You can make this yourself by downloading my files from GitHub

3D printing often involves supports—additions to your model that hold it during printing and that you remove afterward. They provide starting points for local minimums, making it possible to print just about any geometry, and they keep everything rigid during printing, which improves print quality.

Formlabs has its own print-preparation software, PreForm, with its own support-generation algorithm. PreForm’s supports have a techno-genetic aspect to them, with lots of irregular branching. Large support structures become strikingly complex, and even beautiful when they’re printed in colorful resins like the translucent blue-green Tough.

Supports usually wind up in the garbage, or designed away and avoided entirely. I thought it’d be interesting to bring them forward as a central feature of a design. Plus, I needed a laptop stand for my desk at Autodesk’s Pier 9, where I’m a resident interested in, among other things, using 3D printing alongside other fabrication techniques.

So, a side project was born. The laptop stand begins with a platform angled at 19° from horizontal, which is also the shallowest angle that Formlabs recommends printing without supports. It’s held by four simple brackets that will be lifted by PreForm supports and can simply slide into place against the platform, and the fact that the platform is angled at 19° means that the brackets can be printed with minimal internal supports.

I wanted to use PreForm to generate the support structures immediately before printing, so I added a thin registration post to the bottom of each of these brackets that PreForm can use to set the brackets at the right height above the build platform. Here’s the model in Fusion 360:

The pattern on the platform is made from the intersection of two sets of circles centered on the front brackets.

Passing the models over to PreForm, I set the bottoms of the reference posts as the bases of the models, which elevated them to the right height and kept them oriented properly with respect to the printer’s build platform. The job used the entirety of the printer’s available height, and it took just under 17 hours on the Form 2…

…followed by 20 minutes in the Form Wash and two hours in the Form Cure. The models fluoresce in an eerie/beautiful way under 405nm light during post-curing.

Meanwhile, I used Slicer to divide the platform model into four slices that could be laser-cut from a single 1/8” sheet of plywood.

After gluing the slices together I sanded them to remove burn marks from the laser (and introduce some fun new imperfections). Here’s how it looks on my desk:

Thanks to Autodesk for letting me use their lasers and workshop! This felt a little trivial as I was getting into it, but I’m pleased with the way that the PreForm supports, with their raw structural expression and bright blue color, interact with the wood.

You can make this yourself by downloading my files from GitHub

Jon Bruner

Digital fabrication and AI person at Formlabs