Build Plate Supported 3D Printing

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3D printing unique objects with large overhangs and bridging surface prints often requires the printing of support materials,

Supports break away (hopefully) from your print when it is finished. However, supports add time and material to the print, and can leave the surface of your print rough where it connected with the supports. People who print on 3DHubs  will want to save time and material when printing.

While changing the orientation of the print  may help with support issues, using supports is not a favorite option for any 3D printer.

But what if there was a way to 3D print an item without having to deal with the mess and waste of support material?

In a few Facebook post I have seen other printers save their 3D prints from failure by gluing loose supports back in place; while others have mentioned in a post using clay to salvage a support that was about to fail.

All of these methods came to mind as I was working on a badge design for a client. This particular print had to be printed flat on the side with a massive flat bridge to produce the shiny effect of the packing tape covering the build plate.

The first item I printed failed, as the filament clumped and twisted badly over the unsupported bridging surface.

1st print, with the unsupported surface in the center clumping and turning out rough with out support - bridging surface
1st print, with the unsupported  inset surface in the center clumping and turning out rough with out support. This is a PickleBall paddle name tag, file to be published soon.

From my experience with nanodax I learned that clear packing tape would produce the shiny surface finish my client desired on the outer edge. I then realized that I can use any other item covered in packing tape, placed inside the print, to support the large bridge and give me a smooth inset surface!

I scrounged around and found a bubble wrap envelope that was about the thickness needed.

I marked on the build plate where I wanted the support to be based on the failed print. I taped a section of bubble wrap inside the area I wanted to support.

Using a scrap bubble mailer to create a raised surface to support the bridging surface of the print
Using a scrap bubble mailer to create a raised surface to support the bridging surface of the print. This was too thin to support the bridging.

My second print went better, but I realized as the print started bridging that the support was too thin. I had popped all the bubbles of the support, which had flattened it too much.

For the 3d attempt I actually bothered to measure the depth of the piece I was printing, and found some old flyers that I cut to fit the support I wanted.I started the print, and then paused when the outer perimeter was finished. I taped the paper support in the space to bridge, and resume printing.

Using a pick to hold down the taped support while the print is bridging. - bridging surface
Using a pick to hold down the taped support while the print is bridging.

The result was better than the others, though the tape bubbled up a bit, producing an uneven finish.

4th attempt, smoothest yet with both surfaces coming out relatively smooth. - bridging surface
4th attempt, smoothest yet with both surfaces coming out relatively smooth. The black mark is from marker that transferred from the packing tape.

It took a couple attempts, but I did finish with a badge that had the desired results. Both the primary surface and inset surface of the badge came out with a shiny finish. While this method needs refinement, it may be something that 3D printers on 3DHubs may consider if they have a large bulk order of parts to print. It can also be useful when you have large prints with massive overhangs or bridges.

In the future I plan to experiment with other build plate support methods. Stay tuned for more experiments!

1st print (left) and 4th print (right) that show the difference in the finish of the bridging surface.
1st print (left) and 4th print (right) that show the difference in the finish of the bridging surface.

If you would like 3D-PT to review your filament or 3D printer, please contact him @3dfidets on twitter, email [email protected], or contact through this page.

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  1. Frostbite says

    Have you considered or tried Silly Putty formed and smoothed to fit the area needed to bridge over? I’m not sure what the thermal properties of it are, put it might just work. One thing I use is scraps of silicone baking mat I keep around. I either pile them on top of each other, or I cut cardboard to fit the hole to bridge then top it with the silicone, using strips of paper as shims to adjust the height.

    1. 3D-PT says

      That is a great set of ideas!!! I have gotten many other different hacks for this from other readers, so I’ll have to come back with a new version of this method in a future blog!

  2. Jonathan says

    Haha. Home make Shim’s.. not something I would do but “e” for effort

    1. 3D-PT says

      This may not be for an individual prints, but if you do a lot of bulk printing you can really use this to cut print time and material. I am collecting all the other methods that others have sent me to make a 2d blog about this.

    2. Frostbite says

      I had a run of custom flashlight cones I printed for our church I printed to use for an event that would have used nearly a Kg of filament just for the supports if I hadn’t devised a reusable set of stackable split rings for the outside supports during printing. The idea may sound silly to some, but a lot of people probably told Edison his idea of making a wire light up a room was crazy too.

  3. [email protected] says

    That is a great idea. thanks for sharing.

    1. 3D-PT says

      Thanks! I’m compiling a list of ideas from other printers, so stay tuned for another blog.

      1. Frostbite says

        The technique I used to accomplish it was to design the supports as separate STL files and printed them prior to the primary object. Then for the externally supported object, I printed the primary object on a raft designed to mate with the support base interior edges to make sure support reference is always the same (I learned this the hard way). I designed the supports so they would interlock and their bottoms would completely surround the primary raft and lock to each other. I used pins and holes for alignment along with the small dental rubber bands over hooks printed along the exterior seams to accomplish this…(Another hard learned lesson, if your print bed is the Y axis, your supports WILL shift or try to fall over if they aren’t locked to each other) To keep the extruded filament from adhering to the support I have tried using using adhesive backed Teflon tape of the type available at Lowes, small sections of Kapton tape and Silicone RTV very thinly spread and cured on the top surface of the support at the point of contact with the fresh filament, but have yet to find the “Perfect” nonstick coating to top them with.

        1. 3D-PT says

          printing supports seperate would have to be for something I’m printing in bulk for a customer. I’d use questionable filament for that.
          I’m working on a new blog with other materials that can be used for supports.

  4. [email protected] says

    There is so much to know about this stuff. You have some great ideas.

    1. Frostbite says

      Most of it comes from having a lot to do and not much money to do it with. So I sit and think out what is the most economical way to accomplish it, sketch it out on paper and then fine tune it before I try the first print. Usually as I draw it out, a better idea will pop into my head, and I just keep going with them until the idea process kind of dries up. That is when I begin the CAD work and see how it will all fit together, and then doing the final pre-print tweaks to the idea.

  5. John Smith says

    This 3D printing method is such a great way to save the 3D printing material and even your expenses. And though it required a number of attempts, it’s still a reliable technique to print a wide number of 3D objects.

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