A beginners guide to Support Materials in 3D Printing

Did you get a chance to read this great introductory article on support materials provided by Ultimaker? If not don’t worry, you can find the full article here:

Why are support materials important?

With FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printing, objects are created in layers, from bottom to top. Melted filament passes through the 3D printer’s extruder and builds the printed item, layer by layer. Each new layer requires the layer underneath to support it.

Issues arise when a print design requires an overhang, or an element that’s suspended in mid-air. This is where support materials can help. They create a “prop,” on which the melted filament can be placed. The support material is removed once the print is complete, leaving the printed material intact and in the correct position.

This offers far greater design freedom, enabling the creation of complex geometries, with very few restrictions.

Common uses of support materials

Support materials enable you to create more complicated parts. Architects, for example, can 3D print bolder conceptual designs. Engineers and designers have complete freedom in their designs and are not subjected to the limitations of traditional manufacturing methods, such as milling or molding. Manufacturing aids (such as tools, jigs and fixtures) can be customized to specific tasks. Even complex models with separately moving parts can be printed in one go.

What else should you know?

Basic build material support. If you’re using a single extrusion 3D printer, you will need to create supports with the material your are printing your model in. This is because single extrusion printers can only print with one material at a time. This means your support will adhere well to the model. Prints are also less likely to fail, as there are no compatibility issues. However, it’s more difficult to remove the support material post-print, and the surface quality may be adversely affected.

Breakaway support material. Manually removable support materials, like Ultimaker Breakaway, tend to be used by those printing with dual extrusion 3D printers. They’re a different material to the filament used to create the printed model, easy to remove, and reduce impact on surface quality. However, when you’re working with these support materials, consider compatibility. Specific support materials adhere more effectively to some build materials than others.

A part printed with Ultimaker Breakaway support material

This table details which materials are compatible with our Breakaway support material:


✓ Officially supported ⓘ Experimental ✕ Not supported

Soluble support material. Soluble support materials are a popular option for dual extrusion 3D printing. These supports dissolve in water, which means they don’t adversely affect surface quality. They also offer exceptional design freedom. Soluble support material is the favored option for printing moving assemblies or precision end-use parts.

Support blockers. Sometimes, support material is added in holes that could be printed just as well without it. Surface quality is also less important on some parts of a model than others. In these instances, using the ‘support blockers’ function in Ultimaker Cura is highly effective.

Functionality testing. Always check that your supports can be reached, so they can be easily removed once the print is complete. For example, a section of support that’s stuck inside your model may limit its functionality.

PVA. PVA is the most commonly used soluble support material. It dissolves quickly in water after printing, and even works with highly complex structures. Be aware that PVA attracts moisture, so it’s important to store it properly when not in use.

Here’s a quick run-through of which materials are compatible to use with PVA:


✓ Officially supported ⓘ Experimental ✕ Not supported

Our support material partner

Some higher-engineered applications require a higher temperature or a different type of material that does not bond well with normal PVA. For these applications, Ultimaker works with Infinite Material Solutions, which offers Infinite AquaSys® 120 as a solution.

Infinite Material Solutions

Infinite Material Solutions Infinite AquaSys® 120 is easy to use, as it dissolves rapidly in tap water. It’s also stable up to a 120 °C build chamber temperature, which makes it suitable for engineering thermoplastics.

“PVA is an excellent option for providing support, but AquaSys® 120 offers certain advantages for specific applications. In head-to-head testing, AquaSys® 120 exhibited consistent model material compatibility and excellent dissolution rates,” Larry Doerr, Chief Operating Officer, AND Brandon Cernohous, R&D Supervisor/Production Operations at Infinite Material Solutions, said. “Specifically, AquaSys® 120 dissolved twice as fast as the PVA at room temperature, and up to six times faster at 80°C. And since it dissolves completely in only water – no chemicals required – AquaSys® 120 is also environmentally friendly.”

Infinite Aquasys® 120 is compatible with the following 3D printing materials:


If you’d like to find out more about support materials, whether for your Ultimaker printer or any other printer you already have or are considering to buy – do feel free to ask us directly (info@dream3d.co.uk / 07789266163)

Thanks for reading 🙂

Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle – what are the key features?

The Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle (consists of the S5 3D Printer, the S5 Air Manager and the S5 Material Station) – is what Ultimaker call their most professional 3d printing solution to date.
In this post we are going to list the key features of the Pro Bundle and explain the key benefits of each along with some videos for you ti sit back and enjoy.
Key Features

1. Ease of installation and printing
– You can plug everything right in, load materials from the front and start printing
– No need to arrange office ventilation or space for material storage
– Automated print head cleaning in between each job
– Ejected filament always retracts with a clean, sharp tip for easy reloading without user intervention

2. Higher efficiency
– More materials means more efficient queuing of print jobs
– Humidity control will keep moisture-sensitive materials from deteriorating
– Automated switching of materials reduces operator time
– Loading materials takes only seconds

3. Better productivity
– During a print, any spool not in use can be replaced, ensuring it is ready for the next job
– With NFC material recognition, Ultimaker Connect knows which spools are loaded and will optimally manage your job queue, minimising downtime
– Each bay in the Ultimaker S5 Material Station has end-of-spool detection. This means you can trust that the material will be switched at exactly the right time

4. A safer work environment
– Providing a closed, inside-out airflow for the Ultimaker S5 3D printer. It filters up to 95% of all ultra-fine particles (UFPs) emitted during 3D printing.
– It creates a safe barrier around the build chamber
– Having the correct safety measures in place to protect you and your staff is essential. You can read a white paper from Ultimaker, written by the engineers and safety specialists who developed the Ultimaker S5 Air Manager, in the link below. This document takes a close look at ultrafine particles (UFPs), volatile organic compounds, and FFF 3D printing. https://ultimaker.com/learn/3d-printer-emissions-and-indoor-air-quality

Hear what the R&D engineers responsible for making the Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle think and get their behind-the-scenes perspective on this unique 3D printing solution in this interesting video below:

For a deeper dive and to view the full specs of the S5 Pro Bundle and/or request more information or a quote, please find link to the product page on our site here: https://www.dream3d.co.uk/product/ultimaker-s5-pro-bundle/

Don’t forget we stock the full Ultimaker range too which you can check out here: https://www.dream3d.co.uk/desktop-3d-printers/ultimaker-3d-printers/

If you have any other queries please feel to contact us (info@dream3d.co.uk / 07789266163)

Thanks for reading 🙂

3D Printing and the London Skyline

Architect firms and their clients world-wide have been benefiting from the use of 3d printing to help visualize their designs at various stages of the creative process and create incredible scaled models.

Modeling in architecture takes surgical precision. Customers expect down to a tenth of a millimeter dimensional accuracy. To remain the world-leader in architectural model making, Pipers Model Makers has implemented the latest technological achievements in their workflow.

ZORTRAX Pipers 3D Printed London Layout
The New London Model, 1:2000 scale, exhibited at The Building Centre, London, UK.

Taking it to the next level boiled down to automating model making processes. Pipers was the first company of its kind to employ CNC machining for making more precise models faster which in turn allowed for scaling up the operations. More satisfied customers led to more resources to grow—an opportunity Pipers successfully seized. Technology provided a competitive edge the company has managed to maintain till present day. Prestigious projects inevitably followed. Pipers made models of London Spire, a wonderfully designed skyscraper, and stunningly futuristic Google’s HQ in Great Britain, among many others, and worked for cream of the crop clients like Zaha Hadid or Ferrari.

ZORTRAX Pipers Architectural Model
Queen Alia International Airport 1:500 scale model for Foster and Partners.

Now though, the company has made a move to once again put itself at the technological forefront. “We invested in Zortrax 3D printers“, says Fooks. And 3D printers made otherwise cost-prohibitive projects possible. One of them is the New London Model, a vast 1:2000 scale layout of central London currently on display at The Building Centre in London, UK.

