Best Support Settings for Cura
The era of 3D printing is here and while it can be complex, the technology offers the opportunity to explore your creativity in diverse ways, building quality models that could serve as a functional alternative in certain situations.
However, because of its complexity, you might need to make use of support structures when creating your models in 3D printing. These support structures provided by slicing software like Cura need to have appropriately calibrated settings or your models could suffer from low quality.
What is Cura?
Developed in 2014 by David Braam and later acquired by Ultimaker, Cura is a slicing software or slicer used in getting a piece 3D printed by converting the 3D model into a G-code file that provides your 3D printer with all the necessary instructions for printing.
The Cura slicer is widely used, handling about 1.4 million print jobs per week as it is the most preferred printing software for Ultimaker 3D printers but it can also be used by printers from other manufacturers.
This slicing software is highly beneficial as it is quite easy to use, can support different file formats, and is compatible with several types of 3D printers and the most common operating systems, Windows, Mac, and Linux.
What Can Cura Do?
With its regular modifications and emerging usage all over the world, Cura evolves daily and possesses features that go even beyond slicing. Cura works in a fascinating manner; with its possession of a simple interface that gives users an opportunity to choose between the custom and recommended mode, you are able to set the perfect standard for you.
Some of the things it can do include:
- Custom Mode: With this setting, you are able to choose from over 400 different setting options as well as easily adding other options apart from the basic factors like additional support structures or the amount of filling required. You can even improve your user experience through this setting as it gives you an idea of how Cura will cut out the model using the preview mode. Also, before printing, you can select the filament used as a profile so that the parameters of the software are changed automatically and appropriately.
- Recommended Mode: To attain the best results with just a few clicks without making manual changes, the recommended mode is the perfect setting for you. Still, if you can’t make a satisfactory decision, Cura can help you choose the optimal orientation of the part to save your time, the filling rate, the generation of optimized supports to minimize post-processing, the layer thickness and so much more.
- Cloud Access: With Cura, you are able to access its cloud, enabling you to send printing instructions directly to printers without the use of regular storage media like USB and access your projects anywhere as long as you have a free account.
- Access to a Wide Range of Printers: The slicing software via Cura Connect allows printing to be sent to different printers at the same time and then work simultaneously. You are able to plan and manage several print jobs on different Ultimaker 3D printers and it also offers a follow-up of the current print jobs, possible maintenance operations, etc.
- Access to Plug-ins: It makes it possible for you to push CAD data directly into the slicer from different types of software without even needing to change the formats as everything is integrated with a single tool.
- Educational Forum: Lastly, due to the large community of active users it has attracted, Cura allows users to share the best practices and recommendations about its use by creating a daily enriching forum to improve user experience.
Cura Slicer Versions
- Cura 2.1.2 (June 2016): Developed after and superior to the 15.04.6 version.
- Cura 2.3 (September 2016): It came with new printing profiles, slicing features, increasing speed, and supported the dual extrusion possible with the Ultimaker 3 model.
- Cura 3.0 (October 2017): It presented a user interface and allowed for CAD integration. It was also the first version with plug-in support.
- Cura Connect (November 2017): This is a user-friendly version, released just for the sake of enabling users to control, monitor, and configure a group of network-enabled 3D printers from a single interface.
- Cura 3.5 (October 2018): Its release introduced Hotkeys and a searchable profile guide as well as the ability to save all files in the 3Mf format to improve its compatibility with other 3D software.
- Cura 3.6 (November 2018): With this version came the introduction of material profile support for materials made by major manufacturers like BASF, DuPont, Clariant, and other members of the materials Alliance Program consortium.
- Cura 4.0 (March 2019): This version presented the tremendous change to the user interface, making it possible for users to rate plug-ins through the support of plug-in capabilities and the incorporation of a star-based rating. The cloud-backup functionality was also included alongside support for more third-party printers.
How to Know if You Need Support
In 3D printing, support settings are used in adjusting how and where your supports will be created, support density, support pattern, distances between support and model, support overhang angles, etc.
The importance of support in 3D printing is not overrated especially if you are involved in creating complex models as well as a lot of overarching parts. However, certain things need to be considered to know if you will need support structures or not e.g. are the overhangs greater than 45˚ with respect to the vertical? If so, support will be needed to carry on with printing if it fails at a certain overhang; are the bridges wider than 5 mm? If so, support is needed to enable printing at wider distances.
Cura Support Settings and How to Fully Optimize Them
The Cura slicer comes with different settings which can be adjusted to fit your models’ supports. For a clear view of all the settings provided by Ultimaker in Cura, you can click on the Settings tab, select “Configure setting visibility…”, and choose “Check all”.
