All 3D printing technologies require a support material during the manufacturing process.
With SLS and MJF the un-sintered powder supports the part as it is being constructed.
With FDM a second material is built with the part to support it, which is often water soluble and can be simply washed away. However some materials have break away support only.
If an FDM part needs to be free from support material it is necessary to select the most suitable material for manufacture prior to part design. The reason for this is that not all FDM materials have a soluble support material option.
Soluble support materials offer more design freedom than breakaway supports. When we design a part we only have to consider access to areas around and within the part for the water/detergent mix to access and dissolve the support away.
Both ULTEM™ 9085 and ULTEM™ 1010 materials do not have a soluble support option due to the high processing temperatures involved during printing, which make it impossible to have a material that can withstand the process whilst still being water soluble. Therefore the support material used when processing these materials has to be broken away after printing by hand or via simple tools. This therefore has to be considered during the design phase of ULTEM™ parts.
Soluble Support V Breakaway Support
Where there are hollow sections in a model, 3D support material would be generated in order to support the part during manufacture.
With soluble supports, the washing solution enters the part and dissolves the unwanted material, resulting in a perfectly support-free part.
Where there are hollow sections in a model, support material would be generated in order to support the part during manufacture.
With breakaway supports, consideration needs to be made for the use of tools to remove the support material. In this example full support removal would be difficult, resulting in a part with partially removed support material.