Can You 3d Print Without Supports? 10 Pros And Cons

Can You 3d Print Without Supports
Unleash Your Creativity - Discover the Future of 3D Printing Today!
Unleash Your Creativity - Discover the Future of 3D Printing Today!

When you are printing something larger and complex the program you are using to slice the print may start throwing warning signs that you need to add supports. Or you may be busy printing an impressive facial print and find that much of it starts drooping or falling as things go along. Supports for 3D prints are a large and confusing world to enter and can be the difference between regret and jubilation.

The pros of not using supports start with the decreased amount of filament used, prints that are easy to clean, faster prints, less waste to throw away, and the prints have a more flat side. While the pros are certainly there and should be remembered the cons of not using supports include having to do more prints for one object, losing the ability to print complex shapes, having to remember where everything goes, much more cuts to your object, and being a lot less detailed.

Understanding what the supports and rafts are that 3D printers use and how they affect the overall quality of your prints is important. Many early printers forget to use them properly and suffer from them, not understanding what to do or why they need to print in different ways without supports. A support structure for 3D prints is just as important as a support structure for everything else in the world.

What are rafts and supports in 3D printing?

Rafts and supports for 3D prints are the extra parts that you will always see being printed on larger models. This works to not only give the filament a place to work on but also allow smaller details or sharp overhangs to be printed without mistakes. 3D prints without supports are usually a lot smaller and will need to be planned a lot more ahead of time.

For smaller 3D printers you may never need to use supports as the printer is not always able to print things with the detail or size needed. However, you may find instances where some fine detail that is not an overhang requires supports or rafts to be printed. Overcoming these can be a challenge, as the rafts allow the printer to give details that it would normally not be able to do.

A good example of where rafts and supports would typically be used is when printing a face, no matter what the orientation is. You will need to ensure that once the first half of the face has been printed that the new weight being added does not cause the still hot bottom halt to droop or lose details. To print a face without supports you need to print it in two sections that can slow together using clips or screws.

How do you print without supports?

You can print almost anything without supports if you sacrifice having things being printed in one shot. Using a cutter to make your parts smaller and angled less allows you to make objects that would usually require supports. Your printing will be significantly slowed but you will be able to easily print several complex shapes without supports.

You will find that most of your prints can be made without supports, however, it will become significantly more complicated and require some calculating. You will have to start editing designs to work with clips as well, as most popular designs will require supports to perfectly work. The art of printing without supports is one that few people have mastered.

In the long run, most enthusiasts that can generate money through their printing will stick to printing with supports, as this allows them to leave the printer to complete something for longer. Without supports or rafts, you will have to constantly remove the old print, and start the printer on the next print, allowing the printer to comfortably start on the next part.

What are the pros and cons of not having supports in your 3D prints?

Can You 3d Print Without Supports

You will need to know the full list of pros and cons and how they affect the total printing project that you have. Many people constantly try to reduce the total amount of filament used with their prints but do not quite understand what they need to look out for. Printing without supports will mean that you are failing for the first few times.

There are five things in both the pros and cons sections that need to be focused on and understanding each one will allow you to dodge them. Not being aware of the cons of printing without supports can cause your 3D prints to fail constantly or simply have a lack of details that they would normally have.

Pros

There is a reason people seek out printing without supports, and you may be looking at doing the same for many of these reasons. Printing without support can be extremely beneficial for the small-time hobby printer that is just adding a few flavors of printing to his home workshop.

  • Much less filament: The biggest reason most people want to print without supports is the total cost of not wasting filament. Most filaments can be quite pricey and if you spend half your filament roll-on printing supports that you end up throwing into a bin, it can be quite difficult to justify a full support system for every print.
  • Quick clean-up: When you print with supports you are printing with a lot of waste that needs to be cleaned up. Printing without support can mean that your total time of cleaning and polishing the 3D print can only be the refinement of the actual print. This is a big plus as you can see how a print you have done will fit in almost immediately.
  • Quicker prints: If you are printing one giant piece with supports it can take significantly longer, however, if you are printing that same piece expertly cut it can be completed much faster. This is why many people prefer to print smaller parts without supports as the supports can make the total time spent printing much less.
  • Less material to clean: Not having supports means less material to clean from the print, but also a lot less material to clean off from the printing bed. This saves you a lot of time since many times you may have to speed a lot of time ensuring the printing bed is ready for the next part. This also keeps your bins clean and the oceans clear of wasted plastic.
  • Flat sides: When you slice a print, you will be constantly making flat sides where the parts have to be glued or clipped together. Having flat sides means that you can more accurately align pieces together or adjust them as you are printing. Many times, something that is wrong can only be seen when a piece is completed, when you have one large piece this means a lot of work.

