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Favorite alternative to Preform for supports

There’s not much activity about alternatives.

My issue is that Preform is generating so many supports the structure becomes solid, even when I’ve reduced the settings to 50 density, 50 slope. It takes hours to remove the structure.

The alternative in Preform is to manually place supports, which will take almost as long, as the model is as large as will fit in a 3L, and has long and thin parts as well as more normal segments.

Preform won’t let you bulk delete sections, which would make life easier.

What are people using? Netfabb is too expensive and is reported as no better. Meshlab generates a few very large supports, which I don’t really trust.

What’s worked for you?

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Have you tried tweaking the advanced support generation settings? You can try turning down the Density.

And when you’re in manual edit mode you can draw a selection box around a bunch of touchpoints and delete them all at once.

As for other slicers… I’ve used Formware in the past for complex support structures where I needed more control over the geometry of my supports. Here’s an example. It wasn’t faster than Preform but beat modeling them in my CAD tool. I encountered some bugs but the developer was pretty responsive.

I have noticed Preform get pretty bogged down with larger models intended for my 3L. The performance of the software feels like it’s degraded somewhat over the years as more bloat features are introduced. Turning off the Printability toggle while you’re editing helps a lot (of course you need to turn it back on now and then to evaluate the results).

I’ve raised this same issue to all the contacts I have at FL. I just go the route of 100% manual placement…which sucks, but gives me the best results.

The best support generation software in this industry is probably the SW from Materialise. I actually inquried with them recently for the same reasons, but the licences are very expensive (on the order of 10K per year).

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Try this. It’s free and you can save a STL of your part with supports.
Maybe it could work for you.

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If one buys it once and doesn’t need updates will the copy you have continue to work indefinitely?

Chitu Box, definitely.

You can import you STL, orient it, hollow out the model and add the drain holes, then generate the supports. You have full control over them after they are generated; you can change the branch size, contact point size, depth of contact, type of raft, add, delete and move the location of the contact point as well as the location of the branch relative to the model itself.

One of my biggest issues with Preform was that it sometimes put the support so close to the model, it would fuse to the side of it and require a lot of cleanup. Not with this.

Once done, simply export the model as n STL, import it into preform and print it as is, without support, since the supports are now part of it.

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Even Fl has suggested the manual route, since the advanced tools don’t address the issue. Turning off printability does speed up the process, but it’s still a time suck.

I’ll start with Chitu Box, I think. Price is certainly right. Then Formware if that doesn’t work.

Thanks to all for your suggestions.

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I’m curious about this as well. Fusion 360 recently added native support for FormLabs SLA printing, complete with support generation.

The supports that Fusion 360 generations look nothing like PreForm’s supports, so I’ve been reluctant to try them. Has anyone here had success with these? I would like to think that AutoDesk did some testing of their support generation with an actual FL printer when they added this feature…

Yes it does. In edit mode you can mark an area and all supports in that area will be highlighted. Then you can bulk increase or decrease point size or delete the lot.

The issue with the current bulk selection is that it’s limited to a box geometry. Having a lasso would be nice.

Curious to hear how everyone’s experience with Chitubox will be. I’m somewhat skeptical that a hobby grade piece of software will really be much better, but you never know! Maybe i’ll download it and give it a try for fun.

AFAIK they said Materialise licences were an annual subscription - so I’m guessing no.

Thanks! FL support just told me I couldn’t!

You could be surprised. It is better than you think. I use it all the time for my Phrozen printer. More features to play with than Preform. Like Dudemeister is explaining well.

Hm, I’ll definitely download it and play around with it then!

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I’ve had success by cranking down the density, slope and touchpoint size to the minimum. The problem I face is that the underlying structure becomes too dense when I apply the right number of touchpoints. This makes removing the structure a chore. Meaning a hack saw, metal shears, and needle nose pliers sort of a chore.

To try and be clear, I need a lot of touch points, since the model is a bird with feathers, and each tip wants a touch point. Not all get one, and this works, but there are still a bazillion points, which generate a highly complex lattice underneath.

