Answered By: Kerry Harmer
Last Updated: Jul 27, 2021     Views: 24

How to Remove Support Material from 3D Prints


FDM (MakerBot, Prusa)

3D printing support structures touch and often stick to the walls of the models. This is the only way to provide support to overhangs and bridges. If you are not careful when removing the 3D printing support structures, they might leave blemishes on the model surface. In the worst case, part of the model may break off along with the 3D printing support structure. This can be fixed with glue if necessary.

Supports made with FDM printers can be removed with your fingers, needle nose pliers, a flush cutter and an Exacto knife. Be sure to wear protective gloves when using the tools to remove supports, especially when using sharp knives. Use whichever tool seems most appropriate for the supports you are removing. If you are breaking off supports from a small thin overhang you will want to use a pliers or a knife to minimize the damage to your model.

Sandpaper is also a great tool for removal. Wet sanding with high grit sandpapers (220 to 1200) will remove 3D printing support structures, and also, polish the model. For best results, apply water to the part and sand in smooth, light motions until the desired surface quality is achieved.

SLA (Form 2)

Use flush cutters to remove the support touch points one by one. Start on the outside edges to loosen the support scaffolding. Printed parts with fine detail or thin sections may require delicate support removal techniques. For the majority of parts, using the flush cutter to remove the supports at the touchpoint will guarantee the best results.

For the best surface finish and to avoid divots on the part surface, individually remove each support. Divots and raised marks can be sanded.

Warning

Some methods of support removal may enable small pieces of supports to break away. Beware of flying debris and consider wearing eye protection and gloves to protect the skin and eyes.

Tips for Delicate Prints

Be careful when finishing delicate parts, in order to not break off any small features in your model. Small files and tweezers can also help for highly detailed parts. Follow these steps to handle and remove the supports from your delicate part:

  • Break the base into sections only if doing so will not break your part during the process. This step is especially useful for multiple delicate parts in one print. Take care; separating the base can cause supports to snap away from the part and leave cracks or divots in some parts.
  • Snip and break individual supports off of the base, as well as the touchpoint, in order to carefully access supports at the center of the part. Align the flush cutters closely to part surfaces to save time when sanding.
  • Only peel supports by hand if the surface finish and integrity of delicate features are not important.

Sand to smooth surfaces

Removing support touchpoints will leave raised marks and divots dotting a part’s surface. Wear gloves to protect skin from resin dust that develops during sanding. Begin with the lowest/roughest grit sandpaper - 150, for example - and sand the part surfaces as desired. Gradually move toward the finest grit sandpaper, to achieve a flat, polished, and even surface. Consider using a sequence of 150, 220, 400, 800, 1000, and 2000 grit sandpapers, depending on the available paper options and desired finish.

Warning

When choosing to sand, follow general safety precautions for sanding plastics. Consider using wet sanding to reduce dust accumulation and exposure.

Finish with oil

Sanding may leave a layer or film of dust on the surface of the printed part. Remove cured resin dust by wiping the part with a microfiber cloth and a small amount of mineral oil.

Mineral oil leaves a dull shine and damp feeling on the part surface, though too much oil may make the part feel oily to the touch.

 

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