What is support material?
The term 'support material' refers to the low-density structure that a 3D printer creates in order to support any overhanging or undercutting sections present in your model. It is printed in a low-density format to enable it to be easily removed from your model post-production. The UP software provided with UP 3D printers automatically calculates and creates what support is needed based on the user's settings.
What is support material made of?
On the UP Mini, UP Plus and UP+2, support material is created using the same filament or material you have chosen to create your model. This means if you decide to print using ABS plastic, the printer will automatically calculate and create support material out of ABS plastic but in a low density format, so that it doesn't possess the same strength as your model and is easy to remove. This also means there is no requirement to change materials during your print.
The Inspire range of 3D printers further possess the ability to simultaneously create soluble support material due to dual extruders. The main benefit here is that support material created to fill tight/hard to reach spaces or support delicate sections can be dissolved, rather than risk damage to your object.
Why do I need support material?
For a model without any angles, such as a vertical column, you don't. However, as soon as you begin to introduce angles into a model, the printer will require a foundation to print on. Imagine trying to print a model of an aeroplane; how will the printer construct the wings? The answer is support material beneath to achieve a successful overhanging wing. This is an extreme example as a wing would possess the largest overhang possible, however even objects with angles greater than 10° benefit from support material as underside surfaces possess a smoother finish.
The points covered here are but a brief description of the ins and outs of support material. For a more comprehensive guide to support material, see our blog post here!
Updated by Ajay on 23/06/2014