If you’ve ever 3D printed, you would have on a few occasions come across support material that was very difficult to remove and wished there was an easier way to do this.
I’ve had the same issues, so I decided to do some research and find out how to make removing 3D printing supports easier.
You should implement support settings such as reducing Support Density, using the Lines Support Pattern, and Support Z Distance which provides a clearance gap between supports and the model. Another setting called the Support Interface Thickness gives the thickness of material touching the model and normal supports.
Once you have the right information about removing support, you won’t experience the same frustrations you once felt before. Other than the settings themselves, you can also use tools to help you remove the supports, making them easier to remove.
Let’s get into some more detail on removing supports effectively.
How to Remove 3D Print Support Material (PLA)
Removing supports can be very tedious, messy and even dangerous in some cases. Plastic is a hard material and when 3D printing at small layers, can easily come off sharp and potentially cause injury to yourself.
This is why it’s important to know how the professionals remove support material such as PLA and ABS from their 3D prints. Cura supports that are too hard to remove are an issue.
After removing your print from the bed surface, you want to analyze the model and see which locations have the support and differentiate it from the actual model itself.
The worst thing you can do is accidentally break into your model just after spending several hours printing it.
Once you identify where the smaller sections and larger sections of support are, grab your main snipping tool, and you’re going to want to slowly and carefully start to remove the smaller sections of support because these are easier to get out of the way because they are weaker.
If you go straight for the big chunks of support you run the risk of damaging your print and while you are trying to remove it, other support sections can make it hard for you to clear it.
After clearing the smaller sections you should be able to tackle the larger, harder to remove sections somewhat freely.
It will usually take some firm twisting, turning and snipping with your snipping tool.
Some people wonder why supports are needed in 3D printing, and it’s mainly to assist you with overhangs that aren’t supported underneath. Learning how to get rid of and remove FDM supports on a 3D printer is a very useful skill that you’ll appreciate in the long run.
When you do things correctly, supports shouldn’t be too strong and allow you to remove it fairly easily.
What Are the Best Tools to Remove Supports Easier?
There are some great professional tools in the arsenal of most 3D printing enthusiasts for a reason because they make our jobs easier. This section will list out some of the best tools you can get for yourself to remove supports easily.
If you want to get straight to the point and get an all-in-one solution, you’re going to be best off with the Filament Friday 3D Print Tool Kit, which is perfect for FDM support removal.
It’s exactly what you need to remove, clean & finish all your 3D prints, something you’ll be doing for years to come so opt-in for quality with this toolkit.
It’s a high quality 32-piece kit with the following included:
- Flush Cutters: Use your flush cutters to cut filament and other thin material associated with 3D printing.
- Needle Nose Pliers: Use the needle nose pliers to help remove excess filament from the hot extruder nozzle, or to reach hard to access places within the 3D printer.
- Spatula Removal Tool: This spatula has a very thin blade, so you can slide it underneath your 3D prints with ease.
- Electronic Digital Caliper: A lot of people don’t actually have calipers, but they are a great tool to have in your arsenal to measure inner/outer dimensions of objects or even filament. They are essential if you want to design functional models around your house.
- Deburring Tool: Give your prints a 360° deep clean with the deburring tool.
- Cutting Mat: Keep your workspace undamaged with a quality cutting mat, so you can post-process your prints safely
- Avery Glue Stick: Just apply a few layers of Avery Glue Stick to your heated bed for better adhesion.
- Filing Tool: Use your filing tool to manage the rough edges of your 3D print by rubbing the tool against stubborn pieces of material.
- Knife Clean Up Kit: You’re always going to have some excess material on your prints, so a knife clean up kit is amazing for removing excess debris. You’ll be equipped with a 13 blade variety set, as well as a safe-lock storage organizer.
- Wire Brushes: Use your wire brushes to sweep away excess filament from the extruder nozzle or print bed.
- Zipper Pouch: Use your Filament Friday pouch to hold your tools.
