material saves you many hours of cleanup. The material basically pays for itself in time saved. You also only use a small amount of it, when using it as an interface layer as I have above.

The only reason you may want to use it for full support, would be if you were using an expensive material like Bronzefill, you would not want to waste Bronze material as supports.

Print advice - (Support materials)

I think I'm going to do a few more blog posts on different support materials and the best settings to use (in New Year 2018), it was not long enough today to really go into full details about all aspects of support structures and other materials available.

With that in mind below are my top-tips, advice and general experience of support materials.

There are other options for a dedicated support material.

PVA is often talked about as a soluble support material, designed for use in dual or multi-extruder systems. But it's usually a massive pain to use.

E3D spotted the pain that PVA was causing users and made a modified version called Scaffold (See below for more details)

PVA – I have tried around 10 different manufacturers and suppliers over the years. Still not impressed

General conclusion for PVA - I have wasted more time trying to print with ‘PVA’ than any other 3D printing material. It is possible, just not sensible or normally worth all the effort. It’s only fun/exciting and interesting the first time you try to use it. (I basically HATE it now).

Good aspects –

  • It is a support material…
  • Water soluble, good but also leads to many, many of the problems below.
Not so good – (my experiences with various printers and extrusion systems) - 

  • It’s very soft; filament deforms easily in extruders and does not pop-back into shape – it just tends to get squashed / squeezed - and then stops feeding/extruding.
  • It will ‘cook’ in the hot-end – don’t go over 190 Degrees C for any long period of time - (long, being more than ~15 minutes) – take it out of the hot-zone.
  • It’ll often stop working (extruding) half way into a print job.
  • It’s quite expensive.
  • Few people make it, and many wished they didn’t when customers complain.
  • It will take on moisture, and in some cases become destroyed / useless.
  • It does not tend to stick all that well to many 3D printer build surfaces
  • It does not stick well enough to many materials, so not great at building on top of a material like PLA/ABS.
  • You really need to use a lot of it – dense supports for it to usually be successful – cost / time / risk of print failure increased.
  • It can leave residue inside the hot-end, causing problems if not fully cleaned out.
  • Most 3D printers (extruders / hot-ends) are not setup / designed to use PVA.

E3D Scaffold – 

General conclusion for E3D Scaffold - It's so much better than PVA, but still not great in every machine or extruder setup. I can get it to work really well in my SIGMA that's fitted with Bondtech extruders and E3D V6 Hot-ends. It's just about perfect (apart from the general moisture problem).

Unfortunately in the standard BCN3D SIGMA R17, It will not work well enough, or for long enough to be of any use.

I really want to see a water soluble support material in general use, but until a formulation actually delivers ease of use in more 3D Printers, I'm going to find it hard to struggle on with PVA based materials.

Good aspects –

  • It is better and easier to use than a standard PVA.
  • Water soluble and also break-away easily.
  • Compatible with some materials PLA/PET, and tends to stick slightly better than most PVA only materials.
  • It’s grey, which actually makes it easier to see if it’s extruding well.
Not so good –

  • It’s still quite soft. In some extruder systems this will still be a problem.
  • Moisture will still damage this filament, keep it dry and out of sunlight.
  • It’s slightly less prone to ‘cooking’ but still use under 190 is possible and retract out of the hot-zone when not being extruded.
  • It’s about the same price as PVA, that’s good because it can actually work, unlike many PVA’s.
  • It seems less prone to leaving immovable residue inside the hot-end, but it will still require regular cleaning.
  •  Still causing problems if not fully cleaned out.

Polymaker Polysupport – 

General conclusion for Polysupport- It's so far the only support material that delivers on ease of use. For me it's the only dedicated support material worth using at this point (for my needs) It is not ruined by moisture, and that's a big bonus. It also works in the SIGMA extruder system. every other PVA material does not work as expected in SIGMA.

Good aspects –

  • It is a dedicated support material, and you can also print objects with it too.
  • It’s like using a normal PLA material. Quite easy in most systems.
  • Water soluble and also break-away easily.
  • Compatible with common materials PLA/PET/ABS, the bond is just strong enough to hold, but straightforward to remove from most materials.
  • It does not have a moisture problem, but keep it sealed when not in use.
  • It does not ‘cook’ in the hot-end, does not leave permanent residue.
Not so good –

  • It’s not water soluble, so you will still need to break-away, can’t be used in the same way a water soluble material could.
  • It’s quite expensive - but I also just demonstrated how it saves time and it ACTUALLY WORKS! - Bonus.

I'll go more into support materials, settings and techniques in a future blog post. But please ask questions and I'll make sure they are included next time.

Days 1 to 19 of the Advent Christmas Tree.

Day #19 is done.

Today's story is all about reminding people that not everything can or should be 3D printed, and the things that use support material structures can be a right pain, if you don't choose the correct materials.

Join me next time for Day #20 - getting close now...

Thanks for reading.


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