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My main application for my 3D printer (Zortrax M200 Plus) is making 28 mm scale miniatures for role-playing games. Basically people and animals at 1:60 scale, which means that things like arms, legs, or weapons are only a few millimeters thick. If I use the automatically generated supports of the Z-Suite software, the supports end up being thicker than the model parts, and are impossible to remove.

I had a bit more luck creating support structures with Meshmixer, but am not totally happy with those. So I am looking for other software to edit .STL files to add supports automatically, preferably with an option to edit those support structures easily afterwards. Any ideas?

Note that Zortrax printers only work with proprietary Z-Suite software, so the software that adds the support also needs to be able to export the model with the supports into an STL file, not just gcode.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is a blatant shopping question. Any and all slicer could be listed and discussed her in pro and con, so... not a stack question. $\endgroup$ – Trish Jan 3 '19 at 8:44
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I see that you've already tried Meshmixer and didn't find it helpful, but I wanted to call out an article and accompanying video that I recently found which helped me understand Meshmixer's support generation feature a bit better. It isn't magic, but it is pretty flexible and you can customize them. Plus, you can export them either as a separate file (to be imported via Slic3r's Load Part for example), or as part of the primary object STL file (though you loose the ability to set different print settings for the supports). Much of my printer's time is also devoted to 28mm figurines and I've had varied success with them. There are some models whose detail is too fine and which require too much support to be worth it considering the cleanup - I have a bucket-of-shame that's full of them. I just ordered an upgrade for my printer to allow me to print with multiple filament and I'll be seeing if soluble support material is helpful for those small details. Barring that, I've found that some prints do better with Meshmixer's supports while others do better with simplify3d supports, while others still do better with slic3r supports.

Summarizing the article on custom Meshmixer supports:

  1. Open your model in Meshmixer
  2. From the top menu select View – Show Printer Bed
  3. Select Edit – Transform and move the model to the middle of the print bed
    • This step is important because Meshmixer won’t generate any supports outside of the print area
  4. If you want to print the model on a different scale, scale the model now, again by using the Edit – Transform. It’s better to scale the model now, because an additional change of scale later in slicer would also affect the generated supports, resulting in either too thin and weak supports or too thick and hard to remove supports.
    • Change the Scale X (Scale Y and Scale Z) to the desired value (1 = 100%, 1.5 = 150% etc.)
  5. Select Analysis – Overhangs
    • You can now adjust the Angle Thresh and see a live preview of areas of the model that should be supported
  6. Click on Generate Support to see a preview of the support structure
    • Every time you make changes to the support settings you’ll have to click on Remove Support and Generate Support to refresh the view

(The video in the article goes into greater detail on the settings available in step 6.)

  1. Adding and removing supports manually
    • You can create a new support by left-clicking and dragging from an overhang to the ground or from an existing support to the ground
    • Hold down the Shift key to ignore intersections of the support strut or any other warning and force Meshmixer to generate the new support (use wisely)
    • You can also click on an existing support to generate a new strut going down to the build plate
    • CTRL + Left click on an existing support to remove it
  2. When you’re happy with the support structure you can export the model and the support structure together as STL by simply clicking Done and clicking on the Export button in the left menu
  3. Alternatively, you can select Convert to Solid to create a separate mesh from the support structure. This will let you set different settings in Slic3r for the supports and for the model itself
    1. After choosing Convert to Solid choose Edit – Separate shells
    2. Export both the model and the supports as individual STL files
    3. In Slic3r first load the STL with the model
    4. Double-click on the model and choose Load part…, select the supports STL file
    5. When the STL loads, you can overwrite some of the settings by clicking on the green plus icon
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I don't think you'll find automated software to create supports "the way I want them to look." So...

It might be worth investigating the "Advanced Properties" of Cura to see how thin, and thinly spaced, you can set its support walls to be. I know there are settings for reducing the thickness at the top of the support, as well as some sort of "top gap" setting, for just the kind of problem you're dealing with.

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  • $\begingroup$ the question title is missleading (my edit waits in the queue) that shall be: Software for exporting generated print supports to .stl file $\endgroup$ – profesor79 May 10 '18 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @profesor79 That title is even more misleading cause of the use of exporting, but I'm not native to English either. "How/software to add supports to STL file" would describe this question better IMHO. $\endgroup$ – 0scar May 10 '18 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the comment, edited the STL requirement in. $\endgroup$ – Tobold May 12 '18 at 5:23
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If you're looking for an extremely powerful software with manual supports, I would recommend getting Simplify 3D. Simplify 3D allows you to manually add and edit support material in the slicer. The only drawback is that it cost 150 USD, but it will do what you need done.

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    $\begingroup$ @tobold Yes, 3D simplify generate the supports automatically or you can add it only on the places that you have looked overhangs, also can be defined as small as needed and easily to remove. This software don't edit your STL file, just creates the supports to generate de Gcode for your printer. $\endgroup$ – Fernando Baltazar May 11 '18 at 17:42
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I had good experience with the support interfaces from CURA. But reduce the thickness of the support interface to be just enough, that a smooth support interface top can be printed and set the top distance so that the model itself can be printed smooth and you can remove the interface easy enough. (I got good results with a thickness of 2-4 layers and a distance of 1-2 layers. Important: the real filament thickness should be set in CURA very precisely, else it could lead to hard to remove interface or a not smooth bottom of the model.

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  • $\begingroup$ To the best of my knowledge, .STL files exported with Cura don't contain the support structures you created. As my printer doesn't take .gcode, I need the supports in the .STL file. $\endgroup$ – Tobold May 27 '18 at 14:20
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Materialise Magics (STL fixer) is what I have heard works very well. In the process now of trying to get the boss to buy a seat for use with models being made on a Carbon DLS printer.

http://www.materialise.com/en/software/magics

(keep me posted with what you find out. I am currently in the same boat and exploring options while minimizing cost but also want good software and am willing to pay. makes sense, I know)

Edit - Netfabb has free software available.

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  • $\begingroup$ It appears that this is used for metal laser sintering, knowing the challenges with metal prints (orientation, support and adhesion) as our company prints Titanium, Aluminium and Inconel, I wonder whether this tool would be of interest for the plastic FDM community. It looks as if it is able to produce nice supports. I doubt that this will be affordable for the hobbyist as the price is not listed. $\endgroup$ – 0scar May 17 '18 at 13:23

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