Kirsten Van Praet June 26, 2018

In our previous blogs, you got the chance to learn more about the orientation of 3D models and the benefits and challenges of support generation. But what about support removal? In cases where support structures have to be removed manually, easy support removal and smart support placement technology can significantly reduce finishing time.

These three strategies will facilitate support removal. Just read on to discover them!

1. Smart support placement: angled and rescaled support

When support structures are linked to a part in two different areas, for instance inside a tube, you can work with angled support structures. With these structures, you can manually guide support structures from your part to the build platform, avoiding unnecessary contact points.

Part-to-part connection
Part-to-part connection

Tube supported by angled support structure
Tube supported by angled support structure

If the connection with an area of a part cannot be avoided, you can guide the support structures to an area that is easier to process such as a flat surface rather than a curved one. With the rescaled platform projection tool in Materialise Magics, you can also downsize the width of the support structures to limit the area that requires post-processing.

2. Swift break-offs: teeth, hour glasses and fragments

Next to smart support placement, you can also focus on support designs that can be removed easily. By placing fine teeth at the top of your support, you end up with strong support that is also easy to remove from the part. Another strategy is to place predefined break-off points. These have the form of an hour glass and will break off in the middle. This avoids the pitting that can result from poor support removal, which damages the part.

You can smoothen the surface afterwards. You can remove support structures without compromising surface quality by adding some additional material to the areas that require support structure. These can then be milled to obtain the intended final shape, a feature in Materialise Magics called milling offset.

Above, we described how you can easily remove support structures from your part. To easily remove supports from the build plate, it’s a common strategy to create a clearance between different support blocks. These fragments can be removed with greater ease, as they show less resistance.

This hydraulic valve by VTT and Nurmi Cylinders was anchored with angled support structures
This hydraulic valve by VTT and Nurmi Cylinders was anchored with angled support structures

This automotive part is supported by block support structures. Block support, as opposed to volumetric support, is not completely solid
This automotive part is supported by block support structures. Block support, as opposed to volumetric support, is not completely solid. Project with InMotion

3. Powder recovery: perforations and fragmentation

As AM-grade metal powder can be very expensive, it is preferable to recycle as much of the powder as possible. For safety and contamination reasons it is also best to remove as much powder as possible in a controlled atmosphere before removing the support structures. With perforations and fragmentations of support, Magics can ensure the recuperation of powder while preserving the strength of the supports.

Support removal with even greater ease…

Materialise offers fully and semi-automated support generation software for Metal AM. Those who favor manual control can opt for the SG+ module in Materialise Magics. If you want to save time on support generation and remove support structures with even greater ease, we recommended our fully automated software: Materialise e-Stage for Metal. More on that in our next metal blog post!

Download this paper for more tips and tricks about Metal AM.

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