Cons

The pros of printing without supports or rafts should never be underestimated you must remember there are several cons as well. People that just being printing without supports feel these a lot more than those that are willing to do a bit of research. You must be aware of this as some functionality is lost when you are printing without supports.

  • More prints: It may be quicker to print without supports but that does not always mean less work, most people are unaware that you may have to do more work without supports. This is because the parts do print faster, but every hour or two the printer has to be reset to allow for the next part to be printed.
  • Orientation importance: When you cut something up it can become confusing if to know which part goes where. Most programs will have an auto log system, however, there are designers out there that prefer to do the cutting on their own. This has led to some parts being orientated wrong which causes many headaches when fitting everything together.
  • Less complex: This is the biggest downside of printing without supports, the loss of fine detail printing that starts to happen. The simple inclusion of a support structure outside the print allows the printer to be more accurate, creating complex shapes and overhangs that allow the finished print to look a lot better.
  • Several Cuts: If you have a medium to large-sized 3D printer then you will quickly learn that having several cuts is only a benefit when using smaller printers. When you have a proper heating bed, large printing area, and several rolls of filament ready, having one solid piece to print is much better. This causes less cleanup and overall, more stability for the printer.
  • Less detailed: Many people look at finished 3D prints and wonder how a machine that seemingly only prints layer by layer can make something so detailed. The answer is usually a support structure that allows the printer to create fine details that few could match. Without a support structure, it can be a struggle to reach the same level of detail without a lot of work done once the print is completed.

What are the biggest pros and cons of having supports?

We understand what the pros and cons are of not having supported, however, we must take a closer look at everything that supports do provide. In the early days of you owning a 3D printer, you may just be looking at the supports that are autogenerated, not entirely sure how they help the printer.

Understanding every process of the 3D printing process will be a challenge but understanding one of the most common parts of printing will greatly increase the quality of the designs you are making. Few people always understand why supports are necessary, assuming that it is something being done by the printing process as a standard.

Pros

The pros of using supports cannot always be measured with just a few points, but the basics of using supports can be understood. There are several prints that you may even find as a standard online or with your printing program that will have large pieces of support throughout. Knowing how to manipulate these and what doing so will cause is a vital step I the printing process.

  • Stability while printing: The higher and larger your 3D print is the more unstable it can become, with many projects from around the world usually having some damage done to them when the print starts moving. Having enough supports to keep everything safely connected to the printing bed will allow your 3D prints to always be stable, even when they reach the top of what your printer can do.
  • Allows for larger prints:  A support system that covers almost every part of the print means that everything is properly connected. This allows for significantly larger prints to be made, usually allowing the full width of your printing bed to be used. This allows for giant parts to be printed that creates a much more complete look for everything you have.
  • More surface area to print on: As the supports are there you will find that more area can no be printed on. When printing without supports you are limited to printing up to a certain point, without going too far outwards. If you have a design like a figure swinging a hammer supports will allow you to print everything in one single print.
  • Stronger prints all around: Because the support is there to allow the print to be more connected the entire printing process will be a lot stronger. Each layer can be melted together without having to stress about being overhung or separating due to weight.
  • Allows more complex shapes: Supports can hold up almost every shape, which means if you have a triangle, upside-down pyramid, or just an odd hanging piece of a model you can safely print them on top of the supports. This allows much more complex shapes to exists and many people will print their completed models on top of a layer of supports to ensure the best quality prints.

Cons

While supports are amazing at allowing you to print much higher quality 3D prints, there are limitations to them that people need to know. These are the things that cause small-time printers to rather use prints without supports or simply what allowed for different types of support structures to be built.

  • More filament is used: Because you are constantly printing the support structure to help the model to be printed you need will see a lot more filament being used. On average a good support structure will use around 30% of the material used to print the full model. This means that you need to ensure that the perfect amount of filament is always present.
  • Takes longer to complete: As the printer is printing it will have to constantly move over the same area, printing not just the model but the next layer of support that will be needed. This means that for large prints that can take a long time, the time needed can be even longer.
  • Needs to be cleaned off: Once your print is complete and you have everything just as you need it, it will be time to grab a sharp model knife and some sandpaper. The support structure needs to be carefully removed and sanded down to ensure everything is perfectly smooth.
  • Break prints: In your haste to remove the supports and finally see what the completed print looks like, most first time 3D printer owners usually make a few mistakes. Chief among these is breaking parts off the print instead of just removing the support structures. You may find yourself crying at 2 am one morning holding the broken pieces of a print that took all of your time, patience, and filament.
  • Can cause too much heat: Heat is an important thing to balance with your 3D printer, and most people are not always aware that the bottom layer can transfer the heat to the next layer. This is usually fine, but when you have a large support structure the heat can be kept for too long and your print layers will start to melt as you are printing.

