Apex – Generating Support Material
When 3D printing models with overhangs or steep angles, the printer will extrude material under prone areas in order to keep the part from collapsing under gravity. This removable and discarded material is called SUPPORT. This article describes the process for generating support material in 3D printing.
Support is easily removed after printing if the correct settings are used in Apex.Apex is 3D-printing software designed to help you get the most out of your Airwolf 3D printer.You can download it here.
Support material is generated automatically in Apex, as long as the user has specified either TOUCHING BUILDPLATE or EVERYWHERE under the SUPPORT section in the QUICKPRINT menu.
TOUCHING BUILDPLATE will only place support where the model overhangs on to the build plate. It will not support the model within itself. EVERYWHERE will support the model in all areas. If you are unsure of which type to use, always select EVERYWHERE.
Apex will automatically choose the closest support settings possible in order to achieve good quality and remove easily once the 3d print is complete.
So far we have covered why support material is needed, and how to use the Quickprint menu in APEX to generate easy support for your models. In most cases, APEX does a great job with generating support material in 3D printing, but there are always those instances where support material settings could be tweaked in order to achieve even greater results.
In order to change multiple support material settings, you will need to enter the Full Settings in APEX. Go to EXPERT -> FULL SETTINGS. For this first example, we are going to use a Clutch Cover model. The Clutch cover is a great example of where support could be adjusted to make it easier to remove and take less time to print.
If using just the Quickprint Menu for the Clutch cover, the support material would most likely fill the entire part with support, and it would be difficult to remove after due to the contour on the inner roof of the model. The goal here would be to only put support in the very middle in order to support the top of the part only, as the rest can support itself. There is a way to do this using the Full Settings. You may also want to change the Support Type, as LINES support may be easier to remove from a contoured part.
In FULL SETTINGS, go to SUPPORT, then click on the … button. This will bring up the advanced SUPPORT MATERIAL SETTINGS. We will cover the main settings that could be tweaked, how they affect the support structure and which settings are usually left alone.
The first setting in the EXPERT CONFIG SUPPORT MENU is the STRUCTURE type. This will define the type of support structure APEX creates for the model.
String: String is connected sets of lines with solid interface layers. String Support should be used when the support lines are scattered and are breaking prematurely throughout the print.
Grid: Grid should ONLY be used with dissolvable support material, like HydroFill. It will create a very strong grid pattern with solid interface layers.
What is HydroFill?HydroFill water-soluble support material is the world’s first true water-soluble/washable support material. Manufactured by Airwolf 3D, HydroFill Water-Soluble Support is the only support material that is effective for large ABS, PLA, and nylon parts and dissolves easily in plain room-temperature water. HydroFill is a “green chemistry” solution that is safe for the environment.The best part is that no sodium hydroxide is needed.
Lines: Lines are single-walled lines that break off one at a time. These are not as strong as other support types and work well on tricky prints. Lines also work well for areas that require a lot of support in areas that will be hidden in the finished print. A helmet is a great example of where to use lines. Contoured prints also benefit from Line support, as the contour can make support material with interface layers difficult to remove.
Lines+: Lines+ are a set of two lines with solid interface layers. This is a great choice if you are not sure of what type of support material you should use.
Structure Precision controls whether or not the support is placed in tighter areas. In many cases, you may only need to support larger areas of the print. PRECISE will place support in all of the tighter areas, while DRAFT will only put in in the more “open” areas.
3D PRINTING FOR STRUCTURAL STRENGTH
Structure Strength controls how strong the support structures are. A high-strength support structure is more difficult to remove, but is also more reliable throughout the print. A low-strength support structure is much easier to remove but is more prone to falling over or other issues throughout the 3D print.
SOLID INTERFACE LAYERS
Solid Interface layers are only generated on Lines+, String and Grid. The number of solid interface layers can determine how easy the support structure is to remove. This number must be based on a multiple of the overall layer height. It is not recommended to change this setting, as the default setting in APEX works very well.
OVERHANG ANGLE FOR SUPPORT(deg)
This is one of the single most important settings within the EXPERT CONFIG SUPPORT MENU. This angle defines how much support the print will receive, and where APEX will place it. The higher the angle, the less support will be used. A helmet is a great example, as you only want support under the very top of the helmet. If you are unsure of what setting will work best, use the LAYER VIEW MODE to view the single layers within the print job. Look to make sure the model is being supported where it needs to be. 45-50 is usually a great starting point, whereas a helmet might be better off using 55-65.
FILL AMOUNT (%)
The FILL AMOUNT defines the amount of infill structure in the support material. Less material gives weaker support, which is easier to remove. 15-20% is generally preferred.
Distance XY sets the distance from the part to the support structure along the X and Y axis. This settings can be useful in eliminating print time and the amount of material used for support, but also can make it much easier to remove the support structure after printing.
Imaging printing a figure holding its arm out. Since the printer has the ability to bridge from a point A to B in shorter distances, support is not needed all the way up under the arm of the figure. The support can be spaced away from the body. The printer will bridge the gap from the part to the support material. Setting the DISTANCE XY to something greater than the default settings can sometimes be helpful. Again, it is important to use the LAYER VIEW MODE to view the individual layers before printing.
The gap between the support material and the part on the vertical, or Z axis is called the DISTANCE Z. Adjusting DISTANCE Z can greatly affect how easily support removes from the part, so it is suggested to leave this setting at default. This setting MUST be a multiple of the LAYER HEIGHT in APEX.
Using the default support material usually provides a good trade between quality and being easy to remove. Not all default support settings are ideal for every model, so this guide should provide some insight into how the individual support settings affect the print.