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Aaron Pearson
Vice President of Public Relations

On the left, soluble support material shown still on the FDM 3D printed model. On the right, the same part after wash.This is the first of many posts in a regular series from Stratasys application engineers, who’ll offer technical advice, new ideas and experienced reflections on Fused Deposition Modeling from an engineering perspective.

One thing that’s true of rapid-prototyping machines across the board is that some post-build processes must be done before a 3D printed or rapid-prototyped part is ready to be used. The parts have been built, but support removal and/or some additional post processing is required.

With FDM technology, support removal is the only requirement, and with soluble support it’s an easy, hands-free and labor-free process. I’ve got a few tips on how to make the WaterWorks support-removal tanks used with your FDM machine as efficient as possible.

Are you using the WaterWorks or GreenWorks detergent provided by Stratasys? You’ll need one of these detergents or a strong detergent that can provide a bath with a pH of around 11-13. The higher the pH, the faster and more efficient the support removal will be. Check the pH of your water bath regularly and keep it high enough to facilitate good support removal. If the pH drops below 9 or 10 you may need to put in fresh water with more detergent. The time required to remove supports depends on the volume of the tank and the amount of support material you’re dissolving. With practice, you’ll learn how long your bath takes and when a change is needed.

You will also want to make sure the bath temperature is around 70 C (for ABS, ABS-plus, and ABS-M30 soluble supports) and that you have good water movement. This can either be achieved with a tank that has some type of pump to create circulation, or with an ultrasonic tank. (Sometimes with fine internal cavities an ultrasonic tank works better.)

If you have clean water with a strong detergent, the correct pH, the correct temperature and good circulation, supports should disappear from your parts relatively quickly, even in hard to reach places.