What are the different types of supports for exterior printing?

Can You 3d Print Without Supports

When it comes to using supports or building them into your unique designs it should be remembered that there are several different types to choose from. Knowing what these are and how you can accurately use them to increase the quality of your prints is important. Each type of support has different applications and should be used with different types of support.

There are three types that we are looking at, each type has several different varieties, but the way that they support the structure is what is vital. These are the three main ones that you need to consider when looking at using your 3D printer, and they should be considered when buying your printer as well.

Linear Supports

Sometimes called lattice supports or accordion supports linear support structures is what you will know when someone mentions 3D printer support structures. These are connected to the entire base of a 3D model and will be used to keep every piece of overhang steady. Used by amateur and professionals alike it is the most widely used support structure for 3D printers.

These are the ones that you will be scarping off as well, usually with a knife or set of files as they leave the most marks on the models that are attached to. It is vital to remember that these support structures are used inside of most models as well, which is how most models can be so strong. Remember, the supports that you use will determine how complex the completed print will look.

Tree-like supports

These are the supports that look almost like roots growing up the side of your 3D print and can look quite amazing if done well. Using a lot less filament than linear supports, tree-like supports are used for overhangs that are not geometric. The most obvious case where these are used will be for faces, helping to support the chin, nose, and ears of the face.

What makes these supports so much fun is the ability to use them as decoration if done properly. Some of the oddest shapes can be made using them and if you are careful and go the extra mile you can use these support structures to create some wonderful set pieces. However, if you are not artistic, and just use the 3D printer for work then you should know that a lot less material is required to print this support structure.

Dissolvable supports

Available to only the top end of 3D prints, dissolvable supports are currently being led by the makers of the Ultimaker printers. This material is designed to dissolve in water, which means that when you have a printer that can dually print, one head can create the actual structure you need while the other printer creates the support structure.

Usually used for complex geometric or engineering parts, dissolvable supports requires no other post-processing than water to fully dissolve. The support lattice used is usually linear supports, which allows you to create a large selection of shapes and objects that may be impossible to do otherwise. However, you should remember that you will still need to buy the dissolvable filament, which can increase the overall costs of running your 3D printer.

Why are there supports for the inside of printed shapes?

When you first pick up a 3D printed object you may be surprised just how strong they are, there is a mistaken assumption that because something is 3D printed that it will not be strong. However, this is rarely the case and most 3D printed models are significantly stronger than most of the normal plastic injected models you can find.

When you start printing models you will be able to decide how the internal structure of the model will be, with most people choosing either a latticework to build internal supports or triangulated supports. This allows the print to become extremely strong without becoming too heavy, which is why most 3D prints can be used for a lot more abuse than other plastic parts.

Some prints are solid or have no internal supports, however, these become a lot more complex to print owing to the proximity of each layer. To accomplish a print with no internal supports it is recommended that you look at printing differently. Sometimes printing something almost inside out using external supports will allow you to make something much more fantastic.

What is the biggest thing most commonly printed without supports?

The largest things that most people print without support structures are usually masks or faces, which is why we mentioned them so much in the article. Faces can be printed on their side, printing first one side and then the other, usually these are printed for model work to allow for custom masks to be made.

Printing larger things becomes a gamble when you are not using supports, with only basic shapes like pyramids, rectangles, or squares being able to support their weight once they reach a certain height. This is usually the main problem that printing without support faces because the plastic is still hot if things get too heavy they naturally start toppling over.

Printing without supports is a tricky situation and requires a lot of processing and thinking to ensure everything goes perfectly. If all your parts are perfect but you have one part that drooped slightly you will have to reprint that one specific part, which can just cause more headaches down the line.

Conclusion

Printing without supports is possible and most smaller projects that you have can easily be completed without much trouble. However, as your projects increase in complexity and size you will need to learn where and how to use supports. Not everything can be completed without the support and 3D printing is the same.

Whatever you do, don’t try to print a leaning tower, the last thing you want is a long tube of slightly melted plastic falling apart inside your 3D printer.

Recent Posts