Keep Corners Flat With MakerWare’s Helper Disks


Here’s a great tip for every MakerBot user: use MakerWare’s Helper Disks to keep the corners of your model from curling up. 

Thingiverse users ctheroux and whpthomas have been great advocates for using Helper Disks, which act like feet on the corners of your model to help keep everything pinned down. When the MakerBot Slicing Engine sees the disks, it treats them as part of the model. Once the print is finished, the disks can be peeled or cut away pretty easily.

Below is a quick step-by-step for using these little lifesavers. Try Helper Disks out and share your experience with us in the comments below or on twitter: @makerbot.

helper discs in place

Step 1

Make sure you’re using the most up-to-date version of MakerWare. We’re always improving this software, and Helper Disks are only available in MakerWare 2.0 and later. Grab the latest version.

Step 2

Open your 3D model in MakerWare. The one in the screenshot above is the first floor of our Rodessa House model, which has a bunch of corners to pin down.

Step 3

The next step is adding the disks. They will open in the center of the platform, so first you should move your model out of the way. Select your model, then select “Move”. Drag the model away from the center, like this.

Rodessa moved

Step 4

Under “File”, open the “Examples” menu. Select either size under “Helper Disks”. For this model, we used the Small size.

helper discs menu

Step 5

A disk will appear in the middle of the virtual build plate. You can either repeat Step 4 as many times as you need, or simply select the disk, copy and paste. For this model, we needed six Helper Disks.

six discs

Step 6

Move the disks out of the way, and then move the main model back in place. Remember that you can move multiple files all at once in MakerWare by holding down Shift when you are selecting them, then click “Move” and on the side bar. When everything is in place, slide the Helper Disks to the corners with only a small amount of overlap with the main model.

helper discs in place

Step 7

Slice and print your model as usual by clicking the “Make It” button. You don’t need to do anything fancy to combine these pieces into a single model.

Once you’ve 3D printed the file on your MakerBot, the Helper Disks are easy to remove. In most cases they peel or snap off, but you can use a tool like wire cutters, too.


Step 8

Admire all the flat corners and upload a picture of your victory over curling to Thingiverse!


Tagged with 23 comments

23 Comments so far

  • jeremrem
    April 22, 2013 at 9:00 am

    thanks a lot for it will help me a lot for my future creations. Do you have an explanation why we have this kind of phenomenon (corners not flat)?

  • tunell
    April 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I’d been dropping in the .stl files for these manually because I didn’t know they were in the examples folder.


  • jeremtoo
    April 23, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    thank a lot for the tip
    merci beaucoup pour l’astuce

  • Cameron
    April 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Brilliant! We’ve been fighting this for the last week and couldn’t figure out a way to do it… This will save us HOURS of build time… THANK YOU!

  • Dek
    April 30, 2013 at 2:24 am

    jeremrem, the reason the corners curl up is because as the print is progressing the upper layers are cooling down and contracting. Since the lower layers are hotter (being on the heated platform) they contract less leading to the curling.

  • Fredini
    May 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Love this tip.

    However, I get an issue when I size helper discs to create supports: if the helper discs intersect with a part of the model they “punch out” the intersecting portion of the model. I blogged about this a few weeks ago here

    But the final print was a bit of a disaster. On using helper discs to generate support for this model: , the model’s garments need support to print. If I generate support using a row of helper discs sized to be long skinny cylinders, what I get is this: The base prints with holes punched in it where the helper discs intersect , and consequently the columns of the helper discs don’t adhere to the base and don’t work well as support.

    What is needed is a “selective support” feature in which support can be generated for only certain parts of the print. In my example, the garments, but not the figure’s chin.

  • mcat
    May 3, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Dek, do the corners curl up on prints made with the Replicator 2x. Perhaps since the Replicator 2x is enclosed, heating/cooling will be more even?

  • M_G
    July 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I have been using similar “mouse_ear” features for about 2 years and have a bunch of openscad functions that add them automatically to certain shapes in almsot everyting I design. If anyone is considering using them here is a code snippet that might be of use…

    module mouse_ears(box,thickness,radius, has_mouse_ears){
    if (has_mouse_ears) union(){
    translate(v=[box[0]/2,box[1]/2,-box[2]/2])cylinder(r=radius, center=false);
    translate(v=[box[0]/2,-box[1]/2,-box[2]/2])cylinder(r=radius, center=false);
    translate(v=[-box[0]/2,box[1]/2,-box[2]/2])cylinder(r=radius, center=false);
    translate(v=[-box[0]/2,-box[1]/2,-box[2]/2])cylinder(r=radius, center=false);

  • Bruce
    September 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I have the same problem with these disks leaving the immediate area under the model with a hole in the base. I have the Replicator 2 and fixed the problem by completely enclosing it and making sure the build chamber and glass build plate are at least 30 degrees Centigrade. Problem fixed! I printed a thing to help.

