Two Main Types of 3D Printing Supports and Tips for Beginners

Many incredible 3D printing models can be crafted without supports. However, many fantastic projects require these additional structures. It is interesting to look at the main types of 3D printing supports you can use, especially if you are a beginner and wish your figurine or statue to look professional.

Using supports in 3D printing also helps to avoid many common problems with 3D printers. Besides, when you select a correct type of additional structures, your model will be smoother, more comfortable to make and quicker to remove the extras. It will also require less additional filament to save your money.

Types of 3D printing supports

Types of 3D Printing Supports

If you have an affordable FDM 3D printer, you will see how it deposits layer over layer of filament while at work. Layers support each other. And if there is an overhand or a bridge that lacks support below, new structures are added to lead to a great-looking 3D printed model.

Some 3D printing tips for beginners can assure you that sticking to the default settings in your slicer software is a good thing. However, such a method does not guarantee a fantastic result.

When you are not using supports in 3D printing that correspond with your model, you can come across failed overhangs and other unpleasant 3D printer issues. Thus, it is better to understand which are the main types of supports and how they can lead to a steady, nicely supported print or bad-looking model (if misused).

Read also: Best Tips on How to Store 3D Printer Filament

1. Linear Supports for 3D Printing

3D printing and support structures in Cura
Image source: Ultimaker

This 3D print support type is also called “accordion” and sometimes “lattice.” Most 3D printer beginners and professionals rely on it in the most significant number of prints.

Linear supports touch the whole underside of an overhang. They are great for angular, steep and flat overhangs. They look like columns that grow at the platform and up to the overhang’s bottom.

Linear supports for 3D printing
Linear supports. Maker: Sercan Güzel

If you are using Cura software, this type of supports for 3D printing will be set by default. Still, you can select between several “linear” patterns, including concentric for spheres, lines for simple shapes, zig-zag, grid, etc.

Their pros are:

  • Reliable support for steep, flat, angular overhangs
  • Great support for bridges

But they also have cons to mention. Firstly, the linear support structures are often hard to remove because they touch the entire bottom of the bridge or overhang. Secondly, they can easily damage your 3D print surface during the removal process. Besides, they use much filament and take more time to print.

2. Tree-Like 3D Print Support Types

Using tree supports in 3D printing
Tree-like supports. Maker: Krystian Granatowski

Models that have non-flat overhangs should use tree-like support structures. They do remind of trees with branches. Their “trunk” grows at the print’s base, and their branches touch the overhang parts of the model at various points.

There are several pros in using tree-like supports in 3D printing:

  • They are quicker and simpler to print and remove
  • They require less filament
  • They do not harm the overhangs’ underside that much

Of course, there are also cons to consider. Tree-like structures are significant for 3D printing models that have non-flat overhangs.

If you are using Cura program, you will find tree-like structures in “Experimental” menu. Please note that they take some time to generate, and it will be necessary to check the “tree support” box. They work great with printing fingertips, different parts of the human body that overhang, for making animals, organic shapes, etc. But they are not as reliable and stable when you use them with flat protrusions.

Here is a great video to understand the types of structures offered by Cura:

CHEP about Cura structures

Dissolvable Supports

This type of 3D printing supports is not typical because it is used only in dual-extruder printers. It is not available for one-extruder machines.

If you have a dual-extruder printer, you can make one nozzle to build your project in PLA filament and the other nozzle to work on supports with PVA or water-soluble filament.

How PVA material dissolves in the water

Such 3D printed models are elementary to clean from the additional structures. Just soak your project into the water, and wait until the water-soluble filament dissolves.

Must-Know 3D Printing Tips for Beginners

Not all bridges and overhangs in your project require supports for 3D printing. There are curious “degree” rules to remember. They can save you much filament, time, problems and nerves.

1. 45 Degree Rule for Overhangs

45 degree rule for overhangs in 3D printing
Image source: 3D Hubs

If your model has no overhangs that are over 45 degrees, you might need no supports at all. It happens because the layers stack on top of each other with a small offset. It is how your machine can work with many overhangs with a fantastic result.

It is best to look at the illustration with T, H and Y letters. Both come with overhangs. However, T and H require supports, and Y can be printed without these structures because its angel is under 45 degrees to the vertical line.

2. 5 MM Rule for Bridges

5 mm rule for bridges
Image source: All3DP

There is also an excellent rule for 3D printing bridges. It is known as 5 mm or 0.2 inches trick. It is also simple to remember.

If your model has a tiny bridge which length is under 5 mm (0.2 inches), you can build it without adding any structures. The modern machines can stretch the hot filament for distances under 5 mm, and your project will have just a little sagging.

Of course, complex models with bridges that are 5 mm long or longer require using extra structures.

3. Support Settings & Asking for Advice

No matter which 3D printer you are using, the software where you can see the model before it is actually built can show you which areas require support.

Those parts which need additional structures are usually highlighted in red. You can manually add supports, rely on the default settings or ask other 3D printing enthusiasts for advice.

Gambody – Premium 3D printing marketplace, for example, recommends how to support a model before print. You can use these recommendations, or you can join Gambody community on Facebook to ask questions and get answers about the types of 3D printing supports you might need for your project.

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