The following are support settings that can be adjusted to your taste and how to go about it:
- Support Dual Extruder: This allows you to print main parts in one material and print soluble supports with the other extruder, and the latest version of Cura allows you to select which extruder you want to print and to which section of your support structures so that you are able to print with a combination of soluble material and your filament of choice. If you want to decrease filament cost and post-processing times, you can adjust your extruder and section matchup.
- Tree Support: This hollow, tree-like structure supports models that have varying angles, sizes, and paths that can be determined by certain parameters within Cura and it is an alternative to the straight and vertical option. Clicking on “Tree” in the support structure dropdown menu will activate tree supports and some of the settings that can be adjusted here are tree support: branch angle, branch distance, branch diameter, diameter angle, and collision resolution.
- Placement: This setting will determine if you need supports to be printed everywhere they are needed for complex models or only originating from the build plate. So you can either select “Everywhere” or “Touching Buildplate” if you want to avoid imperfections on your print’s surface.
- Overhang Angle: Here, you can change the overhang angle beyond the default angle of 45˚ which you want to generate supports. Playing around with an overhang test will help you know how well your machine can handle different angles in the long run.
- Pattern: Support structure patterns like zig-zag, lines, concentric, etc are offered, each of them exhibiting a balance between strength, suitability for certain shapes, and ease of removal. Although some patterns are vulnerable and could detach from the surface below and collapse due to vibrations and skinny support structures, the Grid and Triangle patterns achieve sturdier supports.
- Density: High-density support structures provide more reliable support but also more filament usage, longer print times, and more difficult post-processing, while low density supports work best for regular support areas that don’t need many contact points and they reduce filament cost, print time, and difficulty of support removal.
- Support Brim: Activating this setting will help to improve the reliability of support structures, make sure the supports remain intact and maintain a stronger grip with the build plate, and prevent adhesion issues.
- Z Distance: With two sections, Top and Bottom Distance, this setting determines the distance between the model to the top and bottom of the support. Selecting a high value for these distances will create a bigger gap between the model and support for easier post-processing and a smoother model surface, while a low value will help you in the case of supporting complex overhangs with high detail requirements but it can make supports harder to remove. As long as your Z distance is a multiple of your layer height, your printer is able to achieve the distance required correctly.
- X/Y Distance: This setting is similar to the Z distance and it adjusts the horizontal distance between a model and its support. With a larger distance, you will have an ease of support removal and better surface finishes on vertical sections, and a shorter distance leads to a stronger support structure for overhangs around the vertical surfaces.
- Stair Step Height: It works hand in hand with the placement setting especially if you selected “Everywhere”. This setting tells you how closely the support material follows the contours of your model. A high stair step height makes a rougher connection and support removal quite easy while a low stair step height makes for a smoother connection and smoother support interface surfaces.
- Distance Priority: To avoid a contradiction of the Z and X/Y distance depending on the overhang you want to print, you should prioritize the Z distance because it is what really holds up the model. You can also set a minimum X/Y distance or change the override setting if it is required by a certain model.
- Join Distance: This setting adjusts the maximum horizontal distance between support structures and the higher the value for a distance closer together for a one structure print, the quicker the supports merge. A higher joint distance will even provide stronger support for the model if the support structure is thin, however, it shouldn’t be too high to avoid the support structures becoming dense and difficult to remove.
- Horizontal Expansion: With this setting, you are able to set a horizontal expansion to make sure thin areas requiring support are adequately supported. For sturdier support, you should input a larger value for this setting and make use of more filament.
- Infill Layer Thickness: If you want to lower your support print time, all you have to do is print support infill layers at a lower resolution, and if you want to print with large support layer heights instead, you should make your support infill layer thickness an exact multiple of your model’s resolution.
- Gradual Support Infill Steps: It determines the number of times your slicer will decrease the support’s infill density the further it is from the support roof layer and the gradual infill step height to set the distance of the density steps. You can save on support material and print time with this setting by using only high support density when you are close to the model you want supported.
- Minimum Support Area: You should enable this setting to save you from unnecessary material consumption and print time as it helps you define the minimum area to support and filters the ones you don’t want to support.
- Enable Support Interface: This setting provides a smoother connection between your model and support structure by giving you the option of adjusting your support interface thickness, resolution, density, and pattern, at the expense of easy removal of support
- Towers: In the case of small overhang areas, this setting enables you to print supports as towers that taper at the top in order to support areas smaller than your set minimum diameter. You can also change the diameter, adjust the angle at which your towers ascend to a point, and choose whether to make the towers flatter or pointier.
The best support settings need to be activated for your optimal use of the Cura slicer in 3D printing. However, you should be careful not to go beyond its limitations and only set your support structures according to the model requirements.
For more information, feel free to contact us and adequate answers will be provided!