How to Slice a Model in Cura for 3D Printing.


May 27, 2019
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Austin, Texas
Setting up Cura for your printer

First of all, what is Cura? Cura is what is called a slicer. The program can talk your 3D model, slice it into layers and turn it into gcode, or basically instructions for your 3D printer. It allows your to modify all types of settings to change the properties of your final physical model. The first step is to download the latest version of Cura and load it up. Cura will ask you to set up your printer by choosing it from one of the premade profiles on the list. If by chance your printer is not on the list then don’t worry you will just have to make your own profile or find one online. If you can’t find your profile then just make sure to enter your nozzle diameter(Normally .4mm) and your build plate dimensions. To find a profile online just search up “your printer” cura profile. Once you have the profile loaded up you are ready to get a 3D model.

How do you get a 3D model?

There are many ways to get a 3D model. One of the most common ways is to download it from a model site. A common website used to find models is Thingiverse. It has thousands of models that are normally designed for 3D printing and are completely free!. Another good site is Yeggi. It searches across many different sites and brings all the models into one convenient place. Another popular way to get 3D models is to make them yourself. There are plenty of free programs and websites to make 3D models. A good beginner one is the website Tinkercad. It’s very basic, but it is easy to use and can make some useful models. A more professional option is Fusion 360. This is a professional CAD program but it free for students or anyone making less than $100,000 a year. Other common and free options are Blender, Onshape, and Meshmixer.

Loading a 3D model into Cura

To load a 3D model into Cura you can drag it in or click the button in the top left to load it from your computer.

You want to make sure that the model is in a file type that Cura supports. The most commonly used file type is STL and all models downloaded from thingiverse are going to be STL files. Once it is in Cura you are going to need to make sure that your printer is capable of printing it and remember, 3D printers can’t print in mid air. There are exceptions like bridging which is when the nozzle can start at one point on the model and “bridge” over air to another that isn’t too far away, but most of the time you want to avoid printing in mid air and overhangs that are greater than 45 degrees. Something like a balcony would not be able to be printed without supports. To avoid these problems you can change the orientation of your print by rotating it.

Intro into print settings

There are many different print settings to work with but here are some of the most common ones that you will be changing based on what you want for your end product. The first is layer height. The layer height is how much the print nozzle moves up after finishing the last layer. .2mm is the most commonly used but if you want more detail you can go down to .1 and if you want to print faster but with lower quality, then you can go up to .3mm. Don’t go up to .4mm or higher because then the layers won’t stick together very well and the model will be very weak. The next important setting is Infill and shell. 3D prints are normally not printed completely solid and have what is called infill in them. It’s a lattice structure on the inside of the print that gives the top layers support. Higher infill will produce stronger parts, but that isn’t the only factor in making strong parts. The shell is also very important. It is the number of outer perimeters that the model will have. For a good outer finish don’t go below 2 shells. More shells will produce stronger parts. This setting is more important for overall strength than infill is.

The speed that you print at is what will determine how nice your print will look and how long the print will take. Slower speeds will result in better looking parts but will take longer. A safe speed for most printers is 40mm/s. Don’t print too fast or you might risk damaging the printer over time. Research what your printer is capable of before trying higher speeds. If your print has a small area that is touching the build plate then you might want to change your bed adhesion settings. You can turn on a raft which is a thin piece of plastic that is printed underneath your model to make it stick better to the bed, or you can choose a brim which is a thin layer of plastic that extends from the base of the model.

Temperature is also very important to determining if your print will come out the way you want. Look at your filament brand’s recommended temperatures for the nozzle and the bed to get the best results. If your model has too steep of an overhang and you can't orient the model to fix it. Then you can use supports. Supports are thin structures that are printed underneath the overhangs to support them and in a way that they are easily removable after the print is finished.

Making sure the print sticks to the bed

Sometimes getting your first layer to stick to the bed is the hardest part. Here are some settings you can change to help. The first is to make your first layer extra thick. If you are printing with a .2mm layer height then make the first layer layer height .3mm. You can also try to increase the temperature 5 degrees higher for the first layer. If none of those options work then you can apply things directly to the bed. If you are printing on glass then a light coating of hair spray can help to get the print to stick. A safer option would be to coat the bed in a thin layer of sugar water.


Now you should have all the basic knowledge of how to set up Cura for your printer, find a model to print, and adjust your settings so that your model comes out just the way you wanted it to. Now all you need to do is click the slice button in the bottom right and load it onto an SD card for printing.
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