Best Support Settings for Prusa Slicer
In the world of 3D printing, support slicers are essential in creating high-quality models due to the technicality of 3D printers. An example of support slicers is the Prusa Slicer which is popularly used by consumers and evolves daily, bringing with it new user-friendly features.
It is important that the best support settings are enabled in Prusa so as to help you make use of your 3D printers to satisfaction.
What is Prusa Slicer?
The Prusa Slicer like all other 3D slicers has the ability to convert 3D model files into printable G-code using the settings and options specified by the user, and it is known for both its basic features like pre-calibrated default slicing profiles, top infill pattern options, etc, and newer features like ironing and variable infill density.
Initially based on Slic3r by Alessandro Ranellucci in 2016, Prusa later branched off to create their personal branded version known as Slic3r PE released through GitHub. However, it was officially renamed by Prusa in 2019 as Slic3r deviated more and more from the original software.
Although the software is open source and free to download, allowing external developers to engineer their own adaptations and improving it in the process, you still need to take into consideration the costs of the printer, filament, printing materials, and upgrades you might need to invest in depending on the computer you are currently using so as to have the best experience possible from the slicer usage.
Basic and Advanced Features of Prusa Slicer
- With its clean look and feel, the Prusa Slicer displays the various tools across the screen and most of them can be controlled with keyboard commands.
- It presents a configuration assistant once you open the program which guides you through selecting your printers and materials, making them accessible on the main screen once the assistant is complete.
- It makes it easy to customize and save several profiles e.g. you can switch filament profiles without it affecting your printer settings.
- It enables you to save a 3MF file that stores all objects, settings, modifiers, and their parameters.
- It has MSLA (resin) and multi-material support.
- It comes with a smooth variable layer height.
- It offers custom support using modifier meshes.
- It has the ability to “wipe” into infill, and repair models via Netfabb only on Windows.
- It comes in fourteen different languages.
- The latest version of Prusa Slice has SLA hollowing which allows you to change wall thickness and add variable-width drainage holes so as to save expensive resin when solid models are not required, automatic variable layer height, adaptive elephant’s foot compensation, the ability to insert a pause or custom G-code at a certain height, 3MF thumbnails when uploaded to the Prusa website and ColorPrint for the MMU to pause prints in order to manually swap filaments at a programmed layer height and show previews in the editor.
- With its ability to make use of modifier meshes, Prusa Slicer modifiers can block or enforce supports, adjust layer heights, change infill patterns or densities, and set specific numbers of perimeters.
- You are able to insert a pause or custom G-code at a certain height allowing you to pause at a particular layer so you can insert a magnet into a hole or swap filament colors.
- From print settings to filament settings and printer settings, Prusa Slicer offers you various choices to adjust its support settings to your taste or depending on the complexity of your model designs.
- Finally, Prusa Slicer also provides community and customer support which is an online knowledge base that allows you to find information, search for/read other users’ comments, questions and suggestions, as well as ask your own questions. Information ranging from configuration and operation to the various settings is provided for the users’ consumption.
The Support Settings in Prusa Slicer
The support settings in this slicer offer options of how to adjust the placement, gap distance from the print, pattern, and speed so as to enable you to create models of the best qualities. The available Prusa Slicer support settings are as follows:
- Placement: Deciding whether or not you want to activate the support settings relating to their enforcement and placement can be controlled by either checking the “Generate support material” box under the “Support material” section in the Print Settings tab or not. If you decide to check the box, you will be provided support structures on your model wherever there are overhangs equal to or exceeding the default “Overhang threshold”. A higher value of threshold can reduce the number of supports generated on the model and it can be adjusted beneath the support checkbox and is defined in degrees.
You can also control support enforcement by selecting one of the options, “Everywhere”, “None”, “Supports on build plate only” and “For support enforcers”, from the “Supports” dropdown box in the Plater tab. Each of these options has its pros and cons so it is best to choose the one most appropriate to your model designs.
- X, Y, Z Support Gap: It is important that there is a substantial gap between the support structure and the printed object to avoid the lack of differentiation between your desired object and the support materials. Although distances too small can make it difficult to remove the structures while distances too large can cause the structures to fail, there are three main settings in the Prusa Slicer that affect different aspects of the gap distance and can be adjusted.
- Contact Z distance: This setting determines the vertical distance between the support structure and the main object i.e. along the Z-axis, and it is better to use when printing an object with vertically oriented supports.
- XY separation: It is useful when printing an object that needs support in contact with the print’s horizontal edges as it performs a similar function as the “Contact Z distance” but along the X and Y axes.
- Interface Layers: Instead of setting a distance or gap between the support structure and printed object, it creates easily removable layers on the top of the support structure in order to enable ease of removal of supports from a print.
- Pattern: The pattern settings which control the configuration of an object’s support structures or arrangement of the walls of the support structures also have three different options (Rectilinear, Rectilinear grid, Honeycomb) and can be found in the “Support material” section with the other support settings.
The Rectilinear and Rectilinear grid patterns offer adequate strength for supports and fast print time as a result of their uncomplex design, and the Honeycomb pattern might take longer print time because it needs to make more movement and turns to achieve the design depending on the placement.
- Speed: This setting helps you choose the value needed for how fast your nozzle will extrude material when printing the support structures. The default speed value for this setting is 40 mm/s and the higher the value, the faster your support structures will be printed thereby decreasing your print time. However, be sure not to set your value higher than your infill speed as a value too high leads to the support structures having a higher risk of failure or being knocked over by the nozzle during printing.
- Tree Supports: This setting is pretty rare in 3D slicers and unfortunately, Prusa Slicer is one of the programs that don’t offer this feature. However, an alternative is the Ultimaker Cura which provides tree support for FDM 3D printing; a reason why it is popular and used as an alternative over Prusa Slicer and other programs.
Although Prusa Research has indicated their ongoing attempt in adding tree supports on their FDM slicer, the feature is still not available at the moment but it is still possible to use tree supports for FDM 3D printing on Prusa Slicer. Due to its ability to double as a slicer for FDM and SLA 3D printers, tree support can work for Prusa Slicer since it is a standard for SLA printers.
Steps for Adding Tree Support to Prusa Slicer
- Download and open Prusa Slicer
- Add or create an SLA slicing profile, such as the default SLA profile for the Original Prusa SL1.
- Open the model of your desire and make sure the “Supports” setting in the Plater tab is set to “Everywhere”.
- Slice your object without making any changes or adjustments to any other settings on your profile.
- Check to see if your sliced object has tree supports on it in the Prusa Slicer’s layer view mode.
- Once it is confirmed that it does have tree supports, export your design as an STL file by clicking “File ˃ Export> Export plates as STL including supports…”
- Return to your FM slicing profile in Prusa Slicer and open your new STL model.
- Finally, set the “Supports” setting to “None” on your FDM slicer, adjust any other settings for printing to your taste and proceed to slice your new, high-quality model.
The Prusa Slicer, like any other 3D printing slicer, has several support structure settings that can be adjusted or modified to its user's taste depending on the complexity of the model you are trying to create.
Although it does not offer tree support settings like few 3D slicers do, the technicalities can be bypassed. The steps mentioned above can also help you learn how to add tree supports if necessary.