The autogenerate in Preform prints successfully, and is quick (sort of) to generate the supports. But the choice is either too few touchpoints, or a lattice that is so dense it becomes a solid.

It would be ideal if I could simplify part of the lattice, eliminating some cross linking, leaving out the cross bracing (in part).

Slope and density and touch point size are at a minimum

I’ve been looking at the suggested alternative software, but they make support generation into a career. With 48 hour printing times, the trial and error of manual placement isn’t practical, since I’m only making a few of each model.

I’m never going to get the production I need. All my time is going to be spent in either removing supports in the print, or playing with alternatives.

There may be no better solution, but I thought I give it one more try by being more explicit.

Any bright ideas, other than “don’t do that”? Thanks in advance.

Sharing a picture of the model may help.

We are using a Form3 but our parts can be fairly large. I always reduce the support touchpoint size to 0.40mm and reduce the density when auto-generating supports. Then I will manually remove and/or replace some of the key supports. However the biggest post-printing hacks we found are 1) using compressed air to dry the part after using the Form Wash so it cures quicker and 2) using a cheap band-saw to cut away the raft and majority of larger support structures after using the Form Cure. The latter makes manually removing the remaining supports much quicker. Further, if you are concerned about delicate areas of the part, you can always manually cut them before using the band-saw.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Are you using a power band saw, or something like a jeweler’s saw or hack saw?

On full size prints on my 3L, with Tough 2000, I’ve now reduced all the settings to the minimum: 55 Density, 30 point size, 50 slope.

With 2 prints so far, it’s working, and I go in with a hacksaw to cut off the platform and as much of the structure as I can safely reach. Then use a needle nose pliers to twist off the rest of the part. It’s still a chore.

Removing more support points doesn’t look safe, and with prints taking >50 hours, I’m leery of that avenue.

I’d be more successful if PF let me reduce the structure under the touch points, leaving a less complicated lattice, so that the lattice didn’t become solid, or nearly so, while leaving the number of touch points alone.

I think it’s a software limitation that can only addressed by FL.

Rob - here is our approach. Hope it helps.

We use a power bandsaw like this one. We have an older model. It works great for parts off the Form 3, but parts from the Form 3L may require a larger model where the part can fit into the band cutting area.

I reduce both the density and point size prior to printing. On point size I always go with 40. I lower the density and then manually reposition or add supports where I think they look empty.

I agree on the post processing and support removal, its really a chore that I dislike as well, but the power bandsaw makes it somewhat easier. You can cut off the raft and then work through other areas of the supports. I have found (while cutting off the raft) that when the supports are an inch or more in length, they generally stay in place on the part and have to be manually removed (but this is now much quicker and easier without the raft). Conversely, when they are an inch or less, the force of the moving bandsaw blade often breaks them off the part, but this can pit the part surface. You can avoid this by manually cutting the shorter supports or supports on delicate portions of part prior to using the bandsaw.

We take the approach of first printing in standard black resin and performing preliminary tests with that part, then we move to the tough resin. I’ve found that parts generally come out better in the black resin and require less post-processing, but the plastic is of course too brittle for working prototypes. For working prototypes, we use old standard tough resin (we have a bunch left over), but I’ve found it needs a lot of post processing. The underside of the part that meets the supports tends to build up resin by the supports and can be somewhat uneven (slightly wavy). In this area I often use a Dremel rotary sanding tool to flatten the wavy areas and then go through a manual sanding process to make it look nice (320 grit dry, 320 grit wet, etc.) followed by finishing with a coat of mineral oil then wiping it clean. This produces a nice finish.

I agree with you on the complicated lattice. It would be nice if there were other options. At some point with your larger parts it may make sense to move to a different 3D printing technology.

Another thing I would love to see - specifically for the 3L - is the ability to break the raft up into smaller pieces. I think that would make removing pieces of supports so much easier!