The layout is meant to show the past and future developments of the British capital’s architecture. 12.5-meter-long model covers a hair above 85 square kilometers of London which include 19 Boroughs, more or less 170,000 buildings, and 34 kilometers of the Thames river with 21 bridges
ZORTRAX 3D Printed London Layout

From King’s Cross in the north to Peckham in the south and the Royal Docs in the east to Old Oak Common in the west, the layout is updated every quarter of a year to include all architectural projects, small, big, and huge alike, constantly changing the face of London. But the New London Model is something more than just a static architectural mock-up.

Cleverly designed lighting creates video-mapping effects across the surface of the model with a tap on one of the touchscreens placed around the layout. Screens on the surrounding walls show films documenting capital’s developments and the way the London Plan along with other major infrastructure makeovers and ongoing influence of Great Estates reshape the city. “To keep up with all the changes, we use a combination of laser cutting and 3D printing”, says Matthew Aitken, a Pipers’ team leader and 3D printing technician.

Pipers created the New London Model using data provided by Ordnance Survey Ltd., one of the leading British map making companies. Data including spatial relations and building dimensions was translated into thousands and thousands of digital models. “For digital modeling we predominantly use Rhinoceros 3D modeler and the combination of both Rhino and Z-SUITE gives us the ability to print almost anything”, says Aitken. “We do occasionally come across an stl mesh that is not watertight or is damaged in some way” Aitken adds. The stl files are sets of instructions and paths a 3D printer’s head has to cover to print out an object.

Once the model is uploaded to Z-SUITE, all that’s left for a user to do is pressing a go button. “Besides reliability, ease of use was one of the most important reasons behind choosing the Zortrax Ecosystem“, explains Aitken. “All settings are predefined when you work with dedicated materials, so you don’t have to know anything about the 3D printing intricacies to make this work. No knowledge about temperatures and extrusion rates and so on. It’s very easy”, he adds. Because of user-friendliness, the Zortrax Ecosystem can be used by non-technical people at the team without the help of tech support. “At Pipers, Zortrax 3D printers are used by several people with no expertise in 3D printing. One of the most impressive things about Zortrax Ecosystem is that it is designed to remove human error from the equation. You simply can’t get it wrong”, says Aitken.

ZORTRAX 3D Printed London Layout

The main thing about results you can obtain with the Zortrax Ecosystem is that they come out right every time. “We chose Zortrax for its reliability”, says Aitken. “I used to have an open source 3D printer as my personal machine. In my opinion I never really wanted to leave it, because it just could fail anytime. But with Zortrax, we had maybe a couple of prints gone wrong in several years. I’m quite confident I can just press go and the model will come out as intended. No worries about quality or whether it’s going to stop all of a sudden. We have a couple of Zortrax 3D printers, and they’ve never had such issues”, he claims. “I also have my own personal M200 at home now too!”

ZORTRAX Pipers Architectural Model

Before a move to 3D printing in-house, Pipers used to outsource the process to external vendors. Even with professional 3D printing companies though, the firm was getting mixed results. Most of the time they were of decent quality. Sometimes not so much. But all the time they were expensive.
ZORTRAX Pipers 3D Printed Model
“Doing the 3D printing in-house is faster and way cheaper”, says Fooks. “Given our scale of operations, the investment in Zortrax equipment paid off after a month”, he adds. According to him, having an external 3D printing company on speed dial is still a good thing, although in specific scenarios.

“We still outsource the process when the model to be 3D printed is very big. Another example is 3D printing with materials not supported by desktop machines, we’re talking metal or ceramics to name a few. Those obviously require big, industrial 3D printers. All the rest you can easily do in-house. At a profit”, says Fooks.

ZORTRAX Pipers 3D Printed London Layout

Hope you enjoyed this article about how Pipers Model Makers have implemented 3d printing in to their workflow – if you would like to find out more about how you could empower your business with 3d printing, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email (info@dream3d.co.uk) or give us a call (07789266163) and we would be happy to help.

The latest Zortrax range can be found here: https://www.dream3d.co.uk/desktop-3d-printers/zortrax-3d-printers/

Thanks for reading 🙂