When and How to Use Supports in 3D Printing – Guide to 3D Print Support Structure


Support structures in 3D printing are used to provide a supporting function to the parts to be printed, and not part of the model itself. In this guide, we are going to talk about when should you use 3D print support, its drawbacks, types, and removal.

When to Use Support in 3D Printing?

When the model has an overhang or span structure, and there is nothing under it to hold, a supporting structure is required, but not all suspended structures need to be supported. If the vertical angle of a suspension tilt is less than 45 degrees, the suspension can be printed without support. Between the connected layers, the horizontal offset of 3D printer movement is very small.


Therefore, a layer is not completely superimposed on the previous layer but is superimposed on a smaller offset. This enables the printer to print hanging objects with a small vertical inclination. 45 degrees is generally considered the critical angle. The letters Y and T best illustrate this aspect. The two projecting parts of the letter Y have an angle of fewer than 45 degrees relative to the vertical direction and do not need support, while the letter T does.

Disadvantages of the Support Structure

– The 3D printing support structure significantly increases the cost and time of the model. The supporting structure consumes materials, which are then removed and discarded. Therefore, every time 3D printing is added to the support structure, it will increase the cost of the model. 

– Increased post-treatment work, such as removal of supports. The supporting structure is connected and placed on the surface of the model. If the 3D support is not removed carefully, defects may be left on the surface of the model. 

– Some models may break with the supporting structure. In a word, the use of supporting structures also has obvious defects. Therefore, support structures shall be used as little as possible, and support shall be added only when necessary.

Type of 3D Print Supports

The first type is a tree-like structure used to support the suspended part of the model. This type of 3D printing support is only connected with some suspended position points. The advantage of tree support is that it is easier to remove without damaging too much-suspended bottom. However, it should be noted that it is only suitable for non-planar suspensions, such as nose tip, fingertip, or arch. For plane suspension, tree supports cannot provide sufficient stability.


Linear support is another common support type in 3D printing. This type of support consists of vertical columns connected to the entire suspension. Almost every suspension and span bridge can use this support. However, it is more difficult to remove and may damage the surface of the model.

How to Remove Supports in 3D Printing

First, observe the lower support structure. Where there is no shelter, it is easy to start. Try to break the support with your fingers as gently as possible. If the method is correct, most supports should fall off easily. 


Then use tools to cut off the supports in some corners. There are different opinions on which tool is best to use. You can also use pointed nose pliers, a scraper, or a carving knife. Naturally, it can also be used in combination. When using a knife or scraper, the mold or blade can be heated moderately. In this way, the supporting structure is easier to be removed. A small butane spray gun can be used, but make sure not to damage the model. Many people do not recommend using a carving knife because it is very sharp and dangerous. Sandpaper is also a good tool.

Support Direction

When using polyline support, the slicing software defaults that the direction of the support line is perpendicular to the longest side of the platform, independent of the placement direction of the model. The direction of the support line and the angle of the bottom of the model will affect the molding effect of the actual support surface. When the two directions are consistent, the contact area of the support will increase, which will improve the difficulty of removing the support, while the vertical direction can avoid this situation. Therefore, it is preferred to place the long side of the model and the long side of the platform in the same direction. This does not mean that all models are the same.