People that have these tools in their kits rarely have frustrations with removing support because they are very well-designed and truly get the job done.
This is one of those things where you have to try it before you see how beneficial it is to your 3D printing journey. If you see yourself 3D printing for many years to come, you want tools that are durable and high quality.
If you don’t want a full tool kit and just want tools to remove supports, go for these two tools below.
The snipping tool usually comes standard with most 3D printers and is a great way to remove the bulk of supports around a print. The one you get with your printer isn’t the best quality, so you can choose to opt-in for a better one.
I recommend the IGAN-330 Flush Cutters (Amazon), made of high quality heat-treated chrome vanadium steel for great durability and performance. It has a smooth, light, springy action that makes it very easy to operate.
This highly rated tool has a great ability to cut sharp and flat, something that cheap flush cutters fail on. With cheaper flush cutters you can expect bends and nicks in the material after some time.
Tweezer Nose Pliers
Xuron – 450S Tweezer Nose Pliers is another important tool to remove support in harder to reach areas of your 3D prints.
It’s made for precision with a 1.5mm thick tip that can grasp support that’s less than 1mm thick and has fine serrations to improve holding power over any materials you use.
Being able to remove supports delicately but with enough strength is a needed ability, and this tool does it very well.
You want to be careful with these tools because they are extremely sharp!
The X-Acto #1 Precision Knife (Amazon) is a highly rated, lightweight tool that is easy to maneuver and cuts through plastic with precision. The blade is coated in Zirconium Nitride for durability, and it’s fully metal with an aluminum handle.
I recommend getting some NoCry Cut Resistant Gloves to use whenever you’re removing filament, especially when using the X-acto knife, because safety always comes first!
They provide you with high performance, level 5 protection and is also great to use in the kitchen or for other suitable activities.
Best Support Settings to Remove Supports (Cura)
A very important factor in making support materials easier to remove is your slicer settings. This will determine how thick your support is, the infill density of the support, and in turn how easy it will be to remove these supports.
You want to change the following settings under ‘Support’:
- Support Density – 5-10%
- Support Pattern – Lines
- Support Placement – Touching Build plate
Support placement has the main option of ‘Everywhere’ which can be necessary for some models, so it will take you gauging whether your print has angles where it really needs to have the extra supports in between your print.
The density and pattern should do most of the work already.
As it is with any 3D printer setting, take some time to trial and error these settings with some basic test prints. Once you fine-tune your settings you’ll have a much better understanding how little support material you can get away with and still have a great print.
Another thing you can do to make supports easier to remove is to reduce your printing temperature.
When your nozzle temperature is higher than needed, it makes the filament a little more melted, leading to it sticking together a little stronger.
When your filament is heated to a temperature just high enough to successfully extrude, you are more likely to get supports that don’t bond strongly to your model, allowing you to easily remove the supports.
You don’t want to have supports sticking to your 3D prints by using the wrong settings or having a lot more support than you need. Once you learn how to do it properly, you should be able to avoid supports that get stuck to prints.
The best thing you can do is reduce the number of supports in the first place. I like to use Custom Supports in Cura, especially the Cylindrical Custom Supports which you can find in the plugins.
The video below by CHEP shows how easy adding custom supports is.
Do I Need to Print With Supports or Can I Avoid Printing It?
There are a few methods out there where you can learn how to avoid printing with supports in the first place, but they won’t work in every model and design out there.
Supports are especially necessary when you have overhang angles that stretch past the 45-degree mark.
One of the best ways to avoid printing with supports is using the best part orientation, so there aren’t as many 45 degree or sharper angles that your designs or objects have.
This video by Angus from Makers Muse goes into great detail about printing without supports so feel free to follow some great advice.
For people struggling with various 3D printing issues, you might want have wanted more guidance towards getting ideal 3D printing results. I created a full course that's available to purchase called Filament Printing 101: Beginner's Guide to Filament Printing that takes you through some of the best 3D printing practices early on, so you can avoid those beginner mistakes.