  • Mikey van Gelderen
    November 26, 2013 at 7:15 am

    I got the newest makerware but could not found the helper disk under files-examples

  • Erin
    December 2, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I have the most recent version of Makerware – and a Replicator 2. I do not have the option for helper disks. I have the Dual extrusion option but not the helper disk. Was this removed from this version?

  • James V
    December 11, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I have the same issue as Mikey and Erin. Can these be published to thingiverse so I can add them back manually? Thank you in advance.

  • Lee
    December 26, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Same issue as many here…have the latest version of MakerWare but under examples, there are no helper disks as an option.

  • Dave M
    January 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I am also having this issue. I am on Makerware Ver. and I have no Helper Disks. I am using the Replicator 2X.

  • Tiffany Diorio
    January 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Hi guys!

    If you’d like to use helper discs, but don’t see it under the ‘Examples’ tab in MakerWare then you can refer to this link from Thingiverse:

    You can download the disks and use them to anchor down those corners of your builds.

  • Fredini
    February 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Helper discs no longer work well with Makerware. Something in the slicing engine changed a few months ago. When a helper disc overlaps the main model, the overlapping areas will not be printed, leaving a void where the overlap was.

  • Tiffany Diorio
    February 4, 2014 at 9:11 am

    @Fredini: Are you using our latest version of MakerWare 2.4.1?
    We have it so that if both of the models you’re working with are manifold then the software will union them, but if one or more is not then, it won’t bring them together, causing an inability to use helper disks.
    I would suggest running your model through netfabb cloud to check if its manifold or not. You can do that here:
    If you do that and you’re still running into issues please reach out to us in support! We can help you out!

  • abeZart
    April 4, 2014 at 10:49 am

    I have version of Makerware…and the helper disks are not in the file / example tab?

  • themitchguy
    May 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Hi, I don’t see the Helper Disks anywhere in the Examples tab, there is no longer a tab for it. Is there any way to fix this? Currently running MakerWare

    • Tiffany Diorio
      May 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Hi Mitch,
      You can find helper discs on Thingiverse. Here is the link for one that you could use:
      Hope this helps! Let our support staff know if you have any other issues with using these.

  • Bill Spangler
    May 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    When using a raft, something that has helped for me is to place additional short objects near the corners, but not actually touching/intersecting the main object. That way a larger raft is generated, which seems to help adhesion, but you don’t have to trim extra stuff (other than the raft) off the main object. I have generated them in OpenSCAD along with the main object, but they could be manually placed in MakerWare instead.

    An example of this, with very short 3/4 cylinders near the corners, is with this filament spool holder design:
    I have printed a version of this where the frame is over 7″ wide (for use with an XXL filament reel) in PLA on a MakerBot 2 without having any lifting.

  • Bob Miller
    June 3, 2014 at 4:52 am

    I resolved my curling problem by doing two things :

    1 ) Design with your model break off “tabs”. Mine are semi-circles like the mouse ears, but some are wider like a raft. Since I manually add them to each model, I can place them only where necessary AND

    * very important *

    Design your tabs to be about 1 mm thick, but only .2 mm thick adjacent to the object. Kinda like having a little ditch, maybe 1 mm wide. This allows the printer to establish a nice strong 5-layer tab, with a 1 layer weak point attached to your object that’s holding it all together and the corner down. After printing, a couple of twists and they pop off with minimum effort and leave a clean edge that requires very little shaving.

    2) If appropriate, cut a triangular wedge from your object near its base where you think curling could occur. Kinda like cutting your Achilles tendon, this will relieve pull on the model as it cools. Or similarly, design your object with a beveled bottom edge. Your printer can build outward at 45 degrees ( within reason ), and I’ve discovered having printed the first layer and expanding outward, this increased volume of plastic is stabilizing my corners.

    And please note : intersecting geometry in Makerware creates a void in the final print, so if you make tabs, you need to flush them RIGHT against the model but not in it. You would think the slicer would consider an overlapped region DEFINITELY filled, but instead it thinks “EMPTY”.

    Oh and check out this tool :

    You can actually designed something with multiple objects and intersecting geometry, export your STL and then use that site to automatically FIX it, removing bad faces and other issues, and create a solid new STL that you can print. Whoever created that tool is a hero!

  • teslatrician
    March 23, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    wow solves the problem admirably. gonna try the ditch thing to make it easier to cut them off. Great suggestions here


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