PVA support material removes some of the 3D printing restrictions

The newest Dual extruder model of the miniFactory 3D printer has two nozzles, which enable to use support material in complex items, for example. It is also possible to print two-colour items, and items combined of different materials.

How do you get the support materials in their position? Do you have to model them yourself? How is the support material detached from the finished item? Here are the most frequently asked questions about the use of support material. The dual-nozzle 3D-printer is a considerable improvement compared to a single-nozzle device, because the shape of items and sharp edges are no longer significant.

The process from designing an item to a finished product:

1. Designing a 3D-model

A 3D-model can be designed practically with any CAD-programme (e.g. Solid Edge, Soliworks, Autodesk, Vertex, Blender, Rhino, Tinkercad, Google sketchUp). The 3D-model will be saved as an STL file in the programme, which is a universal file format for 3D-printers.  miniFactory - 3D-model


2. Moving the 3D-model to the printing programme and choosing settings

Next, the 3D-model will be moved to the Repetier Host for miniFactory printing programme, where every printing material has a ready-made profile. Every material has default settings for optimal printing results, including temperatures, speeds, input amount and cooling. The item printed in this example needs support structures underneath the blades. Next, the Support Type section will activate the use of support structures, which the programme will make automatically for the item to be printed. The settings are now complete, and the Slice with CuraEngine button will change the item into a format understood by the device -> ”G-Code Editor”.

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3. Previewing the item before printing.

The item to be printed will open in a Preview window, where it can be checked thoroughly. You will be able to see how the item will be built, and how the support structures will be positioned underneath the item. When you are satisfied, start printing by pressing the Start print button. The tab will also display the estimated printing time as well as the amount of material needed.miniFactory - 3D-model-cura


4. Detaching the finished item


The finished item is detached from the base using a thin spatula. At this stage, the support material often detaches from the finished item by itself, i.e. it can be easily removed from the item by hand, as well. PVA is a water-soluble material, so it can be soaked off, if necessary. PVA dissolves in hand-temperature water in a few hours.

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5. Finished item

Once the last of the support materials have been detached, the item is finished. If you wish, you can process the items further by sanding, drilling or painting them. The finished item below has not been treated. For this item, the process from a 3D-model to a finished prototype lasted only 6.5 hours. This process considerably speeds up the development trajectory of products, compared to traditional manufacturing methods.

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