Three-dimensional (3D) printing has revolutionized the manufacturing industry, offering endless possibilities for creating intricate and complex objects. However, one challenge that persists in 3D printing is the need for support structures to ensure the success of the printing process.

Why Do We Need Support Structures?

Support structures are a fundamental necessity in the realm of 3D printing. This need arises naturally from the very essence of 3D printing technology itself. Since 3D printed objects are constructed layer by layer, certain elements within a model inevitably extend beyond the edges of the layers being printed (overhangs). In the absence of any intervention, these protruding features would be fabricated in thin air, leading to catastrophic results for your project.

To circumvent this challenge, slicers, which are specialized software tools for 3D printing, can be configured to automatically incorporate supports for these overhanging features. This involves generating structures just beneath the protruding elements to provide a stable foundation, ensuring that they don’t collapse during printing. Users enjoy a high degree of flexibility in selecting the precise quantity and type of supports to employ, tailoring the process to suit their specific needs.

As crucial as supports are, they often introduce a considerable degree of inconvenience into the 3D printing process. Beyond the increased filament consumption and extended print times, the most vexing aspect of supports lies in their post-print removal. This step is deceptively tricky and serves as a perpetual source of frustration for many 3D printing enthusiasts.

Inadequate support removal can result in damage to the printed object. Even with meticulous efforts, supports frequently leave blemishes on the surface of the completed print, necessitating painstaking sanding to achieve a smooth finish. This becomes especially problematic when dealing with intricate prints that demand a substantial number or density of support structures.

Given the laborious nature of support removal, it’s understandable that many users invest significant time fine-tuning and perfecting support settings within their slicer software. It is precisely in light of these challenges that unconventional solutions like tree 3D printing supports have gained popularity.

Conventional support structures often prove wasteful, time-consuming to eliminate, and can mar the final surface finish of prints. This is where tree 3D printing supports step in as a groundbreaking solution, poised to address these concerns and elevate the field of additive manufacturing to new heights.

What Are Tree 3D Printing Supports?

 Tree supports, as their name implies, closely resemble the branches of trees. Yet, their significance transcends mere aesthetics; these distinctive supports bring a host of unique advantages to 3D printing.

Much like the trunks and branches of actual trees, tree supports exhibit a progressive taper, starting broader at the base and narrowing as they extend upward. Their inherent flexibility allows them to contort and wind around the intricate contours of your 3D model. One of the standout features of tree supports is their ability to be printed at varying angles, a characteristic that sets them apart from conventional support options.

In stark contrast to bulky, solid supports, tree supports embrace a minimalist design, mimicking the interconnected branches of real trees. Generated by specialized 3D printing software, they are strategically positioned to bolster overhanging or complex features during the printing process. To tailor these supports to your specific needs, slicer software provides customization options. You can manipulate the infill density of the primary “trunk” of the tree supports to optimize filament consumption and reduce printing time. Furthermore, you retain control over adjusting the angle, diameter, and placement of these supports, allowing for precise adaptation to the intricacies of your project.

Tree 3D printing supports are compatible with a wide range of 3D printing materials, including PLA, ABS, PETG, and more. They are especially beneficial when printing models with intricate or overhanging features, such as figurines, architectural prototypes, and medical implants.

Tree 3D printing supports represent a state-of-the-art solution for surmounting the conventional challenges associated with traditional support structures.

Tree Supports Benefits

 Tree supports offer several advantages over traditional linear supports in the realm of 3D printing. These benefits extend beyond just reducing printing time, making them a preferred choice for many enthusiasts and professionals.

 Strong Support: Tree supports provide robust and reliable support to your 3D prints. This is especially true when compared to traditional support structures like regular supports.

 Faster Printing Times: One of the primary advantages of tree supports lies in their ability to drastically reduce printing time. Traditional support structures, as their name suggests, create linear support columns that can extend extensively within the model. This elongation of supports significantly increases the time required for printing. In contrast, tree supports are akin to branches extending from a central trunk. Their minimalistic design reduces the number of support contact points with the model, resulting in a significantly shorter printing duration. This efficiency is especially valuable when time-sensitive projects are at hand.

Additionally, tree supports are less dense and provide better airflow during the printing process. Consequently, they substantially decrease the time needed for support material to be printed, expediting the overall printing process.

Reduced Material Usage: Traditional supports can be material-intensive, resulting in increased costs and waste. Conversely, tree supports are designed to minimize material usage. This efficient approach aligns with sustainability goals, reduces expenses, and contributes to a greener manufacturing process.

Effortless Removal: Once a 3D print is complete, the support structures must be removed, which can be a time-consuming and delicate task. The more supports a model requires, the more challenging this task becomes. Here’s where tree supports shine. Their sparse and interconnected design makes them considerably easier to remove compared to linear supports. Users can usually detach them manually or with the help of basic tools like pliers, minimizing the post-processing effort and ensuring that the final printed object retains its intended form.

Improved Surface Finish: Traditional supports can leave behind visible blemishes on the printed object’s surface, requiring post-processing. Tree supports minimize contact points and reduce the chances of surface imperfections, resulting in a smoother finish. They are designed to minimise the intrusiveness and disruption to the surface of your printed object. This means you’ll get better surface quality with less post-processing work.

