Support SketchUp Layers from Below

By Aidan Chopra

SketchUp’s world is an amazing place where you can rapidly build a 3D model while ignoring little things like the laws of physics. An object being 3D printed, however, is subject to all the forces of the physical world, including that pesky omnipresent one, gravity. New layers can’t be printed floating in open space; they need to have something below them.

The need to support each layer is the most important guideline to keep in mind while you’re designing objects for 3D printing. You can use either of two strategies to support new layers as you’re printing out objects:

  • Use the 3D printer’s support-material function, which creates a secondary structural lattice around the part. The lattice holds up any layers that would otherwise be free-floating in space. Support material may be dissolvable after printing or have to be manually removed with fingers and tweezers, depending on your type of 3D printer.

    Either way, removal of support material can become the most labor-intensive part of 3D printing; it also increases the amount of materials used and the time it takes to print the object.

  • Design and print your parts in a way that limits the conditions that allow unsupported layers to exist. Smooth transitions and sweeping curves not only look awesome; they can also be easily printed without resorting to the use of support material.