 Complex Geometries: Tree supports excel in supporting complex geometries, including intricate, organic shapes that are challenging for traditional supports to handle.

The Main Watch Out With Tree Supports: Longer Slicing Time

Tree supports present a complex solution due to their inherent intricacy, as they don’t follow a straightforward path. The geometry of your model plays a pivotal role in dictating the manner in which tree supports must contort and curve in various directions before establishing contact with your model. This complexity often translates into extended slicing times, which may prove vexing, particularly if you prefer to make gradual adjustments to your slicer settings.

Nonetheless, it’s important to note that tree supports are not universally suitable for all models. In certain cases, traditional columnar supports have outperformed tree supports, demonstrating superior results. The advantages of tree supports tend to shine brightest in models that boast intricate details and delicate overhang features. The inherent adaptability of tree support designs makes them particularly well-suited for accommodating and reinforcing these intricate features.

There is no one-size-fits-all rule governing the use of tree supports. Careful examination of your specific model is essential before determining which type of support is most appropriate. If your needs can be met with simpler support structures, our recommendation is to avoid overcomplicating your situation unnecessarily.

Where Can Tree Supports Be Found?

Not all slicer software programs natively support tree supports. However, there have been developments in this area, and some slicers may have added tree support capabilities since then. Here are a few slicer software options:

PrusaSlicer: PrusaSlicer, developed by Prusa Research, is known for its robust support generation options. It has included experimental tree support features, which were available for users interested in trying this innovative support structure.

Chitubox: Chitubox is popular for resin-based 3D printing and has introduced tree supports as a feature. This feature is especially useful for users working with SLA or DLP 3D printers. Chitubox offers a simple and intuitive interface for generating tree supports.

Cura: Cura is a widely used open-source slicer software. Cura’s user-friendly interface allows for easy customization of tree support settings, enabling precise adaptation to diverse 3D printing projects.

Meshmixer: Although not a dedicated slicer, Autodesk Meshmixer is a popular software for editing and preparing 3D models. It allows users to generate tree-like supports, which can be exported and used in conjunction with various slicers.

Bambu Studio: In Bambu Lab’s slicer, there are 2 basic types of support: normal and tree. The tree support samples the overhangs to get the so-called nodes, each node is represented as a circle. And then the nodes are propagated down to the heat bed. During propagation, the circles may be enlarged to get better strength and may be moved away from the object so the supports are less likely to collide with the object.

Configuring Tree Supports for 3D Printing

When setting up tree supports for your 3D prints, it’s important to understand the key parameters that can significantly impact their performance. Adjusting these parameters may require some trial and error to achieve the desired results, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor to optimize your printing process and save both time and filament.

  1. Branch Angle

The branch angle refers to the angle at which new branches grow from the main trunk of the support structure. Keeping this angle relatively low enhances stability but limits the range of support growth. If you’re new to using tree supports, it’s advisable not to exceed 50 degrees to prevent the supports from collapsing.

  1. Branch Diameter

This setting determines the thickness of the branch supports. Thicker branches offer increased stability but consume more material and extend print times. It’s essential to strike a balance, so it’s generally a good practice to keep this value below 3 millimeters. The main trunk will naturally be thicker than the branches.

  1. Branch Diameter Angle

This parameter controls the deviation between branch and trunk diameters. A value of zero degrees results in uniform support thickness, which isn’t optimal for stability. Increasing the branch diameter angle widens the trunks, enhancing stability but also increasing print time. For models with larger overhangs, consider setting this angle up to a maximum of 30 degrees.

  1. Collision Resolution

Collision resolution checks for potential collisions between the tree structure and your model. The parameter value represents the tolerance for collision detection. To prevent scarring or difficulties during support removal, it’s recommended to keep this value between 0.15 and 0.2 millimeters.

  1. Support Placement

Support placement offers two options: “touching build plate” and “everywhere.” Choosing “touching build plate” is generally easier for support removal, especially for tree supports, as branches can grow at angles to reach difficult areas. However, there are scenarios where “everywhere” may be preferred, such as when conserving filament on overhanging features located elsewhere on the model.

  1. Support Overhang Angle

This setting determines the maximum angle at which overhanging features will trigger the automatic generation of supports. A typical rule of thumb is to set this angle at 45 degrees, but you can be more conservative if desired. Lower values result in more supports, which may increase scarring, filament usage, and support removal time.

Remember that the ideal parameters for tree supports may vary depending on your specific project’s requirements, including reliability, surface finish quality, and post-processing effort. Understanding the impact of each parameter on your final print is key to achieving the best results. In some cases, you may find that tree supports are unnecessary altogether.


Tree 3D printing supports represent a significant advancement in additive manufacturing. They offer a sustainable solution by reducing material waste, improving print quality, and enabling the creation of complex geometries. They not only expedite the printing process by reducing printing time but also simplify support removal, making it more user-friendly. Furthermore, their compatibility with advanced 3D printing technologies and their contribution to sustainability position tree supports as an indispensable tool for 3D printing enthusiasts and professionals alike.

As the 3D printing industry continues to evolve, tree supports are likely to become an essential tool for manufacturers across various sectors, unlocking new possibilities for innovation and design freedom in the world of 3D printing.